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  • Super tired of this life: the sick child, the doctors' appointments, utility bills, bounced checks and disappointment, she discontinued her portion of direct deposit into their joint account and told him that she'd quit her job. He wanted to know why but then the boy in the corner, their sick and needy son, coughed up yellowish phlegm and that halted the husband’s inquisitional fury.

    She'd stay home and take care of their child and there was no arguing that because he certainly wouldn't babysit full-time. He had a job and he had to work. And as soon as he'd said the words: "his job, his work, and had to," she had won.

    Arabella was wiser than her husband knew. He'd only considered fully the implications of her lost paycheck, but he'd not considered that his wife was a liar. On Monday morning, Arabella marched with Jimmy Jr. from the fifth floor of their sandy, dank, World War I tenement where they landed face to face with rows of floral painted buildings that mercilessly mocked her misfortune of a life. The pinks and the blues were happy galaxies away from her aged apartment building and the black and yellow fallout shelter sign in its foyer.

    She toted their boy off to a school for children like him in their district where few teachers really cared, and then caught the 42 bus through Mount Pleasant to Woodley Park metro. There she caught the rail to her job in Tenleytown near American University and Embassy Row where privileged, but disabled children like her son studied in the new modern building with hurricane windows and smooth, red brick, like Washington's old Tuskegee.

    "One day," she said. One day she'd move to that side of town in a rental or a rent-controlled with an air conditioning unit and her son would have all the benefits, privileges and lessons given those special kids of parents who owned avenue penthouses or impeccably preserved colonials nestled behind olive green, weeping willows,

    Every payday she stuffed her paychecks inside the zipper pocket overalls of her son's over-sized teddy bear. When despair visited, Arabella curled up on the couch and clung to the teddy bear, the television remote and her son.

    “Everything will be alright,” she kissed his head. “We'll make it.”

    Once seventeen of those paychecks were safely stuffed inside the teddy bear’s pockets and linings, Arabella left her sleeping son locked in the bedroom of their H shaped apartment. She hiked up 18th Street in her Doc Marten boots and stomped a hard, military right on Columbia Road. Two blocks down, she disappeared inside the tall Greco-Roman columns of the old, local DC city bank where she cashed $10,200 of her hidden paper money.

    The day arrived that would kill her husband’s pride.The maintenance man’s blue uniform, blue-collar salary, and his white name tag--the blue, cursive letters "Jimmy"-- would mean a lot less now that she had demanded more. Jimmy came home that night and he waited and waited for Arabella and Jimmy Jr.

    Days, nights, weeks, months passed.

    They were less than five miles apart, in the same city.

    *Arabella is a minor character I created for a larger story.Recently, Arabella’s dimensions were enhanced with the additional misfortune of Jimmy, her husband.

    Photo: 18th Street, Columbia Heights, Washington DC, photo credit: Wikipedia
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