Twenty-four plus a tick thousand dollars made John nervous. Five minutes ago he’d felt completely at ease in his in-laws’ home with neither thought nor care about the fact that he was in a crime ridden neighborhood. Though Joni had driven her late mother’s car to work this morning he knew that she regularly used city transit and he wasn’t concerned for her safety, let alone his own. After all, even though crime happens twenty-four seven, who thinks about being attacked in his own house at eleven in the morning? All of sudden the answer was John.
His eyes again swept the room of the, save for him, otherwise empty house and he placed the Muriel box underneath his tee-shirt, understanding full well how absurd his action was but allowing the overwhelming compulsion for secrecy to dictate an absurd response from him. He rose from the bed, headed back to the other bedroom and froze. Where exactly was he going?
His first response was to put the cigar box full of dollars back where he’d found it in the chiffarobe but now he couldn’t help but second guess himself. “Only thing that was disturbed, only piece of furniture that is, was a chair that done got knocked over,” he uttered in his best Brock Peters/Tom Robinson voice.
“Damn,” he muttered. “Damn, damn, damn. Now what?” he asked, looking skyward, crossing himself and adding, “Sorry,” with a wink and smile toward heaven.
“Conundrum, riddle, enigma, mystery,” he whispered to himself, shaking his head. He paced back and forth in his bedroom a bit and then bellowed, “Scooby Doo! Where are you?” In the snap of a finger following this exclamation he snapped his fingers. “My old bag! The closet,” he said, heading directly to the tiny closet. Once there he again looked over his shoulder, opened the door and put the cigar box into his beaten and distressed vinyl valise. “I don’t know why you’ll be any safer in there than you’ve been in that dresser the last one-hundred twenty-three months but at least we’ll be sleeping in the same room,” he told the cash as he closed the closet door. “Stay safe Ben. Look after Grant and Jackson for me, okay?”
With the money stashed in his closet John tried to return to the task at hand; sifting through the collected excess that had a choke hold on the spare bedroom and segregating it into piles. His spirit was willing but his flesh was weak. After five minutes he gave up. Checking his watch, he figured that he had at least an hour and a half before Joni would return from work. He squelched the impulse to call her, knowing that his news would do nothing but add to her stress level without reducing his own. “It looks like twenty-four-thousand dollars is the $64,000 question,” he said, returning to his bedroom, opening the closet door, peeking inside the black bag, re-closing it and then returning to his bed. “What can Joni do, what can we do, with $24,000?”
An answer struck him as God is reported to have done to Saul. If John had been riding an ass he too would have fallen to the ground but his revelation emitted a hearty, “Hallelujah!” and he rushed down stairs to grab the Chicago Tribune that lay on the kitchen table. A big city newspaper had to have a real estate section, didn’t it? Twenty-four thou might go a long way towards a down payment on a house. Maybe that old cliché about renters just throwing money away would prove untrue in this one instance.