The Seduction of An Old Woman And Her Walker
John Newton was an ugly man. In his body and his temperament. He was thick. His head rose straight out of his shoulders. Like an escarpment from the surrounding landscape. He didn’t appear to have a neck. Clean shaven, hair sprouted out of his nostrils and out of his eyebrows. Like small horned sheep climbing the narrow paths of a cliff side. Broad shouldered, his body dropped straight down to his legs. Skinny legs that sprouted out of his abdomen like eyes from a potato. Buried too long in a damp basement.
John Newton hated people. Unless they were beautiful. And young. And female. Or had something he wanted. Like Mrs. Murphy. She had money. Those he tolerated.
Mrs. Murphy, an old woman who used a walker to make her way around in the world sat across from him. She had a craggy face like a cliff side worn down by wind and rain. Her teeth, though false, were bright and shiny. Like fog headlights.
Newton hated Mrs. Murphy. He fantasized diving over his oak desk, grabbing her wrinkled neck, and twisting it until her tongue hung out of her ear, and her eyes popped out onto the napkins of flesh onto her cheeks.
John Newton was a banker.
Mrs. Murphy had a large bank account in Mr. Newton’s bank. Mr. Murphy, dear Earnest, had been a veterinarian who had speculated wisely on the stock market then died. In middle age. And Mrs. Murphy inherited all his wealth. Though still young, she never remarried. Explaining to people that she couldn’t see much point in men. And that sex thing. What was that all about? She asked. And no one bothered to answer her. And who could fill Earnest’s shoes? Size 12. Besides. Mrs. Murphy had many friends. Mostly other widows. Whose husbands had invested well. And died. Leaving them well taken care for. And nothing suited them. And all of their money was in Mr. Newton’s bank. And all of them listened to Mrs. Murphy when she spoke.
Mrs. Murphy spoke.
“We supported this bank. You were begging for customers. And we came. Mr. Hammer, the first manager, bless his soul, helped in the annual Boy Scout Christmas Sale, and his wife was secretary of the school council. Poor Helen. A terribly unattractive woman. Features like a goat’s. But very industrious. How could anyone know that she was dieing of TB. Died five years later. Poor Mr. Hammer never recovered. And all of us ached every time we stepped into this bank and saw him sitting alone in his office. His shoulders bent under his cross. His hands… so empty. He was one of us. We supported him. But now… The bank acts like we are strangers. We don’t feel as if you want us anymore.”
Mr. Newton flashed his customary smile.
“I’m sure that isn’t the case, Mrs. Murphy.”
Mrs. Murphy raised her chin.
“You want to close the bank. Move it to the Queensway! Of all places. Where the poor Irish live.”
There was silence. For several moments Mr. Newton stared at Mrs. Murphy.
“That was not my decision,” Mr. Newton said. As if this declaration was sufficient.
Mrs. Murphy waited. As if there must be some elaboration. There was none.
Mrs. Murphy took a deep breath.
“You never asked us.”
Mr. Newton leaned over this desk. As if he had decided that seduction was on the menu. He gathered his voice and spoke. An impression of the great jazz performer, Louis Armstrong.
“We’ll still be able to serve you. My dear.”
Mrs. Murphy softened. Her heart began to melt. There was no denying Mr. Newton’s charms.
“I can’t walk down to the Queensway.”
“We’ll have a bus service twice a day.”
It was the word twice that shook the old woman from her romantic stupor. Cad. That’s what she wanted to say. But did not. Instead she said.
“I’m supposed to schedule my day around your bus service? Listen to yourself, my dear.”
She hadn’t expected the endearment to slip from her lips. The last time she had called anyone dear was Mr. Newton. During his last moments. On this blue orb. But now. She was supposed to be outraged. But anger was not the emotion she felt.
“I think you’re overreacting, my pet.”
The old lady gasped. Mr. Newton placed his hand over his mouth. Hoping the last remark that had entered their ears had not exited from his mouth.
“Excuse me!” Mrs. Murphy cried.
Mr. Newton was not sure he should reply. What if something worse, something more damning were to pop out of his mouth. But he must speak.
“I feel so inadequate,” he said.
Mrs. Murphy smiled. A tear welled up in her eye. She reached over the desk and placed her shaking hand on Mr. Newton’s. Mr. Newton looked down at the old woman’s limb. Light as a feather. Hardly pressing on his skin at all. But the marks on her skin. And the scabs. And the size of the wedding ring. Solid gold. Mr. Newton’s heart began to swell.
“Not since the late…” Mrs. Murphy began. And climbed to her feet. Grabbed her walker. She stepped toward the door. Almost seemed to dance toward the door. Though her legs were shaking. They seemed, in this magical moment, to synchronize.
“It’s too early,” Mrs. Murphy said before exiting the room. “I’m still morning the loss of my dearest, Earnest. I hope you won’t be too… disappointed.”