A Strong Woman - Cover

A Strong Woman

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 23

It had been a bit more than an hour when we walked back into the photo shop. No one was in the public area, so I rang the bell that sat on the counter – one of those old fashioned bells with a button on top that you slap, the kind that used to sit on hotel registration desks and in the pass through windows of restaurants. There was movement in the back room, and then Abraham came through the door. "Hey, you're back," he said.

"Yeah – I thought we'd see whether you were done yet."

"I say I give you one hour service, you think I take three hours? You see how he treats me, young lady?"

Cecelia grinned. "I see that you enjoy sparring with him."

"Ach, you survived the camps, knocking heads with this goy is nothing." The Yiddish word can be an insult in the wrong person's mouth, but with Abraham I knew he was just calling me a gentile – which, in fact, I am. As far as I know there are exactly zero Jewish ancestors in my heritage.

"Meanwhile," I said, "them pictures are rotting away." I reached into my shirt pocket and pulled out money – it's too much hassle to have to dig into my wallet when I want to pay for something. "How much I owe you?"

"You didn't shoot the whole roll ... half price."

I counted out the bills. He took them and stepped over to an old cash register – perhaps it would be an antique by now. It was the kind that disappeared decades ago, when UPC scanners came in. He punched buttons, and then the drawer popped open. He made change with flying fingers, and counted it back to me. It was correct, too – Cecelia's a math whiz and would have said something if it wasn't. You can't find anyone today who can make change. I've seen cashiers, with the computer telling them what the change is, still have trouble. We're raising whole generations who can't add two and two without a calculator. I'm only good enough at math to figure out that two plus two equals five, and Cecelia tells me that's not correct – but it used to be that I was an oddity. Now everyone's in my shoes.

I flipped through the pictures, handing them to Cecelia as I did. They were as clear as it was possible to get under the conditions. The yellowish porch light was both too weak, and the wrong color, to give an accurate idea of the man's complexion, but the features were clear enough. If Albuquerque couldn't tell us for sure one way or another from these photos, we'd be in trouble.

I shuffled the pictures back together and put them in the envelope along with the negatives. We said goodbye to Abraham and left. As we pulled out of the miniature parking lot Cecelia said, "Where are we going now?"

"The Lomas-Tramway library. You know where that's at?"

"I do not recollect visiting that branch; perhaps you had better advise me."

"I guess from here the best way to go would be over to Tramway, then up to Lomas, or else you could take Lomas all the way over."

Cecelia glanced at the dashboard clock – at least I presumed that's what she was checking. "At this time of day," she said, confirming my guess, "Central should be relatively free of traffic, and it is in my opinion more engaging than Lomas."

"In that case, lead on, MacDuff."

"If I am MacDuff, then who are you?"

"Oh, shoot, I don't know – who's a stereotypical black?"

"I cannot, offhand, think of any stereotypical black whom I would not regard as an insult. Of course, MacDuff isn't – as far as I'm aware – an actual person, so perhaps I could invent one."

"Naw, don't bother. Just compare me to Daddy an' I'll be happy."

She smiled. "Now that would be a flattering comparison. Until I met you, I had never known a better man."

"I never have known a better man." Daddy is Cecelia's father, but he treats me like I'm his own son, and though he never graduated from high school, he's the wisest and best man I've ever met.

"I have," she said, "but just one."

"Who's that?" I asked.

"Surely you know."

"Nope." I was racking my brains for who she might mean. "I could guess, but as much as I love Rudy I wouldn't put him above Daddy. Tyrone, maybe?"

"Darvin, I may have nearly married Tyrone Jackman, but I do not put him above Daddy."

"Then I are cornfuzed."

"You are also an inveterate mangler of your mother tongue. Darvin, you are the man I have in mind."

"Oh, pish," I said, borrowing Darlia's favorite expression of disgust. "I ain't better than nobody. Shoot, I'm barely good enough to sit with anyone."

"That is your opinion, Darvin, but it is in error."

"Yeah, whatever," I said, and I could hear the snarl in my voice.

"I shall desist, my husband – I know how sincerely you disagree with me, and how genuinely you do not enjoy open praise. I have no wish to provoke a tussle. I shall, rather, call your attention to the hour, and ask whether you are hungry."

I looked at my watch. "I hadn't realized it was that time. Yeah, find us a spot, and I'll scarf something down."

She nodded, and I kept quiet. She was right – I'd been heading us toward a fight, and I didn't want that any more than she did. She'd been smart enough to head it off, and I wasn't about to disrupt that. So I did what I probably ought to do more often – I kept my fat mouth shut, and let her drive.

We found a McDonald's and ate. I concluded that the third pound Angus burgers they were promoting were as good as a Big Mac, but no better. They did cost more, though. Afterwards Cecelia pointed us toward the library, and we pulled in around 2 in the afternoon. As we got out I handed Cecelia the photos across the roof of the car, and said, "Here, trainee – it's all yours."

"You aren't much of a drill sergeant – they tend to scream more often and more loudly, and to be more shipshape in their attire."

"Yeah, that's true." I grinned. "That's why, were we cops, I'd be your training officer and not a drill sergeant ... or whatever they call 'em in police academies."

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