SHE: is a pretty girl working at the hat store, hair just a little shy of perfect but smile flawless.
HE: is a young man who has always wanted a top hat, and would in fact look quite dashing in one.
THEY: are there neither to work nor shop.
THE STORE OWNER: is more than a little surprised when he finds the register empty, the safe in the back empty, and his best salesgirl gone, but doesn’t notice the missing hat until the next time he does an inventory check, by which point he’s almost out of business anyway so it doesn’t really matter.
THIS: is a story about a pretty girl who was never cut out for retail, and a young man whose talents had never tended towards the practical and how, together, they learn to work around these things.
BECAUSE REALLY: money may not be able to buy happiness, but money gained with someone at your side is a different matter entirely.
Let us begin our scene, then, in an alleyway some distance from the hat shop. The girl, her breath heavy from the running, holds a bag containing the month’s earnings from the shop; the amount is not inconsiderable, since the month is almost over in any case and this is a time period where people spend money freely. The young man is just holding the hat. After a moment to catch his breath, for he too did his share of running, he puts it on his head and adjusts it as best he can without having a mirror. The girl cocks her own head at him.
“Does it look good?” the young man asks. “I can’t see it myself, so I don’t know for sure—”
“It looks good!” the girl says, nodding very seriously. She is an excellent judge of these things, and she would not lie. “But there were mirrors in the store, you know! You could have tried there!” Her voice is the sort of voice that almost always requires an exclamation point to punctuate its sentences; perhaps this comes from having a generally perky attitude, or perhaps there is simply something a bit wrong with her, but it is not a bad kind of wrong.
“Wonderful!” the young man says, and in fact his voice is not dissimilar to hers, although it’s rather lower. But then he frowns. “Are you sure you don’t mind? It was your store!”
The girl hefts the bag of money and shakes it a bit. “It was Mr. Henderson’s store, and Mr. Henderson was not a nice man! He did not deserve his hats. Or his money! Which is why he doesn’t have it now!”
The young man nods as seriously as she did earlier, understanding this completely. “Of course! What are you going to do with the money now that you have freed it?”
The girl furrows her brow in thought. “I…am going to buy a hat from someone who does deserve money!”
“Yes! That is an excellent idea! Let’s go do it right now!”
“Yes! An excellent idea!” The girl pauses. “…what’s your name?”
“Isaac!” the young man says. “What’s yours?”
“Hello, Isaac! I’m Miria!”
“Hello, Miria! Let’s go!”
A few bills escape from the bag and float in the wind as they run out of the alley. Whether the money will be picked up by starving beggars or used by rats to make nests is a mystery, for the world is uncertain.
After they have acquired a suitable hat (a black cloche with a light blue ribbon, elegant but not extremely expensive), they find themselves in a dilemma. Well—perhaps not a dilemma. A predicament? In difficulty? No, a quandary probably works best. They find themselves in a quandary. For now they have both finished what they intended to do with their respective days, and what else is there besides going home?
“My landlord isn’t a very nice person either,” Miria says thoughtfully. The hat fits her very well, incidentally. “And now I don’t have to live there any more! I can live somewhere where people are nice!” Her smile fades. “But I don’t know where that is…”
“Maybe not here?” Isaac suggests. The neighborhood is rather run-down, and doubtless full of unsavory elements. It is not a place for well-mannered young people, even if there are those who would consider them to a bit unsavory themselves. (Those people are wrong, obviously. Obviously!) “There must be other places in the city! It is a very big city.”
Miria nods. “A very big city! There must be places all over! We just have to find them. Is your landlord a nice person?”
Isaac shakes his head. “Not at all! But since this morning I won’t have to see him again anyway. He made that very clear! Oh, but I’ll miss the place—the rats made for wonderful companions.”
The conversation pauses. Both find themselves deep in thought. Very, very deep.
“So you are looking for a place to live,” Isaac says, very thoughtfully. “And I am looking for a place to live.”
“We’re both looking for places to live!” Miria says, nodding.
Isaac snaps his fingers and grins so rakishly a nearby gardening supply store finds part of its stock has fallen over in rapture. “Well then! There’s only one solution!”
“Yes!” Miria says, and pauses. “…what is it?”
“We should find a place together!” Isaac says triumphantly. “It will be much easier!”
“Yes!” Miria says, clasping her hands together in glee. “Much, much easier! And then we can find more money together, too! Money’s good, right?”
“Right! We’ll find tons of money! There’s so much of it around, after all!” Isaac wraps his own hands around Miria’s, and their grins are a mirror image. “I haven’t been very good at making it in the past, but now that I’ve met you, I’m certain things are going to change. This is a turning point! A sign! Destiny whirls around us!”
The two of them whirl around as well. It seems like the thing to do.
“It must be destiny!” Miria says, amidst the whirling. “I always wondered why I didn’t have any money, I never thought about taking it before! I could take anything! We could take anything!”
“Whatever we want!” Isaac says. “The world is ours, Miria! No more shall we suffer under the yoke of the law! No more shall we go without knowing each other, which was surely the greatest tragedy of my life! I weep when I think of days before today—for before meeting you, it must hardly have been life at all.”
“To find someone who understands—oh, it was not life at all!” The whirling ceases, and they embrace, arms firmly around each other. It’s quiet, for a moment—but only a moment.
“What shall we take first, Miria?” Isaac murmurs. “There are so many interesting things in the world.”
Miria purses her lips in thought, then pulls back with another grin. “To regain the years wasted before this day—time! We’ll steal time! There’s a clock store just down the street!”
“Amazing! A feat heretofore never accomplished! We’ll wrest our rightful moments from the gods themselves!”
Miria’s face falls. “Oh, but the shop will remember our faces, surely. How can we disguise ourselves?”
“Never fear, Miria,” Isaac says with utmost confidence. “There’s a game going on in Yankee Stadium today, isn’t there? All we have to do is acquire some uniforms, and the store owners will be baffled to see their beloved heroes rob them! They’ll never know!”
“They’ll never, ever know!” Miria says delightedly. “Isaac, you must be brilliant!”
“If you say I am, then I must be! And once we’ve reclaimed enough time to make up for the years missed, then we’ll have plenty left over for years yet to come. We can never have too many days together! Every one of them will be a treasure beyond belief!”
They embrace once more. “We’ll take as many days as we can find!” Miria cries. “To make up for lost time and beyond! Oh, Isaac—let’s make the most of every moment!”
And once more, they pull apart. “To the future!” Isaac declares. “Every second of it!”
And with an echoing cry of “Every second!”, the two of them run on their way, towards destiny, adventure, and baseball uniforms…
…SINCE AFTER ALL: life is a funny thing, and spending the rest of it with someone who shares your sense of humor is a fine way to handle it.
However long it may be.