Ways of the Widow – Matthew Wilson

Mother called it a cry for attention. It started when I mentioned the murder with too much flourish. Then the woman in the green dress threw the box into the river and wailed about her son’s disappearance.

Yes, the world of a hat shop owner’s son is small and uninteresting but I didn’t pluck stories from the air. When the depression hit and people brought food rather than hats, I filled my down time behind the till with constructing fairy tales.

Maybe one day I would be a famous author, I mused. So to turn the gears of my mind into some tale I could rattle out, I headed out late at night for some peace and quiet.

Instead, I saw the lady in the green dress.

It seemed her bad luck had begun the previous year when her oldest son had passed away with diphtheria. I doubted the heavy insurance payout she received would mend her heart but now I was not so sure she had one.

It cost a lot to feed children in this economy and mother’s struggled to support two kin but now the woman in the green dress had money and time to herself.

She filled said time by visiting my mother’s hat shop.

Then she seemed to roll my name around her head before deciding on the right one.

“Samuel? I’m your mothers friend, Hannah Stokes.”

I tried to talk but I could emit nothing above a strangling noise, hard to be heard over the tinkle of the door bell.

“I hear you’ve been saying silly things about me,” she purred and placed a large note on the counter. Ten pounds is nothing to an adult but my twelve year old mind had never seen so many numbers on one bank note.

“I’d like a hat,” she smiled and then darted her eyes grudgingly at some boxes stacked on the shelves.

“That one,” she gave a smile that didn’t light her eyes.

I turned and then turned again so as not to show my back to her and took down the feathered box with trembling hands.

“Is something wrong, dear? You seem nervous.”

I swallowed.

“S-silly things? I haven’t -”

She waved away my argument with a brush of her gloved hand and said, “Oh, your mother and I have a bridge club on Thursdays and we laughed about your fairy tales but I don’t mind. Boys will be boys -” she flipped the hat out of the box like a magician flexing cards and placed it on her auburn locks.

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