Below is the third installment of the ongoing saga of Ruby, Viv and their mission to make life a little better one random Benjamin at a time. Since I started this shaggy dog story almost two years ago (?!?!) below are links to the two previous posts so you can catch up.
Chapter 1 Introducing Ruby, Viv and St. Benjamin
Chapter 2 Boychik Luis and Bubbe Bev
Chapter 3 Bright Lights and Big Bev City
Luis was shuffling around anxiously in front of the exit doors when Bev came out of the auditorium. He was pacing so fast that it took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to both the bright light and to register that it was her grandson. She had never seen him so agitated before.
“Bubbeleh, what’s wrong? Are you all right?” Bev’s first reaction was that he was in some kind of trouble.
“ Yes, No, Gram, can we go now?” He held the door open for Bev – from the outside. He was clearly in a rush.
Luis reached the car before Bev, and furtively looked around as he waited for her to unlock the doors. He winced as he slid in. The seats were hot but he found it comforting in a way – almost as though he could melt onto the surface and become invisible. His hand was still in his pocket, feeling the sweaty crease of the bill. He slouched down and watched his granny settle herself behind the wheel.
“Are you in some kind of trouble, Luis?”
“G-ma, I found a one-hundred dollar bill in a random book. I swear, it was just in the book, like a book mark – I didn’t see anybody. It wasn’t like somebody dropped it by accident,” he said, breathless and defensive.
Bev took a breath herself. Luis was a good boy. He never lied to her in the past, and she saw no reason to believe he would now. Yet, it still seemed a little strange. In all her years she never recalled any trend to using currency as a bookmark.
“What book was it in?” she asked looking into his face. He had a feverish sheen.
“Valley of the Dolls. I saw the book sticking out of the stack on the bottom shelf. I went to push it back in so it lined up with the rest of the books, but since we saw the movie last night I was curious about what you said and opened it up to check it out, and found the bill stuck in the pages. I didn’t see anybody in the stacks, or looking around the floor for it. So I put it in my pocket. But I got so nervous waiting for you. ” He was again breathless, his story pent-up and tumbling out into the overheated car. Bev had not turned the ignition so the air was heavy and scented with Youth Dew.
Bev turned the key and the Le Sabre rumbled to life. The air conditioning vents spewed dust motes and gusts of hot air enough to make them both cough. It also gave Bev a few moments to collect herself. Clearly the boy wasn’t in trouble, but bless his half-Jewish guilty heart for not being able to keep a secret.
“Luis, I think this must be a little gift from the heavens. Let’s get a nosh and think about what you should do next.” Bev popped the Le Sabre into drive and silently gave thanks for her good luck: she had a nice “pull-through” parking space so she didn’t have to contort her achy neck to back- up.
Luis’ leg pumped up and down nervously. Strangely enough, he was hungry and felt a bolt of relief in telling Bev. Soon enough they were sitting at Max’s Deli with a bucket of half-sours from the pickle bar waiting to share the corned beef special.
“Bubbeleh, Bev said softly, “this is your little windfall. Far be it from me to tell you what to do, but what would you think about taking the train into the City and we can stand on line for the half-price tickets and catch a show, hmmm?” She wasn’t going to let a fifteen year-old boy go to Times Square by himself, but she knew they both could use a little change of scene. And a little bit of adventure.
Luis’ mind started to crack open with the very thought. “Grandma, do you think we could get tickets to Kinky Boots?” In his most fevered boy-dreams he could not have imagined this lazy bubbe summer visit would include his first Broadway show. He crunched down on his third pickle, and it struck him that Bev knew him better than he realized. And she accepted him just as he was and always would.