This story was written on commission from dorrie6
, and is based on a line from one of the songs in her album Dorrie's True Story
, which I am lucky enough to own, and which I absolutely adore. It is also based partially on a real-life experience I had during one of many wonderful trips to Manhattan. I wasn't planning to post this anywhere, because it is Dorrie's story ;), but she asked me to post it here. I didn't even know this community existed! But it seems like a really neat place, and I'm thankful to Dorrie for letting me know about it.
*hug* Dorrie liked it, which is all that matters; but I hope the rest of you might as well.Three-Dollar Umbrellas
and I’ll miss that egg sandwich from the corner
and I’ll miss the train, I don’t know why
and I’ll miss those three dollar umbrellas
but now it’s time to say goodbye
It started to rain around Fifth Avenue; huge, splotchy rain that stung their shoulders through what were now pointlessly generous administrations of sunscreen.
They ducked into the giant Toys R Us across the plaza, giggling and delighted at first to be in New York, alone, wearing black like real New Yorkers and surrounded by three floors of toys. Acting as though they did this every day, they promenaded around the first and second floors, until the novelty wore off and the jangling of the children’s voices from story hour got to be too much.
Then they headed back toward the front of the store to watch the people outside crowding beneath the awning, some hugging their black London Fogs to their chests or clutching their black Samsonites as though they feared the leather might not be waterproof. The rain was falling twice as hard now. The taller one wanted to watch the rain, but the shorter one was afraid they might be stuck inside the Manhattan Toys R Us for hours. And since like Bernstein’s fabled sailors they had only one day, they dared to venture outside again despite the downpour.
“Wait,” said the man who was standing next to the entrance dressed as a giant toy soldier. “There’s usually a guy outside selling umbrellas. Give him a couple more minutes—he’ll show up.”
They worried that anyone selling such a hot commodity in such a torrential rain would be happily ripping them off. How much were these oh-so-convenient umbrellas?
“I think three bucks,” said the toy soldier, scratching his damp hair beneath the tall and heavy red hat.
Where does he come from? they asked, impressed. The toy soldier shrugged. The place from whence all city street vendors emerge when it rains, the curve of his mouth seemed to say. They would have asked more, but he was clearly done being interested in being helpful; and so they turned their attention back to the door, where through the sudden and rapid dispersal of people they could see him: the umbrella vendor, dressed all in black and bearing a black cart with a black awning full of black umbrellas.
They rushed forward and purchased one, and headed up Fifth Avenue briskly, the taller one taking pains to ensure that the shorter one got most of the shade, replying only, ‘I’m fine,’ whenever the shorter one pointed out that ‘fine’ and ‘wet’ were not the same things.
They expected to find Times Square, but got all the way to 47th Street before the taller remembered that it was actually two blocks over. It turned out to be two of the long blocks, but they did not really mind. The rain had all but stopped by this time, and it seemed the only point in their having bought one of the small black umbrellas at all was to give the vendor something to do. Later, when leaving time came, the taller one left the umbrella lying on someone’s kitchen table. ‘That fits,’ the taller one thought as the flight began. ‘Three-dollar umbrellas aren’t meant to last more than a day.’
“I’m going to the city,” said the taller one to the shorter, just under a year later.
“Oh, really; so am I,” said the shorter.
“Let’s meet up,” said the taller; and, for a day, they did. When the day ended they taller one said, “I’m glad we did this,” and the shorter one smiled; and they went their separate ways on separate trains.
As the scenery started to blur, the taller one reflected that everything had been fabulously satisfactory: the conversation had been mild, and so had the weather; the sun had complied by shining the entire day. And even if an umbrella had been required, this year both had brought their own.
There had been no need for the sharing of an umbrella, or anything else.