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All in Good Time

by LaVerne Zocco

Zelda was feeling all kinds of hostility around her. It had started with her 85th birthday. She had received a lovely card, but inside there was a threatening, anonymous note:

“It’s time you moved away from here. You are too old to be living by yourself and we want you gone. Go live with a relative or go into a nursing home. You are ugly and your presence makes young people cringe. Now leave before something terrible gets rid of you.”

She took it as a death threat. When she did her wash, of late, no one who passed by stopped to chat with her. When she was hauling her groceries up to the third floor, she noticed some visiting children laughing and pointing. When she went down for the mail, neighbors looked at her and gave her a pinched smile and left. How could she not understand their meaning? She was old; she should be cast away. Perhaps they meant she absolutely had to die!

Zelda sat and thought about the card and wondered which of her neighbors would dislike her so much to send it. Or was it a community thing? Did they hold a meeting and decide who should stay and who should go? Perhaps they had little meetings at midnight to be sure she would not notice. What should she do? What should she do?

Zelda had no close relatives to move in with, and she certainly did not have enough money to move into a nursing home. If she had more birthdays, would the menacing words get more strident every time? What could she do about it? She would be hounded all the more. She lay awake at night thinking about it. She listened to her clock ticking away her life and she cried into her pillow.

And then she made a decision: if they didn’t want her, then she didn’t want them. If they could not stand her in her small apartment, she did not want them in their apartments. And if she was to be put out on the street, they would all be put out on the street.

She planned to start the fire on the third floor to divert suspicion away from her. And she would do it in the dark of night, when no one was about. Then she would go to the bus shelter and watch as the whole building went up in smoke. She would do it on the next Sunday, when they would all be fast asleep before the next day’s work.

When she was sure it was too late, she would pull the fire alarm and stand with the firemen when they realized she was the only survivor. She would tell them that she had been awake and smelled smoke and had been lucky to get out, thinking the manager would do what he was meant to do, never dreaming he would be caught too.

And so she did.

And so the entire building was burned to the ground and she was the only survivor.

With the insurance money, she moved into a more luxurious apartment where she was the center of attention for a good long time: she was That Woman Who Had Been So Lucky.

And then on her 86th birthday, she received an anonymous birthday card:

“You must move away from here. You are too old to be living alone and you must go to a relative or a nursing home. You are ugly and your presence makes young people sick. You must go away or something terrible will happen to you. Go now!”

And so she did; she moved away.

But the fire chief could hardly believe his eyes when he stood in front of the building from which the old lady had moved months before. He watched it burn to the ground. He wondered, How could anyone be so lucky that twice in her life she would be saved from such a conflagration?

Zelda would have answered, “At my age you have only so much time. But you get around to doing everything you feel you have to do, all in good time.”

Copyright © 2013 by LaVerne Zocco

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