SHE COULDN’T look for a job (of course) without a résumé.
type her résumé without a typewriter.
She couldn’t retrieve her (rented!)
typewriter from the pawnshop without cash.
She couldn’t come up with the cash
without a job.
Therefore, my mother’s only logical course of action (of course) was to sit
on her daybed propped up against all the pillows, smoke the last two Pall Malls,
and summarize all possible sources of quick cash on the last few pages left in
the legal-size pad lifted from the office supply cabinet of her last “temp”
1) Borrow from B.’s father? (Did I pay back the last 20
2) Pawn Persian lamb coat? (15 bucks? Left sleeve is torn)
3) Maggie and Muriel? (5 bucks? Still owe 3 from last
4) Blood bank? (No, no, no, no)
5) Dr. Heilbronner? (Wife in town?)
6) Ask front desk clerk if would give rent credit for box
of DOVE soap samples? Offer consult on holiday brochure to Hotel Marlton?
7) See if 8th St. Playhouse stills needs Espresso Lady for
I would watch her make the list, pressing my fist into my
stomach to stifle the growls, knowing that within twenty minutes I would be on
my way over from our shabby hotel suite (with “kitchenette”) to my father’s Washington
Place apartment building five blocks away. There I would ring his bell and wait
outside on the sidewalk for the wad of bills, wrapped inside a knotted linen
handkerchief with one heavy coin for ballast, to come plummeting down. On the
way back to the Hotel Marlton, I’d stop for a large can of chile con carne and
a box of Saltines, two root beers, a Milky Way and a pack of cigarettes.
Within a day or two, the crispy onion-skinned résumés would
be making the rounds of the offices of the dullards who needed their lumpy
letters recrafted, polished and sent out shining into the world. This my mother
could do better than anyone in Manhattan. Maybe the world. The Universe, even!
She and I both knew this.
But without an updated résumé, it was a plain fact, a person
and her ten-year-old daughter could actually starve to death. Quicker even than
The Little Match Girl—her mother didn’t smoke Pall Malls.