Coming finally to the first casted shadow of the building on my right I feel my eyelids lower a bit and my mind sharpen. This isn’t intentional; it has become a reflex, somehow shadows casted from manmade objects swing the compass of the mind closer to the sinister as opposed to shadows casted from natural ones. The shadow falls from the tavern that sits nicely at the edge of town for reasons too many to mention, I’m sure the main ones are obvious, the others even more so. As I mentioned before, Walter’s tavern is where I spend most of my time while I’m in town, but at the moment I must meet up with Mrs. Beatina and see what I can get for trade and hopefully have enough left over to gain some money.
Stepping up off the dirt road and onto the wooden boards of connected store fronts I pass Walter’s and the sheriff’s building, nicely placed next to one another. Glancing across the street, I notice Caleb talking to a family I haven’t seen before, a younger couple with the woman holding a baby close to her chest. Caleb, always wearing his preacher getup, looks up and waves a simple wave, and I nod my head. Passing a few more store fronts that mean nothing to me as I reach for the handle of Mrs. Beatina’s Have All and push my way into her store.
“Why hello Joseph what have you got for me this time?”
Ruth Beatina. I’d never dare call her by her first name; respect for one and not that I’m a religious man but if anyone could convince me otherwise it would be Mrs. Beatina. She’s a small lady of about five feet with pulled back brownish-grey hair and can convince the most logical man that there is more meaning in a single sunrise than all the sunsets combined. It has been said that Mrs. Beatina has graced the streets of New York at one time or another where she and her husband ran a small boutique that catered mostly to the stage performers and struggling artists. As the stories go, along with her husband, they made quite a good living in the big city. Living life to the fullest as only lovers can, they spent their days carelessly enjoying one another. The story, unfortunately, comes to a grinding halt one ordinary day at their shop when a young man enters the store and greets Mrs. Beatina with a handshake only to grip her hand tightly and pull her towards him. The man whispers something into her ear just as her husband comes out of the back room and without thinking lunges towards his wife who is crying in fear. The man quickly shoves her aside and fires two shots. Years later she came to Hapsburg and after a while her story came out. However, she has never once mentioned what the man whispered to her. She only says that somethings should never be repeated and that by holding on to them one can find solace.
I smile a little smile and tell her that the fox pelts are in great color, and the beaver are not as good as I’d hoped but nice none the less. I lay my work on the counter and turn to gather the candles, matches, rags, and tobacco I desire. Calculating what Mrs. Beatina will probably offer for the pelts minus my purchases I put back a few candles in the hopes of receiving a bit more money for Walter’s Local 88.
Returning to the counter with my goods I see a look of concern on her face. The look scares me. Will I have to put even more of my things back? When I finally step up to face her, she looks up with a troubled look that quickly flashes to a wide smile that pleases any man that trades with others.
“Do you have more of these fox furs?” she asks.
Only the eighteen I brought with me I tell her. “Why?’
“Honey, these are beautiful and they will sell quickly. There have been a lot of customers asking about fox pelts with autumn setting in and winter on its way.”
Mrs. Beatina is one of those unique women that can fill any conversation with the wisdom of a mother. She can remind the listener of their own mother and the relaxation that belongs to that title. With a tone of voice that cuts through the daily abrasiveness and self-loathing that people carry around inside them even if they don’t realize that they do. A soothing tone that makes you feal at home.
I tell her I have all my traps set and will be checking them in a couple of days and at this time of year, depending on the age of the Fox, all their coats should be similar. I assure her that she is the only person that receives any of my pelts—she knows this but I mention it none the less—and as soon as I have more she will be in possession of them.
I ask her what she’s willing to offer, and the price astounds me. The first shock to the system in a while and damn it feels good. Now I’m not much of a negotiator; I know what my pelts are worth to me, and if you’re not willing to agree then they remain mine. I’m willing to break-even, but that’s as far as my bargaining skills and market game playing goes. Yet, the number Mrs. Beatina released into my ears was excessive beyond any hopes I came in to her with.
“You ok Hun.” She quips.
I tell her that I appreciated the amount but couldn’t accept such a high price for furs that just last year brought me only half of what she was now offering. Fairness works both ways and for Mrs. Beatina even more so. She‘s helped me out so many times when the season wasn’t so kind to me that this is my one chance to return the favor and save her some money and hopefully put some money in her pocket for a change, after all it seems to me that everyone in town is hanging on by a few strands that keep them out of the shacks on the outskirts of town. So I sit my two candles, three boxes of matches, and two pouches of tobacco on the counter and tell her I forgot a few things. I head back and grab the extra candles I had put back and a few more pouches of tobacco and some rags. Returning to the counter, I offer Mrs. Beatina my deal.
I tell her I’ll take three-fourths of what she is offering minus these items and the difference in cash if she will help me out if the hunting and trapping gets bad next year and she lets me pick a few new books out when she gets them. She agrees happily, and I fill out her transaction ticket and fill my sack with my items and my pocket with enough money to buy four or five jugs, not bottles, of Local 88.
“Thanks Hun, for stopping in. Hope to see you soon,” she says and then with a little concern in her voice she turns and says, “You should stop by more often Joseph. A man who spends too much time alone tends to begin seeing the world a little more different than one can handle.”
I turn back to her with a small smile, “Thank you Mrs. Beatina, you have given my next few days a little bit of sunshine that was much unexpected. Thank you again.”