The Very Charitable Mrs. Wertheimer – 16 through 20

Rx: To be read after 1 through 5, 6 through 10, and 11 through 15.
Something inside of Mrs. Wertheimer perks up when she slides the card through turnstile slot and hears a “beep” signifying the acceptance of her fare. She feels like she’s won something. Because, you see, for all her riches, she’s still thrilled when she’s presented with something unexpected, such as when she bought a jacket at Bergdorf and it scanned at a lower price than its tag indicated or when, just last week, she found a five-dollar bill in the pocket of a jacket from last season that she was handing over to Bettina rather than turning it over to for consignment.
Mrs. Wertheimer finds herself standing on the subway platform. She is pleased to see that not everyone has neglected to wash his or her face and that a few of the women even seem to have made at least a moderate effort to look pulled together. She is even more pleased to see that no one possesses her sense of style or is quite as polished. This compels her to bestow a complacent smile on the woman she deems the best-dressed of the bunch. She can smile at this woman only because she poses no threat to Mrs. Wertheimer’s standing.
The woman notices Mrs. Wertheimer’s smile and returns it with an arched eyebrow and tentative half-smirk/half-smile, accompanied by a steady gaze into Mrs. Wertheimer’s blue-grey eyes. Mrs. Wertheimer, not accustomed to brazen eye contact, not even from someone in her own household or circle, gasps.
To disguise this gasp, she feigns a delicate, dry cough. And then addresses the woman:
“Excuse me, but I couldn’t help but notice your watch. Do you mind my asking whose it is?”
“Mine,” the woman says.
Mrs. Wertheimer doesn’t know if the woman is attempting humor, so she doesn’t know if she should chuckle.
You’re in suspense, aren’t you? You’re on the very edge of the edge of your seat (vinyl? poly-whatever? cotton? velvet? plastic? denim? macrame? wood? steel? bamboo? rattan? fur? toilet?), dying to know what the unpredictable (and, yes, of course, very charitable) Mrs. Wertheimer is going to do or say next.
Will this reserved society dame retort with a flippant comment of her own? Will she laugh with a freedom and mirth she hasn’t known for what seems like (and is) years? Will she cry? Will she chew on the edge of her Metrocard?
Well, go on and find out!

Alas, Mrs. Wertheimer does not have to concern herself with this dilemma, because as soon as the woman delivers her line, she turns her shoulder, takes several steps away from Mrs. Wertheimer, and resumes reading a well-worn, dog-eared paperback.
“She may not be the friendliest woman,” thinks Mrs. Wertheimer, “but at least she’s literate.”
She sneaks another glance at the woman, who hair has fallen from behind her right ear, thus prohibiting her from seeing Mrs. Wertheimer regarding her.
“The watch is probably one of those cheap knockoffs anyway,” Mrs. Wertheimer thinks. “Poor thing can’t even afford a hardback book!”
Like many in her circle, Mrs. Wertheimer has dabbled in charity. Unlike most, however, Mrs. Wertheimer never understood the fuss. The way she saw it, if she was going to help someone, the least she expected in return was a personal “thank you”. It didn’t have to be hand-lettered on fine ivory vellum, but it did have to carry a personal touch so she’d feel appreciated.
Now Mrs. Wertheimer prefers being charitable on a smaller scale, when she knows she’ll be guaranteed individualized gratitude. This makes her cause a bit more challenging, but she is willing to live with that.

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