The Very Charitable Mrs. Wertheimer – 26 through 30

Rx: To be read after 1 through 5, 6 through 10, 11 through 15, 16 through 20, and 21 through 25.
Mrs. Wertheimer shrugs her right shoulder closer to her ear and clutches her handbag in front of her body as she tries to turn to her left to remove herself from this bloated mass. If she had time to think, she would marvel at her survival instinct. But as it is, her gentle, well-modulated plea of “Excuse me, may I please get out of here?” is met with a thick, bored, “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Just get on the fucking train.”
Mrs. Wertheimer decides against repeating her plea. She obeys the thick, bored voice. And gets on the fucking train.
All right, so it’s not as filthy as she’d imagined. It’s brighter and quite well-lit, if not a touch too fluorescent. If Mrs. Wertheimer were asked to name the color of the seats, she’d have to go with persimmon and mango. Not the colors she or Patricia, her interior designer, would have chosen, but she’s fairly certain the MTA didn’t consult with the region’s top design team. Still, it’s not as awful as she’d thought.
What is awful, though, is that there isn’t a seat for Mrs. Wertheimer. And it doesn’t seem as if anyone will be offering her one.
Mrs. Wertheimer is nothing if not adaptable, though, so she resigns herself to standing where the crowd has forced her, which is against a pole in the aisle separating the inward-facing rows of seats. She is a bit taken aback at the collection of hands grasping the pole, and at first tells herself hers won’t have to join them. She can stand on her own two feet. She won’t need anything other than her own sense of balance.
The train lurches into motion, and Mrs. Wertheimer topples forward in her demure kitten heels. Instinctively, she reaches out for the pole.
Mrs. Wertheimer’s hand has no time to fret over the unkempt appearance of the other hands or the unclean appearance of the pole itself. It just reaches out and grabs the closest part of the pole. That part happens to be the same part inhabited by a hand comprised of five stubby fingers whose magenta fingernail polish is chipped and whose cuticles could use more than just a little pruning. Mrs. Wertheimer compares her own petal-smooth hand, with its perfect application of pale pink polish on each of its elegant fingers. Not a ragged cuticle in sight, she notices proudly.
The hand reminds Mrs. Wertheimer of the hand that reached out to shake hers when she was introduced to Bettina, her housekeeper, seven years ago. She couldn’t believe that a woman who sought employment in her beautiful house would have the nerve to hand her that less than beautiful hand. She hated to be judgmental, but she couldn’t help but doubt the impressive credentials Bettina presented to her during the interview. Did Lisabeth Michelin really allow this woman to dust her foyer floorboards, polish her brass bathroom fixtures, and serve her her 4:00 tea on the terrace … with these hands?

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