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Lost Wallet

‘Tried to give away, turn in, that is, her wallet. Eager to surrender, ready to submit. No use, though.

Why’d I ever pick the orphan bastard up? You’d’ve done the same. Pigskin peeking from dense weeds on downhill slope, umber rawhide beneath irrigated greenery. Just keep on walking. Absolutely. Tell me more.

Feels like faint drizzle from Pandora’s unclasped purse, and distant hints of fingerpicked blues off of the Delta.

Mean anonymous last evil billfold Worse venom than a cobra snake Nobody stacking any gold No silver lining you can take.

Who could pass it by? Stripped of cash and plastic, carrying only stubborn shards of identity, including a laminated license. Fond of her from the start, I was ready to propose before I hit the flat path.

Hair: brown. Eyes: hazel. Five-foot-five, buck-and-a-quarter. Spelled out, “Elizabeth Anne,” but surely no one called her that. Betty? Eliza? No. Beth? Ellie? Liz?

More likely, a Betsy. Impure thoughts greeting the 3/4 inch-square Motor Vehicle portrait. Deer in the headlamps, of course, but seductive. Betsy would turn 32 next week.

Single. Ex-smoker. Left-handed. Tonsils yes, appendix no. Samba and country-rock. Spooked by serious drugs. Green thumb, rescued cat. Petite sneezes, operatic orgasms. Bottles of chilled Sonoma County Chardonnay. Weeping jags after the second abortion. How’d I know all this? I didn’t, of course. Prove me wrong, though.

All right, Bets, damn fine five-year Western Civ degree. Scrupulous hygiene, string of superfluous jobs, wasted wit. Last conversation with surviving sibling (older brother) nine or ten months ago. Throughout that period, had more nightmares, masturbated more frequently than during previous 25 years. Used fingers, electrical appliances, produce, running water. Growled and sighed but never shouted affirmations; avoided addressing humans or deities.

Betsy’d given up drying, pressing, matting flowers. Antique apothecary jars held moisturizers or mood elevators. Infrequent smiles, but not dour. Coffee and wine, still. Fewer pills and cigarettes.

How about a local address? No? Probably for the best. License legit for 16 more months, in New Hampshire, anyway. Thirty-two next week? Impossible.

’Course, she was more like 29 when the snap was shot.

Only hoped she hadn’t chopped those locks. And why not try to track her down? Start off with that unusual Scotch/Irish surname, do the research, show up on her doorstep with an elegant opening gambit. “Liz! Tripped on your wallet three months ago, Decided to stalk you. How’s it going?” If she didn’t flee, someone else should.

There’d never be awkward silences, tension, or anxiety.

Elizabeth had 911 one-touch-stored on her cellphone, but wouldn’t need to use it.

Her license was in the wallet’s cellophane flap, which also contained an expired Concord Library card; a curled, cropped, faded Kodachrome of two overexposed cherubic children, boy and girl; torn, worthless, powder-blue mass-transit transfer; fragmentary reminder slip, headlined WHILE YOU WERE O; crumpled Chinese cookie fortune — ATTEND A PARTY WHERE STRANGE CUSTOMS PREVAIL.

This assembled, ephemeral Betsy was de luxe. Having no shot at her, however, was brutal, a detour leading to a cul-de-sac.

Tugged her license out again, wondering whether she’d lost it hours, days, or weeks before. Slumped onto turf, tucking the slender Elizabethan property into my breast pocket.

In Latin, one would say PRIVATIO PRAESUPPONIT HABITUM. Freely translated, to feel deprived, you must first have the habit.

Hungover and lonely, I guess I dozed. Flamboyant episodic dreams crept in, some featuring my New England princess. She sprawled and scrambled on all fours, mane thrashing, way-too-willing recipient of randy, uncouth, dog-style thrusts. Spread-eagled, stoic and silent at first, earthy and earnest thereafter, hooting, hissing, howling, hysterical.

I was awake and scowling at the clouds. We’d never meet. Elizabeth might just as well not exist. Her identification in my chest pocket, I left the park, waiting for a crosswalk light.

An antique Volvo throatily downshifted, skidding left as amber turned to red. At the wheel, absolutely without question, was Betsy. Double-take and jaw-drop. The plates were foreign, white, though I couldn’t read LIVE FREE OR DIE.

I raised my arms, pointed, but what was there to say?

“Yo! Bets! Your billfold!”

“Liz? Uh, you don’t know me.”

“Betty? Got a second?”

“License and registration, Beth.”

The bulbous Volvo swallowed gas and disappeared down Polk or Van Ness.

There was no place to ship the billfold. It could be discarded or saved as a souvenir. Betsy’d just rumbled by, and that was no illusion. Had she done a U-turn, I’d have tried to flag her down, but the Swedish sedan was a mile south now.

I'd never see her again. Following Thursday, her folks in Concord would call with birthday wishes, passing the phone, with coy queries as to whether she had met a man. Only 32. Still…

The more I contemplated arranged marriages, the more sensible they seemed. I’d be willing to accept finding Betsy’s wallet as a winning ticket. Appropriately hitched, we’d get to know each other later.

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