Every Good Deed
When I was eleven, I was on my way to the corner shop one morning when I saw a white envelope. It was lying in the gutter at the end of our avenue. It was quite bulky so when I looked inside I was surprised to see the edges of a wad of notes. For a second, my heart missed a beat and I thought about keeping it but my inner self, the one already guilty from a strict Catholic upbringing, said ‘No.’
I continued on my way to the shop but part of me thought about how many Milky Way bars I could buy. For a child this was a feasible option and I even contemplated how I could get so many home without being noticed. Our corner shop was also a hive of local gossip and I was sure such a large purchase would be remarked upon.
When I entered the shop I asked: "Do you know if anyone lost anything today?" I was then told how old Mrs. Oxenfree (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) had lost the money she’d withdrawn from the shop's post office counter. The distraught woman had called in again after back-tracking her steps. She’d been saving to visit her grandchild abroad.
I didn't think twice and went directly to Mrs. Oxenfree's house. She lived five doors down from me. I felt apprehensive but proud of myself as I knocked on her door. She took an age to answer then the door opened to reveal an old woman almost half my size but with eyes like steel. She was equally surprised to see me but overjoyed when I handed her the envelope. Mrs. Oxenfree reached up, grabbed my face in her hands and said: "Bless you." Then: "Wait right there and I'll give you a reward."
I waited for five minutes, excited, pleased as Punch and basking in how good I felt to have done the right thing.
Mrs. Oxenfree shuffled back to the front door, said: "Now hold out your hand," which I did expectantly still thinking I'll be able to afford those Milky Ways now. She then reached into her apron pocket and, with her hand still closed, dropped something into my open palm. It was an egg.
"There you go. You can have something nice for your breakfast." Then, she closed the front door in my face.
Surprise and disappointment didn't quite cover what I felt that morning and I learnt some kind of lesson that day although what it was I still can't say for sure. My cynical self (the one recovered well...thank you, from Catholic angst), grumbles: I should have kept the money. However, the angel on my shoulder, the one with a bent halo, says: An egg might have been a big deal to an old lady.
I didn't eat the egg. It would have stuck in my throat. I gave it to my mum who laughed when I told her what happened. She said:"Sweet little old ladies aren’t always as sweet as you think but you did the right thing. You’ll get your reward in the next life."
I remember my lower jaw dropping while I stared at my mum. I imagined myself as an old lady standing at the pearly gates. St. Peter would appear and hand me a box of Milky Ways.
I never ate one after that. My sweet tooth was cured.