“Here,” Hadley Joy Morris Whitfield said, handing each of her three friends a bundle of cash held together by a fancy paper clip.
“I love it when people give me money,” Mary Rose McGill said, smiling.
“Very cool, girlfriend,” Robinson Leary, retired Creighton University professor said, “and what are we doing with this?”
“We are giving it away,” Hadley answered.
They had all gotten their $1200 checks from the government. The checks were meant to help people over the hump while they were struggling with the Covid-19 shelter-at-home or lockdown.
“And who are the lucky recipients?” Marge Aaron, retired homicide detective asked.
“People who are on the front lines taking care of us,” Hadley replied. “I’m talking about the kids in grocery stores who are stocking shelves, checking our groceries at the check-out counters. I’m talking about the bus drivers, the kid in the drive-through window, the mailman, the cop, the delivery people. I’m talking about the ones we never notice until we can’t do without them.”
“Oh, am I in on this!” Robbie said. “These are the people, a lot of whom are holding down two or even three jobs to make ends meet; the ones who are working for a God-awful minimum wage.”
“You got it, girl,” Hadley said.
“True,” Marge said. “Some of them; the cop, the letter carrier, make more, but they’re still out there with people, not knowing if they’re exposed or not. They’re heroes, too.”
“Damn right,” Hadley replied. “We can’t get into the hospitals to give out money to the health care professionals, but I would love to find a way to hand a twenty-dollar bill to a cleaning lady or an orderly.”
“Maintenance people,” Mary Rose McGill said.
She thought for a minute. “I know someone,” she said. “My granddaughter works part-time at Trader Joe’s. She comes home after work, takes her clothes off, throws them in the washer and gets into the shower to make sure she isn’t bringing the virus home to her family.
Mary Rose thought for a minute more.
“I don’t need my $1200,” she said, and she turned around and hurried down the hall.
They were all standing in front of Hadley’s apartment.
They had received a text from her saying, “Meet me at my door.” She hadn’t wanted to even let them sit down when she announced what they were doing. In her mind, they would be headed directly for the hummer and hit the road.
“I don’t need mine either,” Marge Aaron said, and she took off in the opposite direction to get cash from her apartment.
“I’ve got to keep mine,” Robbie said, looking at the floor.
“Yeah, well, you inspire me, Professor,” Hadley said. She turned and shot through her door. She was back in just a minute with another bundle of cash. “I don’t need this.” And she handed it to Robbie.
Hadley, they joked, had more money than God and Warren Buffett combined. Robinson Leary had no qualms about taking another thousand to give away.
In just minutes they were climbing into their eleven-year-old Hummer and headed out the Meadow Lakes Retirement Community parking lot.
“Where to first?” Marge Aaron asked from behind the wheel.
“Costco!” Mary Rose McGill said. “They require their employees and customers to wear masks and I feel safe when I go there.”
The girls were all ‘pro-mask’ because to them, someone wearing a mask was telling them, “I’m doing what I can to keep you safe.”
They were inside the store for more than half an hour.
When they climbed back into the Hummer, they took off their masks and revealed big smiles.
“I got five shelf stockers,” Mary Rose said. “Twenty dollars each. One young lady started to cry and said they would go for new shoes for her toddler.”
They smiled at Mary Rose.
“So I gave her another one,” she said.
They smiled more.
“I sneaked behind the check-outs and handed a twenty to each check-out clerk,” Robinson Leary said. “One older lady looked really surprised then said, ‘That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,’”
“I’m the winner,” Marge said, as if it was a contest. “I found three security guys. I love it when men look pleased and embarrassed at the same time.”
“Who did you find, Hadley?” Mary Rose asked.
Hadley smiled. “I slipped into the back room and got everybody working back there. It was great!” she said.
“Next?” Marge asked as she started the Hummer.
“The bus transfer place,” Mary Rose suggested.
“That’s good,” Hadley said. “It’s on the way to Marks and we can do a take-out lunch and get the kids there.”
They pulled into the parking lot where a line of buses waited, their engines running.
“Front three for me,” Hadley said.
“Back three for me,” Mary rose said.
“We get the middle six,” Marge said to Robbie, who nodded agreement.
As they walked back to the Hummer after they had handed out their treasure, they head the sound of hands clapping. They looked back and saw a row of bus drivers applauding them.
“This feels good,” Robinson said.
“They do this with pride in their hearts and honor in their souls,” Hadley said.
“And some because their families would go hungry if they stayed home,” Marge added. “They risk their lives.”
“I’m sending emails to all my representatives when I get home,” Mary Rose said. A hard tone in her voice. “We need to pay them what they deserve, which is a lot more than they’re getting.”
“Each time we’ve raised the minimum wage the economy had improved,” Robbie said. She and Hadley were both political junkies.
Hadley called Marks to place four orders of mac and cheese and four bottles of water and they headed into a residential area on their way to their favorite restaurant.
“Stop!” Mary Rose yelled as they same upon a garbage truck parked beside the curb.
Two men were collecting the garbage in large cans on the curb. Another man was in the driver’s seat.
“Everybody out!” Marge said. “I’ll wait for you.”
Hadley and Robbie handed twenty-dollar bills to the men picking up the cans.
Marge watched as Mary Rose could not reach the driver. She smiled as Mary Rose turned around, dashed across the street, grabbed a yard rake that was leaning against a tree and stuck a twenty onto one of the tines. She hurried back to the truck, held up the rake and the surprised driver took the twenty off the tine.
“Mission accomplished,” Hadley said as they drove off, watching the garbage guys wave and smile at them.
Hadley called Marks when the pulled into the parking spaces behind the restaurant. Mark himself brought out their mac and cheese and drinks. Hadley paid the bill and asked Mark how many people were working today.
“I have six right now,” he said. I had to send a bunch home.
The girls each counted out six bills.
“Here!” they all said together.
Mark looked surprised.
“For my cooks and servers?” he asked.
The girls nodded.
Mark reached through the window and grabbed the receipt from Hadley’s hand.
“This mac is mine!” he grinned.
“I still have some twenties left,” Mary Rose said.
“We can warm up the mac and cheese when we get home,” Robbie said. “Let’s hit Hy-Vee and Walmart on the way.”
They drove off in a well-deserved cloud of good feeling.
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