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THE LAST BROWN DELI BAG IN THE GRAND UNION / Lucile Lichtblau MY MOTHER IS MISSING. I left her sitting in the passenger side of my grey '82 Toyota angle-parked downtown in front of the Quik Cleaners whUe I ran inside. Five minutes it took me, tops, two dresses, a skirt and one of Harry's suits. I come back to the car. It's parked sUghtly cockeyed, but legal. I look inside and it's empty. At first I think Tm losing my mind. Maybe I took the other car, the Rabbit, but I never drive the Rabbit because of the brakes and the radio. I know I took the grey Toyota, which I always take, and anyway it's there in front of the cleaners where I left it and my mother isn't. She's eighty-five years old; where could she be? She's fraU. She's hard of hearing. She sees but not so well. I look around. Maybe she needed to pee or something. I go into the store next to Quik and ask if they have an old lady in the bathroom. They think Tm crazy. This is a dress shop for teenagers they teU me. I see that it is. The lights are flashing. The music is playing. The clothes are not real clothes. What would an old lady be doing in our bathroom? they say. I go back on the street and I look again. She's not there. I go back to the car and I see the note. It's on the front seat. We have your mother. Do not panic, it says. You hear that? Do not panic. Go home and wait for our call. This is terrible. The woman is eighty-five years old. Maybe older. Maybe she has Ued about her age aU these years and she is ninety. What do they want with her? I go home. I wait for the caU. Ten minutes. Maybe fifteen. Then it comes. We have your mother. How is she? I yell. He teUs me to shut up. Okay, okay, I say. We want ten thousand dollars by five o'clock tonight in a brown paper deUcatessen bag from the Grand Union. Do you hear me? he screams. Yes, I scream back. Don't scream, he teUs me. Okay, I say. Let me talk to my mother. TU get her, he says. Shirley, she says, Shirley, do what the man says. Do whatever. Go to the deĆ¼. Take the ten thousand. Get me out of here. She hasn't sounded so strong in years. Yes Ma, I teU her. Don't worry. She has it mixed up a Uttle. She thinks I am supposed to rob a deh but who cares. The guy gets back on the telephone. Shirley, he says, is that your name, Shirley? I say it is. Okay, Shirley. 54 ' The Missouri Review Now Usten up. Go to your bank and get the money. Go to your Grand Union deli and get the bag. Buy some nova. Whatever. Just get the bag. Put the money in the bag. Eat the nova. I don't care what you do with the nova. Put the money in the bag and go to the park with the duck pond. Put the bag on the bench by the pond and walk away from the bag. Do not look back. One look back, one peep with the eyes, and the old lady is a dead one. You Usten to me, you do what I say, she's yours again. Okay, okay, I say. He hangs up. I caU my husband Harry at the store. I teU him. He says it's bizarre. I agree. He says get the money, I mean what choice do we have? None. Right? So I go to the bank and I make out a withdrawal sUp. Thank God we've got ten thousand in the bank. They could have picked some poor slobs who don't have ten thousand they can get their hands on. No cash flow. Money in real estate, stocks, insurance, whatever. What good would it do them at a time Uke this...


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