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Wealth in a Cup

Illustration Information
Wealth in a Cup
These Times, June 1975. Republished in the May 2010 Signs of the Times E-mail Newsletter.
Submitted By
Scott Severance
Submitted On
May 4, 2010

They huddled inside the storm door—two children in ragged, outgrown coats.

"Any old papers, lady?"

I was busy. I wanted to say so—until I looked down at their feet. Thin little sandals sopped with sleet.

"Come in and I'll make you a cup of hot cocoa," I said. There was no conversation. Their soggy sandals left marks upon the hearthstone.

Cocoa and toast with jam would fortify against the chill outside. I went back and started again on my household budget.

The silence in the front room struck me. I looked in. The girl held her empty cup in her hand, looking at it. The boy asked in a flat voice, "Lady, are you rich?"

"Am I rich? Mercy, no!" I looked at my shabby slipcovers and worn place in the rug.

The girl put her cup in its saucer—carefully. "Your cups match your saucers," she said. Her voice was old, with a hunger that was not of the stomach.

They left then, holding their bundles of papers against the wind. They hadn't said Thank you. They didn't need to. They had said more than that. Plain blue pottery cups and saucers. But they matched.

I tested the potatoes and stirred the gravy. Potatoes and brown gravy! Roof over our heads! My husband with a steady job! These things matched, too.

I moved the chairs back from the fire and tidied the living room. The muddy prints of small sandals were still wet on my hearth. I let them be. I want them in case I forget how rich I am!