Ted covered his ears with the blanket, as the clanking of pots and pans from the kitchen started. According to the WMS (Wife Mood Scale), the clanking pans indicated that she was very angry. The verbal assault would start soon.
He pulled his tired body out from the warm bed, and ambled to the bathroom to shower in peace, before he faced the tirade.
Breakfast was just two slices of bread with some cheese thrown in. They were struggling to make ends meet and his lassitude was not helping any.
His wife worked as a part time nanny and part time domestic help in a few houses, but with both of them in their sixties and no savings, things were not looking great.
He had arthritis and struggled with knee pain. So, he did not last too long in any job.
Today was Friday, and the local supermarket received goods from all its suppliers on Fridays, so extra hands to unload were always required. Ted usually managed to get there early and earn a few hours of pay from the unloading and wheeling.
His knees hurt as he walked to the supermarket. It took him a good twenty minutes to get there, but he was in good time and signed up for the day.
Around 11 a.m. they were given a tea break. As he went to the wash room and ambled to the vending machine, he saw someone waving in his direction. He walked over. The man was tall and thin, wearing faded jeans and a black t-shirt.
“What?” asked Ted.
“Need a quick favour. I am one of the truck drivers who’s brought in supplies. I need small change to buy cigarettes, could you get me change for $50 from the cashier. I will give you a pack of cigarettes in return. I would go myself, but I need to be here to supervise the unloading. Company rules, you know?” he said.
Ted hadn’t smoked in a long time. He suddenly ached for a smoke. The old woman had taken away all these simple pleasures from his life by keeping track of every single penny.
The truck driver gave him the $50. Ted nodded and walked towards the cash counter. He knew Jenny very well and winked at her as he joined the short queue. When he reached the counter, he asked her for change. She asked after his health and gave him five ten dollar notes.
He went back and gave it to the truck driver, who came back in a few minutes, thrust a cigarette pack in Ted’s hand and walked away.
Ted was very happy as he imagined how it would feel to smoke after such a long time.
In the evenings, usually peace reigned in Ted’s home, as the day’s tensions ebbed away and both husband and wife sat down in companionable silence, to watch the news and a couple of other programs that were available for free.
As they watched the local news, Ted’s heart nearly stopped, when he heard that the police had traced some counterfeit notes circulating in the town, and that they had hit upon the gang’s modus operandi – they exchanged counterfeit notes for smaller change. The supermarket where Ted worked was mentioned. The report said that the police would soon start finger-printing workers at all these locations, to help them with the case.
Ted’s blood ran cold as he suddenly remembered that he had touched the note. There was another thing that had struck him as odd, when the driver had given him the $50 – he had been wearing a pair of gloves. Now it made complete sense.
Ted decided to be sick with unbearable knee pain for the next few days. Metal pots clanking in the kitchen and facing a 100 on the WMS was an infinitely better choice than spending time behind metal bars.
He braced himself.