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Maple Street Memories #3

Episode Three

One of her regular customers at The Sugar Bowl was a local realtor.  He agreed to help Mary with the sale of the house.  She poured his cup of coffee and said, “Bob, I found a deed to the house in my mother’s desk.  Could you tell me more about it?”

She handed him the paperwork and he looked it over while he took a sip from his cup.  “I’ll do some research on it and let you know.”

The next days passed with the same pattern of work followed by boxing and cleaning.  At the end of the week, Bob greeted her with a smile and handed her back the deed.  “From what I could tell from the records downtown it looks like Charles Bernard bought the house in 1942 and then immediately deeded it to your mother.”

Her forehead creased.   “That seems strange.  Does that make sense to you?”

“Not much.  I dug into Charles Bernard.  The only Bernard I’ve ever heard of is the head of Youngstown Steel.  I wasn’t sure, but it’s the same guy.  He’s in his early seventies, but still chairman there.”

“Why would he deed the house to my mother?”

Bob shook his head.  “I don’t know, Mary.  Is there anyone in your family that would know?”

Her eyes widened.  “I don’t think so.  I’ve heard of Youngstown Steel.  Who hasn’t, right?  We never had anything to do with it or anyone named Bernard.”

“Well, there’s one way to find out.”

“How’s that?” she asked, clearing his plate.

“Pay a visit to the headquarters of Youngstown Steel.  It’s a twelve-mile trip.”

“Thanks, Bob.  I’ll think about it.”

In between customers, she kneaded the idea, like a ball of dough, letting it rest and coming back to it.  She looked up the phone number for Youngstown Steel in the phonebook in the backroom and when her shift ended she hurried home.

She cleared her throat and told the receptionist that she would like to make an appointment to see Mr. Bernard.  She frowned when the mechanical sounding woman asked her for the purpose of her visit.

“Uh, well, I need to ask him about a house on Maple Street he deeded to my mother in 1942.”  She stammered and added, “My mother just died and I found his name on her paperwork.”

The woman, less than enthused, said, “I’m afraid Mr. Bernard is very busy and has limited time.  He doesn’t usually meet with unknown parties.”

“I wouldn’t take much time.  I just need to know more about the deed and the house.  I’m in the process of selling it due to my mother’s death.”

“I’m sorry young lady.  I’m not sure how he could help you with something from that long ago.  He’s had many investments over the years and I’m sure that’s just one of them.”

Mary’s shoulders slumped and she hung up the phone.  She muttered as she fixed a sandwich for dinner.  She took her plate upstairs to continue boxing items.  She tackled her mother’s closet and struggled to dispose of her clothes.

She folded each item with care and placed them in a box.  She sniffed a sweater and wrapped her arms around it as she let the tears fall.  She stroked the soft blue fibers and with a gentle hand folded it and left it on the foot of her mother’s bed.  By the time she was done, she had added several items to the pile on the bed.  An assortment of silk scarves, a beautiful red wool coat she remembered her mother wearing long ago, her jewelry box, and some shoes that looked brand new, were saved from the donation box. She unearthed a stunning blue silk dress from a zippered plastic cover and added that to her stack of saved items.

She heaved the box of old clothes downstairs and put it near the front door.  The pastor had offered to retrieve any donations once Mary had them organized.  The clock rang out reminding Mary she had to get to bed.


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