Short Story: “Account Balance”
A Rett Bonneville Shot Story
By Anne M. Freeman©
The bank teller’s face was red, and it wasn’t because pf a hot flash. She was embarrassed and didn’t know what to say about the $5,000 that had mysteriously disappeared from my checking account. Her stammering told me everything I needed to know: my bank account problem was my grandmother.
Grand-Mère, my grandmother, owns the private bank where I have my accounts. Her father-in-law founded the bank, and she took over when my grandfather – her husband – passed. By all accounts, Grand-Mère is a tough CEO. She learned well from her husband, as she worked with him frequently, but of course, never on the books.
But every now and then, Grand-Mère bends a few banking rules for her purposes; principally, when she feels I’ve neglected her. Whenever this happens – which isn’t often because I see my grandmother frequently – money mysteriously disappears from my accounts. I always get the money back, and she must check what debits are in the pipeline because I’ve never bounced a check. And, I usually get the money back with a generous tip.
Funny thing is, neither of us mentions it. I always know it’s her because of the stammering teller, and she knows I’ll be by her house as soon as I can get there. We dance a little dance to her tune. After leaving the bank, I drove home and picked up a nicely wrapped package that I had prepared for this eventuality, and headed over to Grand-Mère’s mansion sitting on top of one of the rolling, golden Somerset hills in Somerset County, NJ.
“Grand-Mère, I’m back from my show in Texas,” I said after her maid brought me to the flower room.
“You were in Texas, dear?” Grand-Mère kept herself ever so busy arranging pearl-white lilies in a fabulous cut crystal vase.
“Did I know about you trip?” The question was an accusation. A soft Cajun accent tinged her words that emerged whenever she was particularly peeved. She carefully pulled a few of the long, green stems out of the vase and trimmed their ends ever so slightly, still not looking at me.
“Grand-Mère, I’m sorry I didn’t let you know. That was unkind of me, but not intentional. I was invited to replace one of the main performers at the Kerrville Folk Festival who became ill. It was very last-minute, so I was rushed. But, I brought you back something from one of the crafters at the event. I hope you’ll like it.”
Grand-Mère set her scissors down on the marble-topped table and finalized arranging her bouquet. She never permitted herself to be hurried, especially when she was mad. Once satisfied with her creation, she accepted the soft, square packet from me, allowed a kiss on her cheek, and then placed the package back on the table, careful not to set it on any water drops from the stems she had just trimmed.
“What a lovely package, Loretta,” she exclaimed. “But, we must first sit down and have a cup of coffee and chat. Then I’ll open your gift.”
She turned and walked to the grand field stone patio overlooking a long green lawn and luxurious gardens. I knew the drill: Grand-Mère wouldn’t open the gift until she was ready to let me leave, which could be hours from now. As I had nothing scheduled for the afternoon or evening, I didn’t mind. I enjoyed her company. We sat at an ornate wrought iron garden table with a glass top and chairs with thick seat pads covered a wisteria print. I placed her gift on the table and she rang for coffee to be served.
“And while we’re waiting for coffee, you will tell me all about your trip to Texas and the festival,” she stated, sitting gracefully back into her chair, smiling with anticipation.
I am Grand-Mère’s namesake and we share several traits, including name, looks, and determination. She loves to hear about my adventures, living through me just a little bit, while perched on her golden roost. Not that Grand-Mère hasn’t led an adventuresome life, but she is intrigued by the world of performing. Her creativity is primarily expressed through flowers, and her life is filled with bank events and the demands of her worldwide, golden circle of friends.
Grand-Mère enjoys narratives with vivid detail, plenty of humorous asides, and at least one challenge I’d taken head on and won. She sat back and closed her eyes as I launched into my tale, beginning with the call I received from the concert promoters asking me if I could make it to Texas by the next evening afternoon to fill the slot formed by the sick songstress. Occasionally, she would rouse herself and sip some coffee and then lean back again until I ended the tale with my return home. No mention of the bank account, of course.
By then, the coffee pot had cooled and bright shafts of a Western sun began dappling the patio. Grand-Mère sat up and reached for her gift. She carefully untied the ribbon, set it on the table, and then slipped open the wrapping paper without tearing it – that would be too gauche! She lifted up the long, hand-woven linen and silk scarf made with the colors of a desert sunrise: gold, turquoise and orange. I could tell she loved it as she wrapped it around her neck several times and fussed with making a fancy knot I would never remember how to do. She was almost ready to let me go.