A Streetcar Named Death

Jill was caught up in her thoughts while she walked amid the crowd on St. Charles Avenue.  A hand yanked her back hard just as the streetcar passed.  She stepped back onto the sidewalk, shaken at how close she’d been to becoming a Garden District fatality.  Most of the accidents involved tourists, momentarily distracted by Greek Revival double-galleried town homes or searching for Anne Rice’s mansion on First Street. Jill had lived in the District most of her life.   She was distracted, but not by the architecture.

She smiled at the young man who was still holding her upper arm. “Thank you very much. I don’t know where my mind was.” She fanned herself with the letter in her left hand. Suddenly she was very warm.

“No problem, Ma’am.” He released her arm and smiled at her sheepishly.

She knew he’d recognized her and was searching for a suitable comment.  He’d saved her life, the least she could do was spare him more discomfort. “Yes. It is I.  It’s a miracle I ever survived four years in Washington DC. Of course, I had Secret Service Agents assigned to protect me and I didn’t have any streetcars to worry about.”  She treated him to the smile that had made her so popular with her husband’s constituents – even after they had grown dubious of Gann’s ability to serve them.

“Well you be careful, Mrs. Lawson. And give my regards to President Lawson. He must be real excited about the dedication next week. I guess that’s the reason for the crowds. That and the weather.”

“Yes, October is the most beautiful time of the year here in the Crescent City.  Well, goodbye and thanks again.”

She went off in search of a mailbox. Her mind was still on her conversation with Gann. What a stubborn man he was. And tactless.  How could he proceed with the dedication of his library when the nation had just suffered such a tragedy? He was absentminded too.  Just last week Maggie had called them to tell them her friend had been run over and killed. She shuddered, recalling on how close she’d been to suffering the same fate.

The young man who’d yanked her back onto the sidewalk reminded her of Nate – yes that was his name.   Such a nice young man. She had like Nate very much and she’d scolded Maggie for not preparing him better for his first meeting with her father. Gann Lawson could intimidate a head of state.  She could imagine how that poor boy had felt when he realized that the woman he’d been dating was the daughter of a former President.  That was just like Maggie. She’d kept a low profile when they were in the White House. Now that she was a young woman with her own life and her own career Jill imagined that many of her acquaintances were unaware of who she was.

She stopped at the mail box and frowned at the letter she was holding. It really was silly for her to continue to communicate the old fashion way, but she dropped the letter into the box anyway.  As she turned to walk away her cell phone rang. Looking at the display she saw Maggie’s number.

“Why hello, Sweetheart. I just dropped a letter to you into the mail box. I’m standing here at Prytania and 1st   trying to decide whether I should go home and argue with your father some more or walk over to The Rink and do a little shopping.”

Maggie didn’t respond with her usual easy laughter.  “Mama, you really must try to talk Daddy out of going ahead with the dedication of that damn library. Doesn’t he watch the news? It’s embarrassing. They are making him look awful.”

“I’ve tried. He won’t budge on this one. You’re still coming down here, aren’t you?”

Jill was afraid the controversy over the timing and the recent death of her friend had convinced Maggie to stay away. 

“Yes, Mama, I’m still coming. But, I’m just doing it for you. I’m planning to fly in on Wednesday night. Don’t send anyone to pick me up. I’ll take a taxi to the house.”

Jill let out a sigh of relief. “I am so glad. I can’t wait to see you.”

“Me too, Mama. And, Mama … go shopping. Love you, bye.”

Jill felt better after talking to her daughter.  She would go shopping. She might even get her hair done.   She decided she was long overdue for a makeover.


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