The day James showed up at the market, in the middle of the noon rush, drunk, with Douglas, was the day that did Cora in. He’d been drooling drunk. His face was beet red, from elevated blood pressure that must have been an indication of blood alcohol content nearing 30%. He’d staggered behind the cash register trying to get it open, so drunk he didn’t have the manual dexterity to work the single button that opened the drawer.
Cora’s male patrons bristled at the sight of him. She knew there’d be trouble if she didn’t get him out of there. She opened the drawer for him and took out all of the cash. He and Douglas left, sending a big spray of gravel in their wake. Douglas knew exactly what he was doing. He wasn’t anywhere close to as drunk as James. With no till to work from, Cora treated her customers to lunch. At the end of the rush she looked to see the tip jar stuffed with bills and change. Her heart broke at their generosity.
James spent more time drinking and less time working. He came home early in the morning, sleeping in his truck until after they’d the left the house. Cora continued to manage the household and the market. She laundered James’s clothes, bought the toiletries he’d always used, looking after him from a distance.
When he came to empty the register, in the evenings, she gave him half the take for the day. He never knew the difference; or, if he did, he didn’t mention it.