The Countess

Jacob locked the door of his brownstone and stepped to the edge of his front porch, looking up at his most-recent acquisition as a wave of giddy pride washed over him. His brownstone was a perfect match for its four neighbors, only varying as a result of flower boxes and window dressing, but he felt like it glowed compared to the others. He took one last look over it before turning to walk down the five steps to the street.

It was a Saturday morning, just after nine, so traffic was still quiet and the cobblestone street directly in front of his home was empty aside from the few parked cars belonging to the residents. He straightened his sweater, stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans, and hummed to himself as he walked down the street. Everything was perfect.


Except that. Jacob started walking faster, hoping the woman who sat at the end of the brownstone row wouldn’t stop him.

“FORTY-SEVEN!” The woman waved a tattered bit of cardboard at him, the writing all but impossible to read as she swung it through the air. As Jacob approached, she staggered up from her seat and waved the cardboard even faster. “FORTY-SEVEN!”

Jacob rifled through his wallet as he walked, pulling out a fifty. Once he reached the woman, he tossed it into the violin case at the woman’s feet next to some lint, many coins, and a scattering of other bills. “Here’s fifty, now let me be!” The woman stopped waving her cardboard to look at her case and Jacob ran off down the street.

As he reached the end, he stepped into a puddle and his leg sank up to mid-calf. His shout of “Damn it!” was met with a laugh and a shout of “FORTY-EIGHT.”

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