It was Miriam who found Seth first, weeping into his hat on the back stoop.
“They fired me,” he said, knuckling away a tear. “Brought me before the Town Council. Said I was running my family all wrong, making the whole bunch of ’em look bad, from Mayor Price on down to Janitor Jim. Bookkeeper don’t toe the party line, bookkeeper can find himself another job.”
“In this town?” Miriam sat down next to him. “We’ve already got three accounting firms, and none of them are hiring so much as a secretary.”
“How would you know?”
“Silly me. I thought I’d put my seventy words a minute to good use. So I asked.” She pulled her kerchief down over her eyes. “I have never wanted to crawl beneath a rock so badly in my entire life.”
“Oh, yes, you have.”
“I was three, and flower girls aren’t supposed to get boogers on the petals.” She leaned on her beloved stepfather’s shoulder. “You haven’t told Mama.”
“Not how it really happened, no.” Seth patted her shoulder. “Woman in that condition, at her age? This is a wanted child!”
Miriam had to smile. Even at thirty-nine and forty, with six kids between them, her parents were ready to welcome a new addition. “So you were laid off due to lack of funding,” she suggested.
“The way things are, that was probably their next move anyhow, so the lie ain’t that bad.” Seth glanced up. “Right, my Lord?”
No answer, of course. There never was. Just a wisp of cirrus breaking off, gathering other stray puffs of white. Just like them, Miriam thought, only the clouds could fly away from this horrible little place.