Carolina had a reputation as the most colorful character in town. She was a gal who lived alone but offered her hospitality of a free meal to most anyone who needed help. An altruistic heart called her to share the money she’d accrued in life, yet she was wise enough to not let people take advantage of her.
A costume of sorts masqueraded her true wealth, as she wasn’t one to wear fancy clothes. If someone was brave enough to be seen at a restaurant with an old lady in a rainbow striped beanie and faded Lee overalls, then she figured they were pretty darn hungry and could stand a little help and company.
Her solo effort stemmed from a falling out she’d had with the Urban Charity League, a group of women who wore their fake benevolence on their sleeves but actually harbored a disdain for anyone else outside of their privileged station in life. Carolina just couldn’t coalesce with those old bitties.
A young lady stood holding a cardboard plea at an intersection just off the Interstate. The sign expressed her hunger in misspelled words, and Carolina knew just how desperate she must feel to seek help from strangers at a stoplight. The 1986 Toyota Corolla she drove belied her elevated monetary position, and she invited the desperate soul to have lunch with her.
Though the girl had long been warned, she figured this woman posed her no danger. How nefarious could a tiny, wrinkled octogenarian wearing a plaid jumpsuit, striped blouse, and a wide-brimmed straw hat be? They spoke little but consumed a fast-food meal seated at the same table.
The young woman’s posture told her story for her. Carolina asked, “Been on the road long?” She looked up through dirty overgrown bangs and meekly offered, “Long enough.” The temperature had been hovering around 90 degrees for several days, and there was no olfactory mistake of the toll the heat took on her.
Carolina waved her hand to slough off thanks offered in a tiny voice when she let the girl out at a local truck stop. Travelers could take a shower there for a pittance, and she dropped several quarters into a small open palm that was streaked with filth. As she drove away, she told the girl to look in her backpack, and left her standing there slump-shouldered on the sidewalk. Carolina had slipped several $20s into the opening of the girl’s bag when she wasn’t looking — at least enough to get her a bus ticket back to where she came from or a little further down the highway.
They hadn’t even looked each other in the eye, the girl letting some unearned shame get in the way. So many others had gone before who knew a moment’s relief from an odd woman they met along the way.
Her lawyer was not surprised to read Carolina’s will after her passing. She hadn’t known the strange lady personally but knew of her eccentricity. Judging by looks, people often mistook her for a homeless person and had no idea how well-off she had actually been. Her mother taught her early on that looks weren’t what mattered most in life. People are most important. She’d said, “You treat people good, and the rest just kinda takes care of itself.”
“Being of sound mind and body,” began her revelation. It was not a stretch that she left her fiscal assets to the local battered women’s shelter, but the ladies at the Urban Charity League were shocked when a truck arrived at the door to drop off what she’d left for them. The driver asked, “Where do you want these clothes delivered, ma’am?”