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Grouch Insurance
by Hermine Robinson

“It's upon the small gestures that civil society is based,” said Carl. “And it is on the failure to observe the ordinary kindnesses, that it is eroded.” Carl made this lofty statement while staring out at the young student next door cleaning the snow off her car with a ragged snow brush, the kind bought at a gas station convenience store for a couple of dollars. Most of the snow the girl heaved off the hood and roof of her car landed on Carl's freshly shovelled sidewalk, so maybe he had a point, especially as she made no effort to clean up the mess on the pavement before she drove off. Carl narrated the scene, and his outrage, to his wife, Deborah, who sat behind him in her wing back chair, knitting. He turned to see if she was listening.

Deborah had a seemingly endless supply of colourful yarn and created magnificent lengths of knitting; frothy, frilly, lacy things full of sparkles for women, sensible wooly scarves for men, and fluffy little scarves and mitts for children. Carl did not know what she did with them all, sold them he supposed. He had seen women in the neighbourhood with familiar looking designs draped over the shoulders of their winter jackets or tucked up under their chin.

That annoying Mrs. Morrison down the street must have bought an entire set of scarves and matching mitts for her wretched gaggle of boys, because the little buggers had waved enthusiastically at Carl the other day, flashing their new mittens like warning flags. He imagined that they were ready for another snowball fight on the way to school. Last week Carl went out to yell at them to 'break it up' and 'get a move on' when one of the boys tossed a snowball that landed on the front step. Accidentally, the boy claimed, because he was actually trying to hit his brother. It did not matter to Carl, he gave the boys an ear chewing anyways. The students next door deserved an ear chewing too.

Deborah sensed the lull in her husband's diatribe and without missing a stitch or even altering the rhythmic click-clack of her knitting needles, she inserted the appropriately sympathetic, but neutral. “Kids will be kids, Carl.”

“No, excuse for bad behaviour.”

“We were all young once, dear.”

“Well, it isn't right, and I'm going to say something to that girl the next time I see her,” said Carl. “To her and the boyfriend. He's worse than the girl.”

Deborah knitted faster. It had been a bad winter and Carl's patience grew thinner and thinner with every snowfall. The triple set of scarves and mittens she dropped off with Mrs. Morrison, (plus a shawl for the woman herself) had taken a month to knit, and as soon as Deborah finished the scarf she was working on for the mailman, who had cut across the lawn and dragged snow onto the front steps, she would start on something nice for the students next door.