“The fries were soggy, the burger only half-cooked, and there was no fizz in my drink. I couldn’t eat’um. Gimme my money back.”
“I’m so sorry. I’ll check with the manager.” As Tom turns he notices that other than a single catsup-drenched fry, both the woman’s plate and cup are empty.
He sighs. This week, with the new cook still struggling, it seems all he’s done is give refunds. But like Tom, the guy needs his job.
With that, he simply can’t hit the till, so he instead scoops the last few bills and sorry bit of change from his tip jar. Shrugging, he returns to the woman’s table. “I hope this makes up for your experience.”
With a huff, mostly for show, she grabs the money and shoots out the door.
When Tom’s “real” job cut back hours, he had to find a second one to make ends meet. Though the pay was horrid, Burger Barn was the only job that fit his hours.
It’s not until an hour and a half past his shift’s end that he’s able to finally hang up his apron. Beaten down, he slips out the door, crossing the parking lot to the Safeway. He still needs something for Thanksgiving, so he picks up a small turkey breast and a can of green beans.
Maybe next year they’ll have a real Thanksgiving.
“$14.37,” says the checker.
It’s then he remembers giving away his tip money. Which had been meant for Thanksgiving dinner. He slides in his debit card, but the nasty beep of “Denied” confirms his fears: his account is just as empty as his wallet.
“Sorry.” With the weight of everyone’s eyes upon him, he heads out for the bus stop.
When the 9:05 finally arrives at 9:50, it’s standing room only, leaving him to squeeze his way into a spot in the middle aisle for the long ride home.
“Home” for now is a shoddy apartment building on the east side. Besides meeting his budget, it was the only place with a ground floor unit, something he needs for Celia. As he nears the apartment, he remembers to be thankful that tomorrow will not be another like today. Thanksgiving is one of his few days off.
He opens to the door to the excited shout of “Daddy” as Celia rolls her wheelchair over for a hug. He winks at Mrs. Danner, who stands smiling in the kitchenette.
“Lucky man, you.”
“I get paid Friday, so I’ll pay you—“
“Nonsense. I should be paying you to stay with this angel.” Pointing at the counter, she says, “I guess a group of folks at the Safeway saw what you went through tonight. Practically crying, they dropped off a turkey, mashed potatoes, and some rolls. But...here’s the really good news – the foundation called. They’re going to fund Celia’s operation. This little girl might be walking by spring.” Moving closer, she joins their hug. “Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.”