Jenna barely heard the rough clicks of Sam’s key in the door over the gentle hiss of the water as she washed the vegetables. A quick sigh escaped from her mouth. As much as she loved her husband, after work he tended to be a bit grumpy. The fresh stack of bills that lay on the counter would only make it worse. She turned off the water and began to wipe her hands when she saw him come into their tiny apartment, turning to close the door and lock it behind him.
Jenna grinned at the sight of him. He had an unassuming cuteness about him. When she had first seen him at their church she never would have pictured them together. He had shaggy brown hair, hazel eyes, and an average frame that could easily be lost in a crowd, but he was smart enough to know that those were not his strength.
The first time Sam had approached her it was simple and quick. He introduced himself and came off as shy. Each time they spoke after that he emerged from of his shell a little more. It did not take long for Jenna to see his heart and know that it was more beautiful than any other she knew. He had a rare combination of a sweet spirit and powerful intellect. Sam could make you feel like the most wonderful person in the world or like you didn’t exist. He knew the power of words and just how to use them.
Determined to not let his mood control the night, she went to greet him. He dropped his black apron onto the sofa and held out his arms for her. Jenna stood on her toes to wrap her arms around his neck and suddenly felt herself lifted off the floor.
Sam set her down and gave her a long deep kiss. When he finally let her go she fanned herself in mock excitement to give herself time to recover for real.
“Whoa… What brought that on?”
Sam had a silly grin on his face that grew wider.
“What? A guy can’t show his beautiful wife how much he misses her when he’s at work?”
Jenna cocked an eyebrow. Sam laughed and took her hand. He led her took the couch and sat down.
“I had an amazing day.”
“Yeah? Tell me about it.”
Sam looked up as he thought back.
“The lunch rush was normal. Got stiffed on a few checks, but that’s nothing new. I don’t know why but I just got so angry. I thought about all the people I waited on each day and began to ask where all the good people have gone. It just seemed like everyone I met was out for themselves or rude or selfish.”
Jenna could see the frustration twist his face as he began to relive the emotions.
“Nobody stops to think of others anymore. I guarantee that not one single person I have waited on has ever thought about my bills or how their poor tip hinders my ability to provide for us.”
Sam took a deep breath and when he did all the angry melted away. He looked back into her eyes and smiled again.
“And then I got the best tip of my life.”
Jenna’s eyes grew big as she imagined a stranger leaving a hundred dollar bill on the table and walking out of the restaurant. She wanted to know more about who had given it.
“Were they all dressed up wearing a bunch of bling? Or was it like those rich people that walk around wearing plain t-shirts and jeans from Costco?”
Sam laughed and shook his head.
“Neither. He was wearing a Spider Man t-shirt.”
Jenna cocked her head to one side and waited for him to say “just kidding”, but he just sat there grinning.
“Ok… so weird people are good tippers I guess?”
“He wasn’t weird. He was four.”
Jenna swatted his arm as he raised his arms in defense while chuckling.
“Listen!” he said with his hands still up, ready to fend off another attack. “They came in about a hour before the normal dinner crowd and got sat in my section. I walked over to greet them and get their drink orders. The mom and dad sat on one side of the booth and he sat on the other with his head hung down. After getting their drink orders I knelt down to ask him what he wanted to drink and saw that he was crying.”
Jenna put her hands up to her mouth. She had a soft spot for children and hated to see them cry.
“I asked him what was wrong and his dad said that he was upset because of a misunderstanding. They had told him they were going somewhere special for dinner and he thought that they had meant Chuck E Cheese.”
A high-pitched “Awwwww” was all Jenna could say through her hands.
“I didn’t really have much else to do so I decided I was going to give the kid the best Chuck E Cheese experience I could. I had the cook’s make a smiley face out of the pepperoni on his pizza. I brought out some kids cups and used a spoon and saltshaker to make a little catapult game for him. And I grabbed Jules and Mike and made them come over and sing a silly song and do a dance for him. Even our manager got involved and comped them a free dessert!”
Jenna pulled her hands down just far enough to speak.
“Aw babe! That’s so sweet. So the parents hooked you up with a fat tip?”
“Nope. Not even 15%”
Her hands dropped in disbelief.
“What!? After all that? Babe…”
“It doesn’t matter. I got something better.”
He reached back to where he had tossed his apron and pulled out a small stack of yellow tickets.
“I was near the front when they were leaving so I waved and said ‘Have a nice night.’ The parents waived back, but the little boy ran up to me. He dug into his pocket and pulled these out. I guess he had brought them with him when he thought they were going to Chuck E Cheese so he could get a prize. He handed them to me with the biggest smile on his face.
I told him ‘I can’t take these. You keep them for the next time you go there.’ But he wouldn’t. He told me thank you and that he had the best time ever. He said he wanted me to have them. And then he smiled. I can still see it. It’s funny how one small act of kindness can be so much stronger than a thousand acts of indifference.”
Tears began to full Jenna’s eyes and she bit her lip as she tried to hold them back. Sam looked down at the tickets in his hand.
“This was everything he had. He gave it all to me. After that it didn’t matter what anyone else gave.”
Copyright © 2013 Adam Drake