This story isn’t about how I got four hundred dollars—even though I did. Four hundred big ones. Unexpected.
Anyway, I want to say this beforehand:
I once swore that I would never write something like what you’re about to read. In fact, I can’t stand those who talk about what they do with their money.
But then, it WASN’T my money. So, why not.
I gave a hundred bucks to the cable guy. He was as country as fiddlesticks. He showed up with his wife. I saw them working in my yard, burying cable together.
“She works with me,” he explained. “She’s a good worker. We can take twice the jobs as a team, make twice the money. I love her so much.”
I shook his hand. He could feel the folded paper bill in my palm. I wished him a Merry Christmas.
The workman across the street got a hundred, too. He was repairing my neighbor’s sewage line. The brown, foul-smelling water puddled around him, saturating his jeans with stink.
I recognized him. We used to work together in a past life. We shook hands.
I asked how he’s been.
“Got four kids, man,” he said. “A good wife, good job, great benefits. And after awhile, you get used to coming home, smelling like $#!* water.”
How about that.
I left a hundred in his toolbox.
And the old man in Pensacola, standing on Cervantes. Cardboard sign. Long beard. He smelled like whiskey and cigarettes.
I rolled down my window at the stoplight. I handed him a folded, green paper-football. I started to drive away.
“Hey, sir!” he yelled. “Think you accidentally gave me a hundred.”
“No,” I said. “Someone accidentally gave it to me.”
He shouted a God-bless-you while I drove away.
And the waitress. I ordered eggs, bacon, toast. What I got was a patty melt. I ate it, no complaints.
She realized her mistake later. She buried her face in her hands and said, “Oh GOD! I’m SO SORRY! It’s been a REALLY long week.”
I left two fifties.
Listen. I really shouldn’t have written this. What am I looking for, a pat on the back? Big damn deal, some guy gets a rebate in the mail and gives a few bucks away.
That’s not why I’m writing you. I’m telling you this because a long time ago my mother was late on our rent. And it was Christmas.
And since landlords aren’t God’s sweetest angels, we were—how do I put this— up a very stinky creek without a canoe.
We visited a Wednesday night church service and sat in the back row. My mother said a prayer. She seemed sick. She seemed ashamed.
After service, a man stopped her in the parking lot. I’ll never forget him.
He’d been friends with my late daddy, once. He asked how we were doing. He took us to dinner. My mother smiled and told him lies, and how life was marvelous.
Afterward, he shook my hand. I felt something in his palm. He winked at me.
Four folded hundred-dollar bills.
So if you’ve read this far, I’m sorry you had to wade through it. But then, this wasn’t written for you—not completely.
Mister Bobby, if you’re out there:
I’ve been meaning to thank you for dinner for a long time.
You’ll never know what it meant to us.