The Tip

The Tip

Jeffrey arrived with the pizza. He parked in front of the mobile home. He got out and knocked on the rattly storm door.

An old man in jean shorts and a white tank top came to the door.

“Pizza?” Jeffery asked with his customary, exaggerated cheer.

“Yeah,” the old man said.

“Fresh and hot,” Jeffrey said. “So be careful.”

A dog poked its head between the old man’s leg.

“He’s okay,” Harvey said. “He don’t bite or nothing.”

“What’s his name?” Jeffrey asked.

“Brisco,” he told the pizza boy.

“Now get on back,” Harvey commanded the dog. “Before you make me trip.”

The dog scampered away.

Jeffrey handed the pizza over to the old man, who called to his wife.

“Bring the money,” Harvey shouted.

“Huh?” Jeffrey heard.

“Bring the money,” Harvey screamed.

As Jeffery waited, he asked, “So how are you on this fine day, sir?”

“Ah,” the old man replied. “They say these are the golden years. But it don’t feel much like gold. Feels more like a bunch of wooden nickels to me.”

Jeffery beamed. Though he was still in a teen, he lived for moments such as this.

“Are you a Christian?” he asked.

“Of course,” the old man said.

With a practiced, overdone cheer, Jeffery reminded the old man, “Every day’s another day closer to our meeting our Lord.”

Harvey acknowledged the backhanded reprimand for his pessimism with, “Ugh huh.”

Just then, Harvey’s wife came to the door. She reached past Harvey to pass the cash over to the Christian pizza boy.

Jeffrey said, “God bless, ma’am. And enjoy this fine evening’s bounty of pizza.”

“All right,” Harvey said. “Alright.”

Harvey closed the door. He placed the pizza on the counter while Brisco paced around sniffing. Harvey’s wife could tell something had happened.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“That little snot,” Harvey said.

“Shush now,” she said. “Seemed like a nice boy. A good Christian. Just like us, right? Isn’t that what I heard?”

“All that phony boloney, nicey-nice nonsense,” Harvey said.

“Harvey, now don’t forget, you’re a Christian too.”

“Yeah. But I’m a real Christian,” Harvey said. “Kid like that’s just putting on a show for a better tip.”

“He was only trying to be nice,” his wife said. “He was only trying to show grace.”

“He dismissed my troubles like they’re nothing,” Harvey said. “He treated them like they’re nothing. Like I’m nothing. Hell, I’m old and I’m left with nothing on a Tuesday night but you and this mutt and this pizza we could only afford one topping for.”

She opened the box of hot pizza.

“He may be a mutt, but he’s a good dog,” his wife said.

She noticed the extra container of dipping sauce for the crust.

“We got extra sauce,” she said.

“Good,” Harvey said.

“We didn’t pay for it,” she said. “That boy musta made a mistake.”

“How much did you give him for a tip?” Harvey asked.

“What?” she asked.

“The tip,” he screamed. “How much?”

“Five dollars,” she said.

“For a twelve dollar pizza? For Christ’s sake, we’re not made of money. We could have added sausage and gotten extra pepperoni.”

“You know how all that meat gives me indigestion,” she said. “Especially this late.”

“You could have picked it off. Given it to me.”

“What about mushrooms? Mushrooms don’t make me sick. We could have gotten mushrooms instead of sausage.”

“Shut up,” Harvey said. “Doesn’t matter now. That snot’s got our five dollars.”

Harvey separated a slice of pizza from the pie.

“Best to be thankful for what we’ve got,” his wife said. “Now be careful, it’s hot.”

Harvey took a bite of pizza. It was too hot. As he pulled it away from his face, the cheese slid off, tumbling off his white tank top before coming to rest on his bare leg. It was so hot, it burned.

Harvey jumped off his chair, swatting the dribbled cheese away.

His wife saw the tomato sauce splotch on his otherwise flawless tank top.

“I warned you it was hot,” she said.

“We’re never ordering from there again,” Harvey fumed.

“Ain’t the pizza’s fault,” she said. “And it ain’t that boy’s fault neither.”

Harvey sat back down. Brisco went for the discarded glob of scalding, oily mozzarella.

“Hell,” Harvey sighed. “So these are the golden years?”

“What?” his wife asked.

“Never mind,” Harvey said.

“You’re too eager,” she said. “You gotta wait for it to cool off. Or blow on it. Then it’ll be fine.”

Harvey could feel the roof of his mouth starting to bubble. And there was a red mark on his thigh were the cheese had landed.

He looked down at Brisco, who sniffed at his morsel on the floor. It was still too hot, so the dog waited. Harvey, having learned his lesson, decided to wait too.

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