Cheapskate Charlie

Cheapskate Charlie

Cheapskate Charlie hangs out at the lowlife bar downtown.

Cheapskate Charlie’s made a new set of friends at the lowlife bar downtown.

Cheapskate Charlie used to hang around a higher class of friends. Now he hangs around the drunks and gamblers and truck drivers and gutter hangers down at the lowlife bar where a bottle of beer is only $2.50.

Charlie’s old friends say he got new ones cause he’s such a cheapskate. Like the clothes he buys at the thrift store, his old friends say these new friends from the lowlife bar are cheap too. They say it fits Charlie’s cheapskate lifestyle to have cheap, lowlife friends who hang around and do things that don’t cost Charlie too much money. Things like going to the horse track or the pay lake instead of the country club or buying tickets to the tennis championship.

They say being is a cheapskate is the reason Charlie don’t get married. They say he wants the best deal on a woman he can get – one who’s young and beautiful and without any burdensome kids. And he wants it all for a steal. He wants a great deal on a woman like he does car – spending weeks online tracking down the one with the best price and driving all over town to save a thousand bucks, which, over the course of a 5 year loan don’t amount to nothing anyway. Charlie won’t get a woman cause he can’t find enough of a good deal on one, and he doesn’t realize a woman isn’t like a box of cereal you can save a buck on when you buy 5.

Cheapskate Charlie got drunk with those new friends of his down at the lowlife bar. One of them finally asked Charlie, “So how much you make an hour?”

Charlie admitted, “32 bucks an hour. Plus 4 dollar shift diff. Plus a yearly bonus of 4 grand.”

“Goddamn,” his friend said. “Good for you.”

Charlie likes his new set of friends. He’s says they’re authentic.

Still, even they catch Charlie being a cheapskate and they call him out on it when he is.

But they also catch him buying rounds of beers when he don’t have to. They catch him buying in a fresh pack of smokes for somebody he borrowed a few from the night before. They catch him being a decent tipper and he’s not one to skimp on whatever it is he brings for a party. For all of that, they give him some shit for being a cheapskate for buying his clothes from the thrift store, but they don’t give him too much shit cause he’s quick enough to take the check for lunch sometimes, or add another buck or two to the tip, even when it’s unnecessary.

There are ways in which Charlie’s a cheapskate. And other ways he’s not. He doesn’t like to flaunt anything. He doesn’t want to be the guy who buys his friendships with lunches and rounds of beer. He doesn’t want to be a check grabbing showoff but he doesn’t want to be too much of a cheapskate either, so he tries being a cheapskate when it comes to himself more than when it comes to his new friends. He’ll tell himself it’s okay being a cheapskate – going out of his way to save a few bucks on a 30 dollar bag of candy. He’ll tell himself it’s okay, cause the candy he gives the Halloweeners is some of the best they can get, not the cheap shit like Tootsie Rolls, Dum-Dums and Bottle Caps.

Charlie thought he grew up poor. Then he got older and realized his father was only cheap.

Charlie can’t help but being cheap. He wasn’t given much, so, what little he was given, he learned not to waste. But he came to realize, like his relationship with his father, you gotta spend a little to ever get anything in return. When you don’t spend but are quick to receive, you get pegged as a lowlife mooch. So you gotta give it up sometimes without too much reluctance, even when you spent a lifetime conditioning yourself not to waste.

You gotta be willing to spend $2.50 on a bottle of beer, plus tip, even when you can sit at home and drink a can for less than a buck when you buy by the case. You gotta be willing to give it up graciously and gratefully, all the while remembering those road trips with the high school tennis team when he was only given 2 bucks for McDonald’s after the matches. And he had to hope, humiliatingly, that a few of the other guys on the team might throw him a quarter or 50 cents so he could get a full meal. Charlie understands he’s gotta spend in order to be a friend – in order to fit in – even when it runs counter to his nature.

When those new friends of his call Charlie out for some of his cheapskate ways, it stings. It stings cause he knows his father was a cheapskate and it’s one of the primary ways Charlies doesn’t wish to be like his father.

When it stings, he thinks about his father. His father, a true cheapskate, woulda never even found himself in such a place due to his cheapskate ways. He’d have stayed at home and drank his beer in the living room instead, since it’s cheaper that way. And he’d have never gone there, knowing he’d be called out for being a cheapskate. And, even though he was, it would never have been something he could have handled hearing from anyone he wanted to be a friend.

Charlie’s father died without any friends. He died a cheapskate. He died a cheapskate without any friends cause friendship costs, and his father never liked to spend. He didn’t like spending for gas and parking at a ballgame that he could watch or listen to at home. He wouldn’t have liked picking up a tab or paying $2.50 for a bottle of beer for himself, let alone anybody else.

Charlie’s a cheapskate too. But he can admit it. And, by understanding what he is, he can at least try to be better.

Sometimes his new friends call Charlie a cheapskate. Sometimes they know he’s not. So when they call him a cheapskate, instead of leaving the bar and never coming back, he leaves a tip for the barmaid that he hopes is one of the better ones she’ll get for the day. Charlie only wants to be fair. He knows what he is and much of what made him that way. Nonetheless, he’s willing to push against it when it needs pushing against. That’s all he he can think to do in trying to be a decent friend.

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