Friday, December 19, 2014

TIP JAR

I walk this way to lunch a couple times a week. The restaurant is about 200 yards away, a straight shot down a lonely sidewalk. On this particular day I saw a figure ahead. In front of Monk’s. I knew, right away this was going to be interesting. It was just a feeling I had… no other reason, really.

As I approached, I got a look at her. An overweight woman in a pink nightgown and slippers moving around erratically just outside the door. Her dirty, curly blond hair in tangles and falling over her haggard face like wild vines. I walked past her and into the side door. She followed me in. It was really busy inside. Busier than I’d ever seen it. I stood in line to make my order.

She wandered around in front of the register for a while before she started talking.

She leaned in over the counter. “Someone back there get me a salad.”

The register girl piped up, “Ma’am, you’ll have to stand in line like everyone else.”

“I want a salad. Hey you! Get me a salad!” Her nightgown was sleeveless and you could see her blubbery arms shaking at the line cook. Her pale face was half covered in bright pink melanoma’s and twisted up in a sort of confused expression.

Everyone in the place ignored her. Make no eye contact. You could feel the tension building.

“Get me a Pepsi too.” She took a seat on one of the stools near the counter. And that’s when I made the mistake of looking at her. She looked back. Damn it.

She began to walk over. I thought she was going to ask for money.

She didn’t ask for money. “I don’t like you,” she told me right to my face.

“OK.”

She kept staring at me, then turned around and went back to the stool.

I placed my order. I gave the woman taking my money a little lifted eyebrows look. She gave me an Oh Well shrug. I moved back and waited for my order to come up. She came at me again.

“I don’t like you.”

This time I just stared into her eyes. I wasn’t sure why, maybe I was hoping to intimidate her. She stared back, but here eyes were vacant, there was nothing there behind the angry face. My only thought was, 'Just don’t touch me.' I looked around and everyone was ignoring the situation.

"I could kill you, mother fucker! You're an immoral person and you don't go to church or pray! I don't like you." She then turned towards the counter, “Can you call the police on this man!?" she yelled while approaching the register.

Suddenly, with a fumbling, awkward move, she grabbed the tip jar with one hand and turned quickly towards the door. As she snatched it, change went flying around the room and onto the people and floor. One man grabbed at her arm and even more change exited the container, but she held on.

When she reached the door, about 10 feet away, she pushed the handle, slammed face-first into the glass and fell backwards, even more money scattering onto the floor. The woman landed on her back but managed to stagger up quickly and towards the door again. This time she pulled and ran. Well, it was more like a shuffling limp at this point.

Everyone watched the pink woman stumble down the sidewalk to a bus bench across the street where she sat down and started counting the remainder of the change.

Inside Monk’s it was silent and still for a few seconds. People just sort of looked around at each other with varying expressions. Some almost laughing, some stunned, some sad. Then a couple of people started collecting the change and putting it back on the counter. And everything just went back to normal.

“You sure know how to attract ‘em, Jenkins!” My co-worker, Mark, was in the line behind me — I hadn’t even noticed.

“Ah, yeah,” I answered.


Bender. Originally published in issue #45 of Monster Children. 2014.
Illustration by Travis Millard.