A few moments passed before the waitress made it back to the woman’s table to take her order.
“Just a cup of coffee with cream, please,” her voice barely audible mixed in with the noises of the restaurant. The waitress frowned without thinking much about it. Probably thinking… no big tip here, better move on to other customers. Nevertheless, she did bring the hot, steamy, coffee right over to the old lady and she remembered the tiny pitcher of cream. There was something about this old lady, she thought to herself. She probably needs more than coffee.
“Hey, how about a piece of peach pie, ma’am, “ she said quietly, “it’s on the house.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that. You all have to make a living here after all, “ she replied with a slight smile.
“No problem, honey,” shot back the waitress. She was already hurrying over to the counter where one lone piece of pie was left in the display section. It had been sitting there all day, the crust was a bit soggy, the peach pie filling was spreading across the small dessert plate, but she knew it was stilla good piece of pie. She turned toward the old lady’s table, but thought twice, and scooped out a small bit of vanilla ice cream to top off the dessert.
“It’s on the house. Enjoy,” the waitress quickly commented and then rushed back to her other customers.
With shaky hands, the old woman sipped her coffee and slowly ate the pie a la mode, seeming to enjoy every bite as if it was an expensive dessert prepared especially for her. She was seemingly in no hurry to leave. Her coffee cup was refilled several times by the busy waitress and she managed to thank her each time she stopped by. The old woman had not experienced much kindness in the past few months and was very happy for this small offering from an assiduous stranger.
On the wall opposite the old woman’s booth, a clock emblazoned with the name of a popular brand of beer, moved steadily toward nine o’clock. The old woman glanced at the time and was surprised to see how quickly time had passed since she had sat down. She tidied up the table a bit, stacking the empty dessert plate on top of the coffee saucer, then placing the empty coffee cup on top. She slowly but carefully moved the empty pitcher of cream next to the cup, took her slightly soiled napkin and wiped up a few drips of coffee from the table, and crisscrossed the fork across the plate.
Slowly and deliberately she reached into her purse and pulled out a small oval shaped coin purse, the kind that had just a slit along the length of it. When you pushed on either end of the change purse the slit would open like a baby bird’s mouth and the coins were within. She carefully counted out enough coins to cover the cost of the coffee and laid them carefully on the table next to the dishes. Again she reached into her purse and pulled out a black, shiny wallet which probably contained identification and maybe a few bills.
“I had best leave a tip,” she said to herself, “after all, that waitress was quite kind to me and treated me to a piece of pie. That’s the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a while.” She pulled out a single bill, folded it in half, and placed it under the the coins.
She was relieved to see most of the other customers had left already and that the waitress was busy cleaning up the empty booths near the front of the establishment. She didn’t want anyone watching her get ready to leave, because it wasn’t easy for her. Slowly she stood up, giving her rickety knees a chance to stretch and regain a bit of strength, collected her cane and made sure her purse was zipped shut. Slowly she made her way toward the door.
The busy waitress didn’t see her pull the door open and make her exit. She did hear the door click shut and looked up to see if new customers were coming in. The old woman was forgotten for the moment… there was a lot to be done before the regulars came in to sit at the bar and drink the night away. She moved toward the back of the restaurant and then realized the old woman had gone. Moving toward the booth where the old woman had been, she quickly began to clear the table and smiled a little when she noticed how the little old lady had attempted to make her job easier for her.
It was at that moment that she noticed the coins and the single bill lying there waiting for her. “Well I guess she didn’t want me to buy her a piece of pie!” she thought. She dropped the coins into her apron pocket and picked up the bill. Benjamin Franklin stared back at her.