So how many of you have been in a car exiting the highway only to have homeless or transient people standing at the exit asking for money or food? What goes through your mind when you witness this? Do you choose not see it all by simply ignoring it? Do you think something else?
Well after coming home one evening from a nice meal with friends, I gave it a lot of thought. So much thought that inspired me to write the short story. Which ended up being really controversial on my timeline. Which truly baffled me, even to this day. I know I am a hack writer but I think I am good enough that even the intended point could not be that badly misunderstood. Even if was poorly written.
It was however so I have decided to write it again. Hopefully this time it won’t be any confusion or controversy. Here is a new version of that old story.
I named it “A Tale of Woe”
Jack had just finished a hearty $25 porterhouse steak dinner at his favorite establishment. It was his reward to himself for another long working week. Which was the justification he used to convince himself for splurging on such an expensive meal? A meal which he could have made himself at home for less than $7. Although it would not have been as good for sure. There certainly would be no ancillary entertainment like there was sitting at the restaurant bar. Plus Jack made good money. He could afford it.
The drunks and arguing couples where fun to watch but Jack got the most kick out of watching men his age in their late forties or fifties, hitting on twenty-something women. Although these men truly were unaware how embarrassing they truly were acting. It was fun watch the bartenders and servers milk there huge ego’s into large tips.
Because of the at lateness that Jack had arrived at the restaurant, there were no such fools this evening. In fact, it was past closing time and the restaurant had more staff than it did customers at this time. So Jack decided to square his bill and call it an evening. He pulled 35 dollars out his wallet out of the $55 he had on him and laid it on the bar. After that, he arose from his stool and waved to the bartender goodbye.
Just as Jack was about to turn towards the door, Billy one of the young busboys who was all but 17 called out to him. “Are you leaving Jack?” Jack turned his focus to Billy who had a coat on and a backpack on his shoulder. Jack did not need to ask why Billy was asking if he was leaving. It was obvious that Billy was looking for a ride home. Billy felt comfortable talking to Jack because his father had befriended Jack over the past year as he often came int the restaurant to visit his son. Jack thought about messing with the young man and asking if he had money for gas, but Jack opted not do it a just motioned to the Billy and said. “Ya, I can give you a ride. Come on.”
Jack asked Billy pointed questions as they walked towards Jacks new truck. Things like where are you going to college? What are you going to major in? Billy for his part polity answered all questions in a respectful tone that would have made his father proud.
They arrived at the truck and Billy went toward the passenger door on the opposite side. Jack entered the truck through the driver side. He started the truck as they put their seat belts on. Just as a Jack was about to put the truck in gear and go. Out nowhere it seemed, a woman in her early 30’s screaming to get Jack’s attention approached the truck. Jack was worried that something was really amiss, so he rolled down the window and asked what is wrong? She then proceeded to tell Jack this fantastic tale of woe. Her car had run out gas while trying to get her husband to the hospital for some needed emergency medication. She needed just a couple of dollars for some gas.
All of this was complete bullshit of course. This was just a variation of one the oldest scams out there. Growing up in the city he heard this a million of times. Although he thought she did a great job selling it. It was truly Oscar-worthy. Jack wanted to get out the truck and give her a standing ovation. He had not seen such good acting since the 9th grade. When Jack got drunk on peppermint shoops on the high school steps with his buddies and then convinced mother had the flu instead of the monster hangover which he really had.
As the woman rattled on with her tale of woe, Jack felt he should be angry at her for trying to pull a fast one. Instead, he just felt sorry for her. What happened to her to bring her to his truck in the late dark hours of the night to ask for money. Drugs? Alcohol? Mental disorder? Bad Luck? Who knows? Perhaps all of the above. It’s was just really sad he thought. So Jack justed reached for his wallet is back pocket and pulled out his last $20 and gave it to her. Then he just put the truck in gear and pulled away.
All of this came to much surprise to young Billy who Jack still had to give a ride home. Billy could not help but laugh and say “Dude you just got scammed” Which Jack calmly replied “I did not get scammed. I know that whole story is complete bullshit. I knew what the truth was before she even started talking.” “Then why did you give her twenty dollars dude?”Billy asked incredulously.
Jack response was quick and steadfast. “First of dude, if you call me dude one more time I not going to give you a ride home. Secondly, I don’t know what misfortunes brought that women to have to beg for money from strangers, I just know it’s a really sad state of affairs. That could easily be you or me someday.”
Billy completely missing the point retorted “She is just going to get high or drunk with your money” Jack just shook his head and stared at Billy for a moment before turning his eye back to the road ahead, Then Jack told Billy the following. It does not matter what she does with money dude. This was not about her character. This was about his.
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