I'm glad he is going to be OK," she said. "But I don't know how he and
his Mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they're
barely getting by as it is." Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and
Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables.
Since I hadn't had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie and really
didn't want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables that
day until we decided what to do. After the morning rush, Frannie walked
into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a
funny look on her face.
"What's up?" I asked.
"I didn't get that table where Belle Ringer and his friends were sitting
cleared off after they left, and Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting
there when I got back to clean it off," she said. "This was folded and
tucked under a coffee cup." She handed the napkin to me, and three $20
bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold
letters, was printed "Something For Stevie."
"Pony Pete asked me what that was all about," she said, "so I told him
about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony
looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this." She handed me another
paper napkin that had "Something For Stevie" scrawled on its outside.
Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds. Frannie looked at me with
wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply: "truckers."
That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie
is supposed to be back to work. His placement worker said he's been
counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn't
matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past
week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten
him or that his job was in jeopardy. I arranged to have his mother bring
him to work. I then met them in the parking lot and invited them both to
celebrate his day back. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn't stop
grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room
where his apron and busing cart were waiting.
"Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast," I said. I took him and his mother
by their arms. "Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you coming
back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!" I led them toward a
large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and hear the
rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room.
Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers
empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table.
Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all
sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins.
"First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess," I said. I
tried to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then
pulled out one of the napkins. It had "Something for Stevie" printed on
the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.
Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath
the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to
his mother. "There's more than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table,
all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems.
Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and
shouting, and there were a few tears, as well. But you know what's
funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each
other, Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all
the cups and dishes from the table. Best worker I ever hired.