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Posted: 12/21/2003 12:46:13 PM EDT
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.

"Happy Thanksgiving,"


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.

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