Unpublished, 2001

One at a time, the old lady picked coins from her purse and placed them on the counter to pay for the slice of pizza and lemonade she ordered.

Behind her, the young man in the expensive suit, who’d been rolling his eyes and gesturing, said to the man behind the counter, “Hey, Joe, can you get me two slices and a Coke to go? And also ring this lady’s order up with mine.”

“You got it, Paul,” Joe said.

“What was that?” the lady asked.

“It’s on me, ma’am,” Paul said, smiling.

The lady turned to Paul.

“What’s on you?”

“Your order.”

“Mrs. Johnstone,” Joe said, “this gentleman has offered to pay for your meal.”


“I thought it would be a nice thing to do,” Paul said.

She stepped closer to Paul.

“Do you know what would be a nice thing to do, Paul?”

“What’s that, Mrs. Johnstone?”

“Mind your own goddamn business!”

She turned back to her purse and resumed picking change until she had the exact amount. ▪