It’s Tuesday. The man with the gold cufflinks is coming. He never eats what he orders which means a full meal for her to sneak home. She shoves her order pad in her apron and goes to prepare his usual table. She arranges the napkin and sugar dispensers on either side of the mini jukebox in front of the window. His dark blue expensive sedan creeps into his usual parking space at 10AM sharp. He parks in the same spot, always strangely empty when he arrives, as if he arranges it that way.
He enters the diner, ignores the “please wait to be seated” sign, and goes to the table Ginny prepared for him. “Welcome to Tuesday’s,” she says, and puts down a mug and pours his coffee. She waits for him to read the menu fixed to the table top under a clear protective coating. She pretends to ready her pen and stares at his gold cuff links, wondering about the cost of such a luxury. He gives her his order the way a business man gives his secretary directives for the day: “steak, medium-well, two eggs over easy, biscuits with gravy.”
She watches him while she waits for his order and notices that he seems out of sorts. “Table two pick-up,” someone shouts from the kitchen. Ginny smooths out her apron, balances his plates on her left arm, and grabs a fresh pot of coffee with her right hand. She heads toward his table, narrowly missing being bumped by a small child running back to his table ahead of his mother. “Sorry,” the mother says for the curly-headed boy. Ginny plasters a fake smile on her face and continues to her table. She arranges his food in front of him, taking care to place it as he likes it. He notices the gesture and looks at her. “Am I that predictable,” he asks staring into his phone. It’s the first time he’s ever spoken to her. Ginny shrugs. “You can be honest,” he says with disinterest.
“You come here every Tuesday, order a steak medium-well with two eggs over easy and biscuits with gravy. You never eat any of it and drink two and a half cups of coffee before you leave,” she refreshes his coffee mug, “without tipping.” The man puts his phone down and stares at her.
“How much would you say I owe you in back tips?”
“Depends what kind of tipper you are.”
“Your bill comes to 35.20. Ten percent of that would be three dollars and fifty two cents. Times 53 Tuesdays in a year times five years comes to nine hundred thirty two dollars and eighty cents.”
“It’s just math.”
He reaches into his pocket for his wallet. He counts out ten crisp one hundred dollar bills, folds them and tucks them into her apron. “A little interest,” he says and leaves. She stares at the food she usually takes home to eat.
“No leftovers tonight,” she thinks.