They were doing it again, chugging down the same track they had a thousand times before. Not really a train track… more like the track worn in their avocado green shag carpet, the path beaten down between the bedroom and the couch in the living room. Flattened by repeated use.
He had opened the first salvo, triggered by her bags of stuff on the kitchen table. First, his sigh; then her indignant “What?”; then his exasperated “Nothing.” And now…now it was her turn to say, “Well it must be something…”
But somehow, she just wasn’t in the mood today. Not in the mood for him to blast her “free-spending shopaholism”, not in the mood to hit back about his cheapskate ways that were the reason they still had worn out shag carpet, among other things. Who else still had a microwave with a dial instead of a keypad? How many other wives started their car with a screwdriver, and prayed that there wouldn’t be rain, since the windshield wiper was held on with twist ties?
No wonder she found comfort at the mall.
Breaking away from their well-worn script brought interesting results this time. His face lost its exasperation and softened with a smile. “I took care of dinner tonight,” he said.
Intriguing. She could see he thought of this as a grand gesture, prepared perhaps as his crowning argument against his perpetual penny-pinching. As he never cooked, this surprisingly must have meant he was going to take her to dinner. But wait. He hadn’t said, “I’m taking you to dinner;” he’d said, “I took care of dinner tonight.” What exactly did that–
Unbelievable. Delivery. What a man she had married, a real sweep-you-off-your-feet Romeo. Chinese, she guessed, or…
“Pasquale’s Pizza. Here’s your order.”
“Just a minute,” he said, “let me get the coupon.”
Of course he has a coupon, she thought.
He grinned at her as he passed, grabbed the coupon for a $13.99 large pizza, and handed the delivery girl a $10 and a $5. She rolled her eyes and turned to go.
My husband, she thought; last of the big tippers.
“Ahem,” he said. The delivery girl turned, her nose ring glinting in the porch light. “My change?” he said.
“You…you actually want the dollar back?”
“My change is $1.01, with the coupon.”
The delivery girl looked at him, looked at his wife, first in shock, then, yes, there’s no other word for it…she looked at his wife with pity. A crisp one dollar bill changed hands, and the delivery girl left. She texted three people before she left the driveway… “ur nt gonna believe dis”.
The train was leaving the station after all.
“You couldn’t let her keep one dollar? One dollar? You stiff her completely on a tip for one dollar?!? I cannot fathom what in the world you think in that head of yours. I have never met ANYONE like-“
“That’s what’s wrong with you! You throw money around like no one I’ve ever seen. Do these bags of crap really make you feel better? Do they?”
“WHO IS SO CHEAP THEY ASK SOME PIERCED TEENAGE DELIVERY DRIVER FOR A DOLLAR IN CHANGE? How can you do that and live with yourself?”
He grabbed the ends of the dollar bill, pulling them apart quickly, making a snapping sound. “It’s MY dollar! I’m careful with my money! Once you get your hands on it, it’ll be gone.”
And now that you have YOUR hands on it, she thought, who knows if it will ever see the light of day again?