My Most Expensive Meal.
One of my first jobs as a teen was working in a grocery store. This grocery store (now defunct) was located next to a Kmart, which as I understand is almost defunct as well. Wal-Mart certainly has eaten up its competition much like a tornado through a trailer park. Across the street from my store was a huge, beautiful mansion that I can only compare to Tara from Gone with the Wind. I saw that beautiful mansion every day that I worked. It stood alone among various businesses sprouting up in that area. I finally asked one of the older ladies that I worked with what the deal was with that house. I was told the mansion, and a good bit of the surrounding area, had once been owned by a very wealthy family who not only handed down their wealth from generation to generation they also passed down monstrous addictions. As the years passed the acreage was depleted in an effort to feed the various vices and unrelenting habits of each family member until the majority of the family either moved or they were called to an early grave. I was told the only remaining family member, at least who was known in this area, was named Jim. If I was ever given Jim’s last name I don’t recall it. The once wealthy and well regarded family now didn’t even own their beautiful home. I was told that surely I’d seen Jim come in the store, he has “just one of those bums, you know the drunks that come in here”. There was still some land that had not been razed and some more unfortunate men were known to camp out there.
One day a tall, prematurely gray, very malnourished looking man came in, the lady I had spoken with was quick to point him out. She was correct, I did recognize him and I would never have associated this man with great wealth and he most assuredly he didn’t posses great health. This man went through my co-workers line, he was looked at and treated with open disdain. He never looked up at her, he just paid for his bottle of MD 20/20 (an inexpensive, high alcohol content wine). He paid mostly in change, he was hunched over and his hands were shaking. I was horrified to see someone treated so poorly. I almost felt like I had seen someone kick a puppy and laugh. As he walked past me to leave, still looking down, I said something like “Have a Good Day” and he stopped and turned around and looked at me, I believe he wanted to see if I was genuine or just another “Christian” like these women claimed to be. He kinda did a head nod and a grunt.
I don’t know if Jim started to come in to the store more frequently or if I was just more aware of him now. I. Noticed he would go out of his way to go through my line. He was never much of a talker but he would always ask how I was. One night I had a large order come through and Jim was 3rd in line behind this behemoth of an order. One of my co-workers told him to come down to another register because he only had one item. He wouldn’t budge. He said “he had no other pressing engagements”, giving me a glimpse of humor and a sarcasm that I totally appreciated.Every once in awhile he would come in with some of his friends one I just called “Captain” as he wore a captain’s hat. Jim’s friends would wait to go through my line and of course my co-workers would pick at me asking me about my boyfriend. I just ignored them. Jim’s orders were almost always the same thing MD 20/20 and sometimes a loaf of bread and a can of dog food. I felt pretty certain Jim had no dog. When spring would come he would always stop and pick me wildflowers in the field and bring them to me. He would always look down when I thanked him. I’d get a cup and put them by my register. Jim was never inappropriate, crude or rude. He was very shy, kind and proud. On the days he bought bread and dog food we would both laugh when he talked about his “dog”. He knew that I knew he was eating that. Jim probably owned 2 or 3
T-shirts and only had one pair of pants (that I could tell). The belt holding up his pants had many hand punched holes as they quite literally sat on his hips, all t-shirts hung on him like a cadaver. He looked like a walking skeleton. I was really worried for him and he disappeared for a few months and I thought the worse. One day he just walks back in, I don’t know where he went he didn’t offer and I didn’t ask. He came through my line with his regular order and asked me what was my favorite candy bar I wasn’t really thinking and told him,he turned around picked up my choice and put it with his order. I felt horrible, I wasn’t thinking when I told him. When I told him I couldn’t accept that he look deflated. He was so proud to do that. So I accepted the candy bar and when Jim left the store that day he smiled at me and walked as straight up as any man. That’s the day I received the gift of a candy bar from a man who ate dog food.