Answered Prayers

The waitresses at Willie's Diner are getting everything ready
to close. The clock reads 12:50, ten more minutes left to go.
The door opens with an influx of swirling snow from a steady
snowfall that filled the day. There stands a man neither knows.

The younger waitress says, "Sorry! We are closing." The man,
his head and shoulders covered with snow, appears cold and wet.
He is elderly, wearing a coat that's clean but threadbare. "We can
give you some coffee. You don't have to go back outside just yet."

The older waitress, she of soft heart, has taken pity on the stranger.
"Thanks ever so much. You are very kind," speaks the man, taking
a seat at the counter. "You look frozen. You do realize the danger
in being out on a night like this?" Her genuine concern is showing.

"Don't worry about me. Say, that apple pie over there looks good.
It has been quite a long time since I have tasted your apple pie."
"Here, I cut you an extra large piece. You said ‘your'. Should
I know you?" "No, I've not been in this particular diner...Oh, my!"

The man's reaction to his first taste of the pie lights up his face
with a smile. "I had forgotten how wonderful this truly does taste."
As the two waitresses work to clean up the kitchen, "You waste
your money on old bums, Lizzie. Feeding them isn't your place.

"Besides, you need every penny right now. Did you ask Willie
for that advance on your salary?" Elizabeth, Lizzie to any friend,
answers, "Yes; he just laughed in my face. But I got him to agree
for me to work four extra hours a shift, which tomorrow I begin."

"Lizzie, you can't be working fourteen hours every day! It'll make
you get sick." "I must earn the extra money. This week my son's
cough got worse and he developed a fever so that I had to take
him to a doctor. I got a prescription to fill, which I haven't done.

"It will cost $85. I am busted, flat broke, with my last credit card
maxed out. In addition, I am several weeks behind paying the rent,
and the landlord is threatening to have us evicted. It is so hard
right now...", tears filling her eyes. "My next paycheck is spent."

"Could your mother help out?" "Mother already watches my child
so I can work. She's too old and sickly to be capable of anything more.
All she does is pray and pray, then say things will work out in a while.
She has her faith, but with religion I long ago decided to close that door.

The man, getting up to leave, asks "How much do I owe you then?"
"That's okay, mister. You just keep yourself warm and dry somehow."
"No, I really do insist. I came in to pay." "Well, then it comes to $4.10."
He says, laying five bills down, "Beth, spend the change wisely now."

He nods and leaves. As the door closes behind him, Lizzie walks over to
clean the counter, then she hurries outside after him. She looks first left,
then right. The man is simply nowhere in sight. Snow begins falling anew,
but the street has this strangely golden glow. "That man called me Beth,"

she is saying as she walks hesitantly back inside. "No one but my mother
has ever called me Beth." Back at the counter, she confirms her ‘change'
will be considerable, for there are five crisp $100 bills, one beside another,
lying next to the empty cup and plate. "Now this is just too, too strange..."

Harry Edward Gilleland      03.06.03