Original Story by R.T. Fitch
Jasmine, seated at the small table nearest the diner’s diminutive counter looked up and replied, “Say again, I can’t hear you through that dang mask. You can take it off now, the last customer is gone, and I am not worried about you of all people.”, she chuckled while refilling Ketchup bottles.
“Damn, becomes second nature after a while,” Erma giggled as she pulled the plaid mask down, “I said it was not too bad of a day all things considered, you know, with capacity reduced to 25% and only doing lunch and all. Damn glad the regulars hang with us when they can, otherwise, you and me would be up shit’s creek.”
Jasmine just nodded her head while she fought the lump in her throat, she was already up the creek but struggled not to show it. Working as a waitress during the pandemic while trying to raise an autistic child, alone, was no easy task; she often felt it had aged her beyond her years.
“But…we have a problem here,” stuttered Erma as she bent down to read the Square’s iPad screen. She made a funny clicking sound with her mouth, removed her glasses and jabbed at the screen while she let out a huge exhalation.
“Holy shit, kid,” she exclaimed, “at first I thought it was a typo but this contraption don’t lie. It looks like someone, today, left you a $1,000.00 tip on their friggen credit card, I don’t believe it!”
The sound of breaking glass broke the unbelieving silence that hung in the air, Jasmine had dropped a bottle; she sat there frozen, not knowing what to do, clean up the gooey mess or jump up with joy; the resolution to her internal conflict was a breathless, “What?”
“I ain’t kidding, someone left you a cool grand for a tip on their credit card.” Erma pointed to the Square’s display as she asked,” Any idea who that was, do you know, have any idea? Did you do something special to warrant such a prize? Jasmine, this is fantastic,” she continued, “this is a blinken Christmas Miracle!”
Erma ran around the counter, jerked Jasmine out of the chair and attempted to dance about the cluttered little dining area. Jasmine was nothing more than a ragdoll of disbelief.
The two spent the next half hour chatting and laughing while they cleaned up for the next day’s shift.
The reality was beginning to sink into Jasmine and her spirits were rising as she could now see a path forward for her son on Christmas morning. Santa may be able to visit, after all.
They both exited the tiny diner together; Erma turned the key in the lock and hugged Jasmine one last time as they both headed to their respective pick-ups in the warm Texas afternoon sun.
Jasmine stopped and turned to wave goodbye, again, as she reached the driver’s door of her truck.
Erma was almost more excited than she was.
As Jasmine reached out with her key to unlock the truck’s door her eyes caught a flash of color on the driver’s door window.
Jasmine looked up, dropped her keys, clutched the door handle and slowly lowered herself to the ground as she began to sob.
The past rushed in; there, on the window, scrolled in recognized handwriting and a most memorable color of lipstick were three simple words,
“Merry Christmas, Daughter.”