August. It had been a month of wet feet in sandals, selling out of soup every lunchtime, mopping the floor, a near empty tips jar and the dark endless monotony of un-peopled afternoons wondering if we could close up early without the boss finding out. Now the sky turned black as doom. The shine fell from the brass shelf hinges and lamp fittings. The whole place sank into a gloomy scene of sticky tables, shabby unpolished wood, and limp greying dishcloths.
The lone man in the corner, a regular who never takes off his raincoat and never says much, was doing the crossword. Frowning, with glasses perched on top of his head, he ordered toasted tea cakes in a serious and whispered tone. Their spicy sweetness wafted through the room behind me as I carried his plate. I resisted the temptation to toast another for myself. In fact, I resisted the urge to toast one for everyone in here, was dying to give them away free, cheer us all up a bit, fantasized about running up and down the street flinging them out joyfully like frisbee giveaways, shouting hallelulia.
When I cleared his table, I saw a neatly folded fiver on his plate beside the black crumbs and tiny golden drops of butter. In all these years, he had never left me a tip.
I made a mental note of three important things - blue shirts, toasted tea cakes, generosity.