I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday
Henry – the only one of the four of us with a car – drives us to and from work five days a week.
While this is no great hassle since we all work in the same warehouse, it is something of a religious experience since Ted is the only one of us who chips in for gas.
Louis, who always hogs up the passenger seat claiming he has a trick knee, treats Henry like a cab driver, direction his route and driving even though we take the same way there and back daily, and Henry is the only one of the four of us with a driver’s license.
Henry puts up with this indignity with the patience of a saint.
Henry would make some woman a real catch if he wasn’t so ugly.
Not only is he so thin a blade of grass might envy him, his face breaks out so often and so acutely, he’s developed permanent scars.
Yet for all that, Henry is also the most ordinary man you’ll ever meet, someone you could never pick out in a crowd, always dressing in the same pull over sweaters and the same faded jeans.
This is not to say he’s ordinary really.
He always walks around with a copy of Walden in his back pocket with pages so warn you might believe he actually reads it. He wants people to think he is intelligent, and deliberately wears an outdated style of black framed glasses so people think he is.
He spoils all of this when he starts to speak, such as that day on the way to work when he announced profoundly that he is hungry and intends to stop for a hamburger at McDonalds.
This startles us so much that Louis—who never shuts up – glares at Henry from the passenger side of the car and asks: “Now?”
Louis is such a snob that the idea of having a lunch item like a hamburger for breakfast appalls him, though he rattles off a slate of other reasons why we shouldn’t stop, such as the fact that ware are already late and our boss is simply looking for an excuse to fire some if not all of us, and this would give him all the ammunition he needs to do it.
“But I’m hungry,” Henry insists, with the same dignified tone he might use at church or college if indeed he or any of us bothered to attend either institution.
This might have set Louis yanking out his hair except for the fact that he’s already so thin on top he won’t risk any of the long strands he uses to brush over the bald spots.
But he does wave wildly with both hands, something he does whenever he is extremely agitated.
He glances at his watch, then at Henry, who is already pulling the car into the McDonald’s Parking lot. Louis’s face turns a red as a stop light. If Henry’s notices, he doesn’t show. He simply parks, turns off the engine and gets out.
After a moment, Louis jumps out, claiming he isn’t going to leave Henry alone to dawdle the whole day away trying to decide which meal to order when he always orders mean #1.
Ted and I watch the two cross the lot and disappear into the restaurant.
Ted, who is as big as the three of us put together and as hairy as a bear, chuckles and bets me they forget the fries.
Minutes later, the two reappear, Louise still yapping and waving his hands while Henry carries an already bitten burger in one hand and an empty paper bag in the other, complaining as they climb back into the car that Louis made him forget to take the fries.
With the burger clamped in his mouth and flapping like a swollen tongue, Henry backs the car out and then steers back onto the highway, Ted’s still chuckling as Louis’ yaps.
I set back and star at the back of Henry’s head, thinking about my life and how much I love this moment and hope nothing ever change, when I know deep down it will, and this thing will become just another fading memory.
Then, I blurt out: “What day is this?”
Louis is so shocked at my outburst, he’s stopped yapping.
“It’s Tuesday,” Ted tells me. “Why?”
“I was just wondering I say then stare out at the road again, knowing none of them will get the point, even if I tell them.
But I don’t tell them. I keep it all to myself, letting old cartoons run through my head as we rush back into our old routine and our life of labor.