Low profile or not , he was terribly hungry. Now he had enough money to buy a porterhouse steak but all he really wanted was a cup of coffee and some scrambled eggs and maybe some biscuits. But how was he going to pay for it with a one hundred dollar bill without attracting attention? He once again scurried through the box of books, jammed his hand down to the packs and slid out one bill. Once outside, the sun had finally burned through the low clouds and the fog was long gone. It was dripping wet hot, and David began to sweat through his t-shirt. He decided that he would walk across town and buy a bag of groceries at a store where nobody knew him. Then he would take the change back to Bernie’s and buy breakfast. It was a good plan. It was sensible. But it was awfully hot, and even though he had worked for ten hours in fields a lot hotter than this, for some reason, the bag of groceries got too heavy halfway back. Now that he had change, he could always buy groceries right down the street like he always did once he got back to his side of town. Besides, if he left this bag in an alley somewhere some hungry guy might stumble upon it and make a meal. It was another one of those mysterious ways that God was famous for. David smiled for the first time in months.
Bernie worked behind the counter of his own place and made it his business to give every regular a nickname. If a William came in he would become Billy, a Robert would be Bobby and David would always be Davey. This day Davey had Bernie’s complete attention.
“What..wait, you ordering eggs AND biscuits? You win the Lottery Davey? Hey everybody!! Davey won the lottery!”
David felt blood rushing to his face and hoped desperately that no one would notice. Luckily there were only a few customers in the place and he gathered his composure up tight within him and offered a reply.
“No, I most certainly did not win the lottery. You know me Bernie, I don’t even have enough money to play the numbers. Just spending my last dime on a good meal, that’s all.”
“Didn’t get picked today I suppose.”
“Actually I overslept”, David replied. For some reason Bernie always brought the truth out of him.
“Overslept? That’s not like you Davey. You feeling alright?”
I’m fine. Just slept right through, that’s all. It happens to everyone at some point.”
David hurried through the rest of his meal, anxious to leave Bernie before he blurted out the days’ events in complete detail. Bernie had missed his calling, should have been a detective. He had the kind of face that people didn’t want to disappoint. It didn’t seem right to lie to a man like Bernie Mann. After all, in David’s darkest hours after the fire, it was Bernie who came around to listen. It was Bernie who offered no advice but brought stew and bread and looked in on him every night. It was Bernie who had found him the room at the boarding house. Whenever it rained all week and there wasn’t any work, mysterious envelopes of small bills would turn up in David’s mail slot. Often it was only two or three dollars. David had no proof and needed none. It was Bernie, couldn’t have been anyone else.
That night David lay in the darkness listening for sounds in the street, sounds of squealing tires and violence but heard only the buzz of the street lamps. Maybe he should make a secret gift of ten thousand to Bernie. He surely was the only person he knew who deserved a windfall. He could think it through, make a plan of just how to get the money to him without giving himself away. David had started to feel the weight of the treasure at the bottom of his box of books after only one day. Maybe the money was meant to have been stumbled upon by someone else, someone more deserving, someone who hadn’t killed their family by being too lazy and too broke to spend twenty five dollars at the hardware store to repair a few faulty wires. David stared at the ceiling for hours until sleep finally came. He dreamt about Raskolnikov.