Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical Works
Rain greeted Kate’s tear-sore eyes. It had started pouring last night, the first drops pelting her windshield as she drove home from her parents’. There was no sign of it letting up.
“Where’s Brad?” Last night at Thanksgiving dinner, Brad’s absence was all anyone cared about. Arriving alone, Kate could see the disappointment on her parents’ faces. Without her fiance, she might as well have stayed home.
“Working,” was the only explanation Kate had given her family. Brad was always working. This issued a sympathetic noise from her Botoxed mother.
“Brad is such an industrious young man. You’re lucky to be marrying someone like him, Kate. Maybe you could learn a thing or two.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Kate answered and ducked into the kitchen. She hadn’t told anyone that Brad had dumped her last week.
The kitchen was a maze of pies and salads and breads. There was barely enough room on the counter for Kate to set down her store-bought appetizer. She had worked at the restaurant until two in the morning and had slept until noon. She’d opted out of cooking and stopped by the closest Safeway. Compared to the homemade dishes of her family, it wasn’t the most satisfying plate of food, but she didn’t care. It was the best she could do.
“You sure are jumpy. How much coffee have you had today?” Kate’s older sister Alexis had followed her into the kitchen and watched as Kate clattered dishes around. Alexis gave her a judgmental look before taking a sip of her green tea.
“Not enough,” Kate muttered, feeling small. In the presence of her sister, Kate always felt insignificant. And she didn’t really blame her. Expecting Alexis to be less radiant would be like asking the sun to tone it down.
“Let me see your ring again.” Alexis reached out and touched the diamond on Kate’s finger. The action caused a sting to race down Kate’s hand and settle into her chest. Brad would probably want the ring back, but she couldn’t bring herself to take it off. Not yet.
“Better go say hi to Dad,” Kate said, withdrawing her hand from Alexis. She didn’t want to talk about Brad. He was the only thing she had ever done that had impressed Alexis. She wasn’t ready for her sister’s disapproval. That would come soon enough. Alexis had a way of finding out Kate’s secrets.
The Thanksgiving meal passed with the typical isolating conversation. Kate’s parents discussed their travels to Europe. Alexis and her husband talked about their new house, one with a view of the Space Needle. Kate’s brother Butch and his perfect wife Chloe chattered about the sports car they were buying. No one asked Kate how working at the restaurant was going.
As her family passed plates of mashed potatoes and oyster stuffing, Kate did not bother to mention she was first in the university art department. It wouldn’t matter. Being an artist didn’t make money. Not like the money Brad would earn one day. Not like Butch did as a lawyer. Not like her father did investing. Her family still viewed Kate as that sophomore in high school, getting D’s in math and writing dreamy diary entries about Chris Jackson and Scott Trainer from the football team.
“Who’s ready for pie?”
When they paused for dessert, Kate got up, grabbed her coat and quietly slipped out the back door. Sure, it was rude, but she would apologize later. She had to get out of there before she melted down at the table.
“You always cry so much.” That’s what her dad and her brother and Brad always said. And she supposed that of all her family members, she did cry the most. What they didn’t realize was that as long as she was crying, there was still life inside her. On the drive home, Kate flicked on the radio. They were already playing Christmas music. She wept along to the voices of Bing Crosby and Elvis.
When she arrived at her apartment, Kate scanned a handful of text messages from her siblings:
“Where R U?”
“What’s wrong with U?”
“U R missing great pie.”
She quickly replied to Alexis: “Feeling sick. Tell everyone sorry.” She ignored the voice mail from her mother and powered down her phone. She was not ready to announce that Brad had left her for a cute little CNA at the hospital. They might not say it, but they would blame her. They would think Kate was the one who had been too boring to keep him, too plain to keep his attention.
As Kate settled in for the night, the apartment boasted hurtful reminders of Brad: gifts from their bridal shower (those would probably need to be returned), the gym bag he hadn’t bothered to collect, the wedding dress that mournfully hung in her closet. Kate bypassed all of these and bee-lined for the bathroom. The bathtub faucet made a gurgling sound before spewing water. Kate dangled her toe in the stream and tried not to panic. On top of losing Brad, she was now stuck with an apartment she could not afford by herself.
“You go rent it. We can add me on to the lease later.” Brad was finishing up his final year of med school. He’d been unable to meet Kate to sign for the apartment. He was so busy, he’d left all that couple stuff to her. According to the paperwork, the apartment was her responsibility. Breaking the lease would cost two thousand dollars. She didn’t have it. She’d spent the last of her savings on college textbooks and that stupid wedding dress. Even if she worked every spare minute at Jasper’s, she wouldn’t make enough to pay the bills.
“Why don’t you wear the dress, Brad? Or how about your little CNA? The one you think is sooo much better than me.” In the comfort of her tub, Kate carried on imaginary conversations with him. She never could say what she wanted to his face.
Kate breathed in the scent of the lavender bubble bath. She sank down deeper into the tub of water and felt herself begin to relax. Maybe things would work out. Tomorrow’s crowd might be in a generous mood. Maybe someone would leave her an awesome tip.
“Wow. You look terrible.”
The next morning, Kate was ten minutes late to work. Ralph was behind the bar. He stopped to stare at her.
“Thanks,” Kate said and scooted into the bathroom. Ralph was the lead bartender at Jasper’s Grill and the best looking of all Kate’s co-workers. Several nights ago, the two of them had been there alone after closing time. Ralph had cracked open a bottle of Merlot and kissed her. Ever since then, Kate was self-conscious around him. She fingered Brad’s ring and decided she would wear it a while longer.
The bathroom at Jasper’s was always freezing. Someone had freshly sterilized the tile floor and replaced the light bulbs. Kate examined her reflection in the mirror and sneered. Ralph was right; she did look terrible. Hurrying, she rearranged her hair and tried to cover up her circles with drug store concealer. Like it or not, cuter servers got better tips.
“You get section four.” Kate emerged from the bathroom to find Marco waiting for her. Holiday weekends were slammed, which always made her manager a little on edge.
“Sorry I’m late,” Kate said and compliantly accepted section four. It wasn’t the greatest section. It was the farthest from the kitchen, and two of the five booths had splits down the seat. No one had taken the time to address the white innards peeking out. But that was okay, people liked sitting in booths. It could turn out to be the best section of the day.
Kate tucked in her white shirt and firmly tied her black apron, double knotting it in the back. She stuffed a half-dozen pens in her pocket and popped a mint in her mouth. You never could tell what Black Friday customers would be like. They’d either be stingy from having liquidated their money at the mall, or they would embrace the holiday spirit and lavish generous tips on Jasper’s staff. Kate was prepared for either scenario.
“Who thinks a dollar is a good tip?” Kate muttered to Ralph as she carried dirty plates back into the kitchen. By late afternoon, Kate had determined that the people in this neighborhood were the most selfish people in town. Dollar tips all lunch hour. She had just spent forty-five minutes trying to appease a table of women who had racked up a hundred-dollar bill. They left four shiny quarters in a tidy stack, like they had done something clever. Kate pushed aside the temptation to start panicking about her rent.
“Table, Kate.” Becky breezed by with water pitchers in her hands. Becky was seventeen and loved the authority that the hostess position provided. She was efficient, though.
“Here we go again,” Kate told herself. Peeking through the galley window, she spotted a woman with freshly permed hair and manicured nails. She was scowling at the menu.
“Good afternoon. Happy Holidays. Do you still say Happy Thanksgiving, or do you say Merry Christmas now?” Kate bumbled through her greeting.
“I’ll have hot tea,” the woman said without looking up. “Two tea bags, a bow of lemon wedges. And I’ll have this salad here.” She pointed at the house specialty, Jasper’s Signature Salad. Thin slices of flank steak and blue cheese crumbles adorned a bed of fresh greens. Avocados rimmed the edge. “Dressing on the side. My tomatoes need to be in slices, not diced. And no olives. If I see even one, I’m sending it back.” The woman closed the menu and handed it to Kate. She refused to make eye contact.
“Alright,” Kate said, remaining cheerful. “I’ll be back with your tea.”
Once her back was to the woman, Kate rolled her eyes. Even if the salad was flawlessly executed, the woman would find a reason to complain. And she did.
“This lettuce is not crisp enough. And this steak? It’s supposed to be cooked medium well. This looks like the cow is still alive. And I said no butter on my garlic bread.”
Kate was fully prepared to be stiffed. When the woman actually left two tens for a bill totaling nine dollars, Kate felt a piece of her financial burden lift.
“Can you believe that lady? She left me more than ten bucks!” Kate praised her customer to Ralph and Becky, and as she wiped down tables, she found herself softly singing along to the satellite radio. Normally, the barking Jingle Bells Dogs annoyed her, but for the first time, she smiled at the ridiculous song.
Around three, there was a slight lull in customers. Through the front window, Kate spotted a Buick pull into the parking lot. A permed head appeared, and Kate recognized her generous customer.
“Hi!” Kate eagerly bypassed Becky and rushed to greet the woman herself. “Did you forget something? I didn’t see anything at your table. I just cleaned the whole section.”
While Kate was speaking, the woman’s face twitched. It was the same expression Kate’s mother had worn when she was twelve and her puppy had died. It reminded her of Brad’s face last week when he told her he’d gotten the CNA pregnant and the wedding was canceled.
“Yes,” the woman said, her face continuing to twitch. Kate thought of her puppy and of Brad and felt the muscles in her chest constrict. “You see, I was wondering how much of a tip I left you.”
Kate relaxed and smiled. “Oh, I think you left me ten dollars at least. That was so nice of you. So many people just leave a dollar. It’s so nice to be appreciated.”
More twitching. Shifting from side to side. The woman eventually spoke up, saying, “Yes, well, when I got home, I realized I accidentally left you a bigger tip than I meant to.”
Puppy. Brad. Rent. Chest constricting.
Kate cleared her throat and then spoke clearly, make sure to enunciate each syllable. “So what you’re saying is you spent gas money to drive all the way back here and give me a smaller tip.”
The woman nodded and pulled a single dollar bill out of her pocket. “If you could give me my ten back. This was what I intended to give you.”
“I’ll be right back.” Kate left the woman standing next to the hostess stand, the dollar bill poised between the woman’s thumb and index finger. There might as well have been a spotlight shining down on them.
Kate stepped behind the shadows of one of the server work stations and pulled a ten from her pockets. She closed her eyes and forced herself to eliminate all the nasty comments running through her head. She smoothed the creases out of the bill, and like a victim walking the pirate’s plank, Kate took one step at a time towards the woman.
“Here you go.” Kate stoically handed the ten dollars to the woman. She might as well have been relinquishing a handgun to a murder.
The woman quickly stuffed the ten into her handbag, and Kate was already walking away when she called out, “Miss, you forgot your dollar.” The woman waved George Washington’s face about, as if this jolly gesture would make up for the whole misunderstanding.
“No. I didn’t forget. You keep it.” Kate paused. “That dollar means a whole lot more to you than it does to me.”
When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. Deuteronoy 24:19 (KJV)
Well is it with the man that dealeth graciously and lendeth; he shall maintain his cause in judgment. For he shall never be moved; the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in Jehovah. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his adversaries. He hath dispersed, he hath given to the needy; his righteousness endureth for ever: his horn shall be exalted with honor. The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish. Psalm 112:5-10 (ASV)
Question to Ponder: When have you been shown generosity? When have you been generous? How can you show generosity this season?
Song Recommendation: Orphan Song by Karla Adolphe
-Read Previous Sunday Psalms from Season Two: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5,Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8, Episode 9, Episode 10, Episode 11, Episode 12, Episode 13, Episode 14, Episode 15, Episode 16, Episode 17, Episode 18
Written by Heidi Sadler, Inspired by Deuteronomy 24:19. Copyright © 2016 Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved.
Embracing life’s wilderness through music & community