After his father left his job and started spending his days loafing about, Gray decided to help his mother by becoming a delivery boy. While trying to make enough money to treat his tired mom, Gray stumbled onto a secret that made his blood boil.
Ben had always been a hard worker. Although his boss sometimes asked him to take up extra work over weekends, he usually did so with a smile because he knew his extra efforts were valued, and his superiors recognized his hard work. He also felt good knowing he provided for his son, Gray, and his wife, Tilda.
But things took an unfortunate change when Mr. Tildery, Ben’s boss and manager of over 15 years, suddenly started showing up to work unshaven and in a foul mood. Cautiously, Ben tried to figure out what was going on, and he slowly learned that the youngest Tildery boy had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
Ben felt terrible for Mr. Tildery. The thought of his own son with such an illness filled him with sadness, so he put in the extra hours without complaining and tried his best to be of use wherever he could. But working every weekend and taking over extra shifts soon started taking its toll on him, and one weekend, Ben missed his extra shift.
He never intended to miss it. Ben had just finished a double shift, and he was tired when he promised to help unload the new stock. Throughout the weekend, it slipped his mind while he spent time with his son. Nonetheless, when he got to work on Monday, he heard a thundering voice shout his name.
“BEN! Where were you? Is this the type of man you are? I thought you were trustworthy, but you’re just as useless as the rest of these layabouts!”
Taken aback at this assault of not only his character but those of the men he worked with every day, Ben shot back.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Tildery. I know I promised, but I’ve been putting in much more overtime than I should have, and I needed to spend some time at home with my son. I know it’s not an excuse, but I’ll make up for it.”
At this, his boss lost every shred of composure he had left. He launched into a tirade without giving Ben so much as an inch of wiggle room, and by the end, the entire building was left uncomfortable and speechless.
That was the last day Ben worked for Mr. Tildery. He quit an hour later and vowed never to help another man going through a rough time as long as he lived. Unfortunately, the experience left the man jobless, and very few businesses in his town were hiring. After a while, he gave up and spent his time lying around the house.
Weeks turned into months, and Ben still had no new job prospects. Their savings were running low, and his wife was the only one taking care of them. Ben’s son, Gray, saw how his mom ran around, tirelessly trying to keep them financially stable. In contrast, Gray saw that his father had even given up on finding work.
Ben’s mouth slowly opened and closed as he searched for and failed to find more words.
“Well, if he won’t do anything to help mom, I guess I’m the only one who will,” Gray thought one day as his dad opened another beer and switched the TV channel. Gray went to the nearest delivery company and secured himself a job. The ease with which he got the job made him even more suspicious of his dad.
So, Gray and his Tilda worked as hard as possible to support the family. All the boy wanted was to see his mom as radiant and beautiful as he had known her while he was young, but these days, she merely looked tired, overworked, and unhappy.
Besides the tips he put into the family fund jar, he was also due for a paycheck in a week. And Gray had a plan for that paycheck. He would treat his mother to a relaxing day at a spa and a beauty parlor to help her get her happy appearance back.
This thought motivated him, and he kept doing deliveries, pushing on to help his mother.
A few days before he received his paycheck, someone ordered the most expensive delivery he had seen in his few weeks working for the company. The order included everything from aged wine to unique flowers.
He knew this could be his best chance to make extra money, so he confirmed the pickup, put the medley of miscellaneous objects in his delivery basket, and set off at a brisk pace. The house was pretty close, and he could make a big tip if he hurried.
On the way, Gray looked at the gifts and treats and wondered whether his mom would like something similar. The young man wasn’t jealous, but he knew his mother needed a nice break from all the work she had been doing. Although, if his dad could just get a job, things would be much easier on her already…
With this final thought curling his lip, Gray realized he had made it to the delivery location. Raising an impressed eyebrow at how fast he has become in making his deliveries, Gray picked up all the different baskets and walked up the brick stairs to the big front door.
Gray’s knuckles rasped on the dark wood, and he heard footsteps approaching from within. The young man straightened up and presented the packages as the door handle shifted and the big rectangle swung open.
“Thanks, kid. There’s an extra tip because you… were…”
Ben’s mouth slowly opened and closed as he searched for and failed to find more words. His chest hair curled around the edges of a light yellow silk robe. Gray slowly lowered the delivery as the voice of a young lady called out to his father from deep inside the house, and for the first time in a long while, Gray truly understood what was happening.
With a guilty grunt, Ben said, “I’ll explain at home,” and pushed the money into his son’s hand. He snatched the parcels and retreated into the gloomy house like a burrowing snake that had caught its prey. The door shut in Gray’s face, and with a sigh, he turned around and finished his day’s shift.
When he got home, his dad was waiting for him. It was Thursday, so Tilda was working a late shift, and it was clear that Ben had some excuse ready. Gray sat down and listened to his dad’s half-baked explanation.
“I swear, I never planned on it happening. I know how it looks, but I do still love your mother.”
“The thing is, she just hasn’t been making time for me lately. And she has let herself go. You understand, don’t you, Gray?”
“No, Dad, I don’t,” Gray said, raising his voice. “I’ve been filling in for you since you decided to leave your job. Yes, we’ve heard the story time and again, but that doesn’t excuse the way you’ve been treating Mom. I’m not covering for you anymore!” With a last shout and balled fists, Gray steeled himself and went up to his room to wait for his mom.
When Tilda finally got home after a long day, Gray made her something to eat. He explained that Ben wasn’t going to be home tonight, and after she insisted he explain, he told her why. Of course, his mom felt angry, confused, and betrayed when he told her the truth, but over the next few days, she came to terms with things.
For the last while, Ben seemed absent even when he was home. It wasn’t like they were missing much without him there. With her son’s support, Tilda managed to get back on her feet, and she even came home with a happy grin now and again.
Tilda separated from her husband, and when all the paperwork went through, she introduced Gray to the reason for her occasional grin.
“Gray, this is Rob. I met him at the support group I’m going to. He understands what I’ve been through, and we’ve been going to lunch this last while. He’ll be having dinner with us. He brought lasagne.”
Gray shook Rob’s hand with a smile, and the three sat down to enjoy Rob’s cooking. A few weeks later, Gray gave his mom a relaxing spa day with the tip Ben had thrown into his hand.