Ben had always been a hard worker. Although his boss sometimes asked him to do extra work on weekends, he usually did it with a smile because he knew his extra efforts were valued and his superiors recognized his hard work.
He also felt good knowing that he was taking care of his son, Gary, and his wife, Hilda. But things took an unfortunate turn when Mr. Tineo, Ben’s boss and manager for more than 15 years, suddenly started showing up for work unshaven and in a bad mood.
Cautiously, Ben tried to find out what was going on and slowly learned that Mr. Tineo’s youngest son had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
Ben felt terrible for his boss. The thought of his own son with such a disease filled him with sadness, so he put in the overtime without complaint and did his best to be helpful where he could.
But working every weekend and taking on extra shifts soon began to affect him, and one weekend, Ben missed his extra shift.
He had no intention of missing it. He had just finished a double shift and was tired when he promised to help unload the new stock.
Throughout the weekend, he forgot about it as he spent time with his son. However, when he arrived at work on Monday, he heard a booming voice call out his name.
«BEN! Where have you been, I thought you were trustworthy, but you’re just as useless as the rest of these slackers!».
Startled by this assault not only on him but also on the men he worked with every day, Ben responded.
«I’m sorry, Mr. Tineo. I know I promised, but I’ve been putting in a lot more overtime than I should 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 what composure he had left. He launched into a tirade without giving Ben a second to speak and, in the end, the entire building was left uncomfortable and speechless.
That was the last day Ben worked for Mr. Tineo. He quit an hour later and vowed never to help another man going through a difficult time as long as he lived.
Unfortunately, the experience left the man without a job and very few companies in his town were hiring. After a while, he gave up and spent his time lying on the couch at home.
Weeks turned into months and Ben still had no new job prospects. His savings were running low and his wife was the only one taking care of them.
Ben’s son, Gary, saw that his mother was always busy, tirelessly trying to keep them financially stable. By contrast, his father had given up on finding work.
«Well, if he won’t do anything to help Mom, I guess I’m the only one who will,» Gary thought one day as his dad cracked open another beer and changed the TV channel.
The young man went to the nearest delivery company and got a job. The ease with which he got the job made him even more suspicious of his father.
Gary and his mother were working as hard as they could to support the family. All the boy wanted was to see his mom as radiant and beautiful as she used to be when she was young. But these days she looked tired, overworked and unhappy.
In addition to the tips he was putting in the family fund jar, he was also due to receive a paycheck in a week. And Gary had a plan for that check. He would treat his mother to a relaxing day at a spa and beauty salon to help her regain her happy appearance.
This thought motivated him and he continued to make deliveries to help his mother. A few days before he was to receive his payment, someone placed the most expensive order he had seen in his few weeks working for the company. The order included everything from vintage wine to unique flowers.
He knew this might be his best chance to earn extra money, so he confirmed the pickup, put the mix of miscellaneous items in his delivery basket and set off at a brisk pace. The house was close enough, and he could earn a nice tip if he hurried.
On the way, Gary looked at the gifts and goodies and wondered if his mom would like something similar. The young man wasn’t jealous, but he knew his mother needed a good break from all the work she had been doing.
Although, if his dad could get a job, things would be a lot easier for her….
With this last thought pursing his lips, Gary realized he had arrived at the delivery location.
Raising an eyebrow impressed at how fast he had become at making his deliveries, the young man gathered up all the different baskets and climbed the brick stairs to the large front door.
Gary knocked on the door and heard footsteps approaching from inside. The young man held out the packages as the door opened.
«Thanks, kid. There’s extra tip because you…were…,» Ben said, but quickly realized his son was standing in front of him. Ben’s chest hair was sticking out of a light yellow silk robe.
Gary slowly lowered the delivery when a young woman’s voice called to his father from inside the house and, for the first time in a long time, the young man understood what was happening.
With a guilty grunt, Ben said, «I’ll explain at home,» and shoved the money into his son’s hand. He grabbed the packages and retreated into the gloomy house like a burrowing snake that had caught its prey.
The door closed in Gary’s face and, with a sigh, he turned around and finished his shift for the day. When he got home, his dad was waiting for him.
It was Thursday, so Hilda was working a late shift and it was clear that Ben had some excuse ready. Gary sat and listened to his father’s half-hearted explanation.
«I swear, I never planned for it to happen. I know how it looks, but I still love your mother.»
«The thing is, she just hasn’t been making time for me lately. You understand that, don’t you, Gary?»
«No, Dad, I don’t understand,» the young man said, raising his voice. «I’ve been filling in for you since you decided to quit your job. Yes, we’ve heard the story over and over again, but that doesn’t excuse the way you’ve been treating Mom.»
«I won’t cover up what you’ve done!» said Gary with one last shout and clenching his fists. Then he plucked up his courage and went up to his room to wait for his mom.
When Hilda finally got home after a long day, Gary fixed 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 mother felt angry, confused and betrayed when he told her the truth, but over the next few days she accepted it.
Finally, Ben seemed to be absent even when he was at home. It wasn’t as if they were missing much without him there. With her son’s support, Hilda managed to get back on her feet, and even came home with a happy smile from time to time.
She separated from her husband, and when all the paperwork was ready, she explained to Gary the reason for her occasional smile.
«Son, this is Roberto. I met him at the support group I go to. He understands what I’ve been going through, and we’ve been going to lunch the last few days. He’s having dinner with us. He brought lasagna.»
Gary shook Roberto’s hand with a smile and the three of them sat down to enjoy the meal his mother’s guest had brought. A few weeks later, the boy treated his mom to a relaxing spa day with the tip Ben had given him.