It is Thursday. Mrs. Rigault is sitting at the local deli, as she is accustomed to. There are five different dishes on the lunch menu, but so far she has only ever tried one: the lasagna.
But today the waitress announces the terrible news: there is no lasagna left in the kitchen. This is the first time it has ever happened: the first time in sixteen years of daily lasagnas. She had always arrived early as to make sure she had a good table and her beloved $8.95 dish. How could this be? She sneaks a peek left, and sees a large group of retired people she’d never seen here before, and she just knows that the scoundrels have ordered lasagna.
The first of many cold sweats breaks on her back. Mrs. Rigault is not fond of the unexpected. One could even say that she hates it. It makes her nervous, anxious even. She wipes her face with a paper towel and glances at the menu. She does not know what to pick: she had been drawn to the restaurant by the sweet smell of tomato sauce and Cracker Barrel four cheeses mix, she had never even considered taking anything else. In a world full of uncertainties and deceptions, this had been a constant she could always rely upon.
She looks around, but in her state of panic, she can only see lasagnas. She wishes she could go back to her flat, but that would only upset her schedule, and since misery only breeds more misery, there would soon be another disaster coming her way: as stated by Murphy’s law, if something can go wrong, it sure as hell will. Murphy’s law is second favourite law, right after the one against public nudity… genitals make her queasy.
If she came back home now, anything could happen to her. She is used to the garbage truck making noise in the morning, passing by her house, or children coming back home in the afternoon, but who knows what happens between 12:00 and 12:59? Maybe it’s tea time for dinosaurs and they use people as crackers: how could she know? She’d always been here eating lasagna at this hour!
She scans the menu, but cannot decide what she’ll order. Seconds turn into minutes, that turn into more minutes, and she still cannot make up her mind. There are simply too many choices. Seeing the waitress approaching the man at the table next to her, she makes a hasty and reckless decision: she will order what he will order.
“Hi Larry! How’s it going?”
“Good, good, you? How’s little Lucy? Doesn’t she usually spend her lunch break here?”
“Yeah, but she’s on a field trip today.”
“Oh, I see! I used to love class trips.”
“Me too! Simpler times!”
This is taking forever, why must they torture her so?
“Yeah, don’t tell me! And now we’re here!”
“Haha, yes. What do you wanna eat today?”
“I think I’ll try the Chef’s salad.”
“Great! With the soup?”
“Yes! Otherwise that’d be a little too much salad for me!”
They exchange polite laughs, and Mrs. Rigault is laughing too, but out of relief: she finally sees a way out of her misery. But then she remembers her egg allergy. She cannot have the salad if it has eggs in it! Oh goodness here it goes again! She thinks she’ll wait for the waitress to come back with the plate so she can see if it has any eggs in it, but as if sensing her moment of weakness, the waitress turns to her.
“Are you ready to order?”
No! No! No!
“The…” she clears her throat, suddenly drier than the meat they serve. “The Chef’s salad,” she finally croaks.
She takes a breath, scraping together whatever she can find of her courage.
“…Does it have any eggs in it?”
“Yeah, but we can put some cheese in instead, if you want.”
Mrs. Rigault feels shame burning in her cheeks. How could she not have thought of that?
“I’ll have the Chef’s salad,” she mutters with a small smile, her face red.
A few minutes later, the waitress comes back with her salad, but Ô horror, it has eggs in it. Hadn’t the waitress understood she wanted cheese instead? Why else would she have asked about the eggs?! She wants to leave and never look back, but fears the repercussions: dining and dashing would make her a criminal. She doesn’t want to bother the waitress, since it could be that she hadn’t been clear enough, and just starts eating, picking the eggs out as carefully as she could.
When she gets up to pay, her tongue numb from the allergen, she feels her jean’s pockets and her face turns completely white: she had forgotten to take the 20 dollar bill on her desk before leaving. She does not want to draw attention, and so decides to wait until the end of the day to bother the waitress.
But luck smiles on her, as the nice man who had taken the salad announces that he has paid for her! And then he explains why: something about “paying it forward” that she does not fully understand.
“It’s a kindness chain! I am paying for your lunch, and then in return, you do the same for a stranger, and…”
This proves to be too much for Mrs. Rigault, who faints promptly.