Our New IdiotOur old village idiot worked at the City Café.  Hardy bussed tables and swept up, and if you left a quarter and a nickel with your tip, he’d cut his eyes back over his shoulder with stealth enough for any respectable jewel thief, pop the quarter into the ashtray for the waitress, and slip that nickel into his pocket. Never failed. We’d elbow one another at the register. Watch this fool. Did it for years.

Finally I just had to ask. He was slinging his leg over his bike after the lunch shift, his pocket bulging and jingling. “C’mon, Hardy,” I said. “You know that quarter is worth five times the nickel and you know we all watch.  Why do you just take the nickel?”

Hardy shrugged and patted his pocket. “If I ever take the quarter, even just one time, you’ll all quit doing it.” He pedaled off and left me standing.

So now we have to find a new idiot. Shouldn’t be much of a problem. Plenty of qualified candidates.

Melissa Delbridges work has appeared in Antioch ReviewThird Coast, and Southern Humanities Review. Her memoir Family Bible (University of Iowa Press, 2008) focuses on lessons she learned about race, sexuality, and forgiveness while growing up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, during the Sixties and Seventies. Her fiction and nonfiction have won the GLCA Nonfiction Award, the Theodore Christian Hoepfner Essay Award, and a short fiction award from the Southern Women Writers Conference. She lives, teaches, and writes in Chatham County, North Carolina.

Photo by Maria Romasco-Moore