“The award ceremony is tomorrow night. I expect to see you there.”
“Thank you for letting me know. I’ll be there.”
The other end of the phone line clicked silent.
“Who was that?” His wife was already prepared to retire for the evening.
“It was one of the members of the award committee. He wanted to make sure I would be at the banquet tomorrow.”
“Does that mean . . . ?”
“I would think so. Why else call? That award is mine.”
“Oh, John. That’s wonderful. I know how hard you worked for it.”
He couldn’t contain his grin.
* * *
“John, we really need your help.”
“But . . .”
“I know it’s the day before Thanksgiving, but two of the people who were supposed to be here canceled. If we don’t get help, we won’t be able to get this meal done. A lot of people will go hungry. You’re the only person I know who can help. Please.”
“I’m sorry, but . . .”
Before he could finish, his wife grabbed the phone from him and used one hand to cover the mouth piece.
“How would it look for you not to help the shelter? Tonight, of all nights?”
“But the award ceremony . . .”
“Exactly!” She was always good at whispering a yell.
“Ok. Fine.” He accepted the receiver back. “Barb? Yeah, I’ll be at the shelter in half an hour.” He hung up the phone. “You go to the banquet. If it goes smoothly, I should be there before the announcement.”
She nodded and kissed him on the cheek.
* * *
It did not go smoothly. Even with him, they were short-staffed and preparing the meal took longer than expected. Every time he looked at the clock, he felt more urgency to leave, and that led to one mistake after another. Finally, on the serving line, he knew he wouldn’t make it. He couldn’t keep a scowl from his face as he placed slices of turkey on paper plates.
His phone rang, and he excused himself to answer it. It was his wife.
“How did it go?”
“Honey . . .”
“Did you give the speech for me?”
“John . . . Robert Thompson won.”
“Robert Thompson is the Humanitarian of the Year. You were runner-up.”
“Runner-up? That can’t be . . .”
Barb was giving him impatient looks. “I’ve got to go. I’ll see you at home.”
He went back to the line, but impatience had turned to frustration and even resentment. All this work, and nothing to show for it. He tried to smile at the elderly woman who thanked him, but his heart wasn’t in it.