Paenismus (pai-nis’-mus): Expressing joy for blessings obtained or an evil avoided.

Another shitty tip. I broke my ass serving these people a three-course meal. I almost broke my arm with my one-handed carry of the 18 pound turkey. There they were: six slurping, slopping, chomping, back-of-the-arm wiping hogs. There was turkey and cranberry sauce on the floor, squash smeared on the tablecloth, garnished with blobs of chestnut stuffing. On top of it all, there was pumpkin pie filling rolled into little round balls, skewered by silverware. The bill for this mess? $650.00. My tip? $5.00. I went over into a dark corner and nearly cried.

I was hurt. I was angry, but I still felt blessed—blessed to have a job, and blessed to be living in the city I love. New York was alive with wonder, interesting things to do, a diverse population, great places to eat, and more. It was crazy expensive though. I lived in what my landlord called a “one-half bedroom” apartment. It had a fold-out bed, but the room was so small, the bed wouldn’t go down all the way. So I slept at a 45-degree angle. Once I got into bed, I had to stay there or the bed would slam back into the wall, and I’d have to go through the whole pulling down thing again. I had a hot plate and a mini-fridge from my college dorm. I had one chair, and for entertainment I listened to NPR streaming on my cellphone. I kept all my clothes in a cardboard box. As soon as I turned the lights out, the roaches came out. There was no food in my apartment. Maybe they just wanted to socialize. Their skittering and wing clicking mating sounds were annoying.

As the year went by, I started to get sick of New York. The breaking point was the roach that walked across my face in the middle of the night. I slapped my face so hard and so many times to kill it, that I had a welt the next morning. My sister in New Jersey invited me to stay with her for as long as I liked. I took a bus from Port Authority, carrying my clothes on my lap in their cardboard box. I left my hot plate and fridge behind. My brother-in-law Jan gave me a job in one of his 25 discount liquor stores. The chain was called “Gin Canal” after his Dutch heritage. He specialized in gin, of course. In spring, he would add tulips to his inventory, in memory of his father. I worked the 11:00 pm to 2:00 am shift, which was, I soon found out, prime robbery time. I was robbed at least once a month. My brother-in-law didn’t care. He told me he had a “subsidy” that covered his losses. I think the subsidy came from the counterfeit federal tax stamps we glued onto unstamped bottles on Sunday afternoons.

Then, one night while I was getting robbed again, I recognized the bastard: it was $5.00 tip man from back in my waiter days in New York. For one second, I wondered what the hell he was doing here. Then, I jumped over the counter and hit him on the head with a gallon jug of “Carlo Rossi Paisano.” He was out cold and covered in wine. I took off all his clothes and dragged him out into the street. When I got back inside, I went through his pockets. There was an ATM card in his wallet with the PIN number written on the back! I locked up Gin Canal and headed for the ATM around the corner. I figured my tip should’ve been $120.00. That’s what I withdrew. Then, I gave his ATM card to a homeless man who looked like he needed some money. I pointed out the PIN number and told him Santa Claus had come to town.

When I got back to Gin Canal I put the $5.00 tipper’s clothes in the gutter and burned them, alongside him. As I was cleaning up the wine and broken glass on the liquor store’s floor, I thought about all the cliches connecting to sowing and reaping, and Karma and all that stuff, and felt like Destiny had shown me the beauty of revenge.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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