The old man walked into the restaurant with a smile on his face, and pep in his step. He walked inside and looked around. "Pretty Snazzy," he thought to himself. The waiters were all dressed in tuxedos, and everything was so prim and proper, he thought that if he leaned the wrong way on one of the napkin folds he'd cut himself right in two. He made his way to the hostess' podium and waited patiently to be greeted.
An extremely posh looking woman glided up to the podium, and politely asked, if she could assist the old man in any way. He smiled and told her the name of the television manager. She nodded, and asked him to follow her to his table. The old man felt somewhat under dressed, but rationalized it to himself by saying "The television people want to meet me, not some gussied up old fogie who doesn't know who he is. This morning I may have been that fogie, but tonight I'm me again!" The hostess ushered him to his seat without difficulty. The television manager and Susan stood at his arrival.
"Sir, it's a pleasure to see you again," started Susan as she shook the old man's hand. "And, sir, I'd like you to meet Mr. Wong, he's the national manager to our parent station." They shook hands and sat down. A tuxedo'd waiter came and took their drink orders. After their orders had been filled, Mr. Wong cleared his throat and raised his glass, Susan and the old man followed suit, "To our goals, and how we accomplish them." The old man nervously nodded and had a sip of his water.
"I was in town this week, and I've heard about your story from Susan's manager, who was as intrigued as I am over your story. I have to say, it is a very brave thing that you are doing."
"Thank you sir," stammered the old man. Mr. Wong smiled and replied, "Please, call me Ronin, we're friend's here, and I sincerely mean that."
"Thank you, Ronin, and I don't think I'm as brave as you think I am."
"Many people would have curled up and called it a day. You, though, you didn't. That's what got me. Hearing that you accomplished your goals, even on such a small level as you've done, filled me with pride and a desire to see what you can do, and we want to help you make your goals happen" Another waiter came by, and asked for their orders. "Please, sir, please feel free to order whatever you'd like, this is to be a celebration!"
Ronin and Susan placed their orders. The old man re-evaluated the menu, before showing a blinding smile. "I'll have the Costoletta di Vitello alla Giuseppe con i funghi trifolati, if you please." Ronin smiled and nodded. "You're a man of discerning tastes. Not bad."
"Actually," he replied, "It's number twenty-three on my list of things to do. I hope I haven't overstepped my bounds." Ronin laughed. "I have got to see this list." The old man carefully removed the list from his blazer's breast pocket. He unfolded it and handed it to Ronin who poured over it carefully for the next few minutes.
"Well. I do have to say, you certainly have a diverse list of things to do here. Some are simple, and others are incredibly complex. I think this will work out quite well. The plan is a reality show venture. Nothing scripted, just a camera following you as you accomplish your goals. Consider your budget effectively infinite, heh, you can go anywhere, and do anything legal. We'd televise you weekly, of you going to your destination, and meeting your goals. We think that the public would enjoy this moreso than over-privileged over-moneyed teenagers and young twenty year olds who know nothing but to get into trouble. You're someone the world can get behind, that they can cheer for, and we'd like to have you in our employ.
The old man's eyes lit up, he felt as if the heavens above were smiling on him. "Wow, Mr. Wong, er, Ronin, sir, this arrangement is extraordinary, but, it seems almost too good to be true. There has got to be a catch."
"Ronin looked at him and smiled. "Aside from being on television, we're going to want you to take one of my other employees with you, who's already comfortable on camera, and is exceptionally skilled, and knows how to get information into the right peoples hands in a very speedy and effective manner." With a tilt of his head, he pointed at Susan. "I'd like Sukie here to go with you, and be your field producer." Susan's eyes nearly bugged out of her head. "Me? Go with? You mean it?" she stammered.
"Yes you," he said with a chuckle. "Without you, he'd be wandering around town, catching the bus from place to place, and nobody would know his story. I can't think of anyone better. I think your usual camera man, whats his name- Blunt, Grunt, Cu.." Susan interrupted, "Hunt, Mike Hunt!" "Yes, that's our man. You two do so well together, I saw the bit part from the guitar store. Very impressive, You will have to work together on this, and I think it will work splendidly."
At that moment, the food decided to come. An enormous steak was set in front of Ronin, A artfully decorated chicken breast sat in front of Susan. They needed a separate waiter to bring out the old man's food. A delicately seared lamb chop atop a mound of braised greens and onions, which were smothering a small mountain of roasted garlic mashed potatoes. The waiter set the enormous plate in front of the old man, and freshly shaved a small mountain of fresh black truffles on top. The scent was absolutely heavenly. The trio ate in silence for a few minutes before continuing discussions.
"We're offering you airfare and travel accommodations to all your destinations, room and board, full medical- including eyeglasses and dental if you need it, and a moderate stipend to cover your personal expenses." Ronin wrote a number on a small pad and passed it to the old man. His jaw dropped, and his mouth went dry. A small croak escaped from his lips.
"It's not enough? I'm sure I can convince the powers that be to make the stipend larger if you want."
"No, no, not that. This number, it's a comma here, not a decimal point?"
"My goodness, this is four times my pension and social security combined."
"Well, we want you to be able to participate comfortably, we want money to be no object for you when you're with us."
"Wow." The old man took a sip from his water. "Would I be able to give some, er, most of this to my kids? Could I donate some to a charity if I wanted?"
"Of course, it's your money- We don't advise using it to warm your house in the winter though, that's a bit much even for us." he laughed.
"The only other stipulation is that we'd like you to hit your 100th goal within the next 18 to 24 months. Mike and Susan will be with you from when you wake to when you sleep, but they'll aim to be fairly unobtrusive unless you ask for help. We really do want to see your dreams happen."
"I'm guessing but I bet you have the contract with you?"
"Of course, and it's waiting for your signature."
"Is it okay if I read it first? I just want to look at all the fine print."
"Yes, definitely-- if you want we can leave it with you overnight, and you can return it to Susan in the morning."
"That would be amazing, thank you so much for this opportunity Ronin, with this, you're helping many more people than just me." said the old man, a tear coming to his eye.
The trio sat and finished their meals with small talk, and chatter about the different locales he wanted to visit. For dessert they sipped at their espresso, and nibbled on biscotti until they were so stuffed, they all felt as if they needed to be rolled out. The left the table together, and the hostess thanked them for eating at this restaurant. Ronin's driver pulled up and whisked him away. The old man and Susan waved farewell to the limo that was driving away into the distance.
"Susan! Susan! You did it!" yelled the old man, who broke into another rendition of the jitterbug, so jovial, Susan couldn't help but to join in. They then hugged and hopped up and down like teenage girls. "We did it! We did it!" they cried.
"Oh, jeez, I forgot to call a cab from inside, Susan, I'll be but a minute," the old man said as he started to turn to go back inside.
Sue grabbed him gently by the shoulder. "I don't think so Old Man," she started. "I'm driving." He laughed at her demeanor. "Ok, lady, your wish is my command." Together they piled into Susan's old car, and they headed off in the darkness towards his house. He navigated as she drove, and they made it to his home in record time. She stayed until she saw him walk up into the house, and watched him wave goodbye to her from the nearby window.
The old man Whooped and cheered again before taking the stairs up to his room. He had not expected to return tonight. He thought he'd be on the last bus to nowhere. A hot shower, his own pajamas, and his own bed were eagerly anticipated. As he walked by the bureau, he picked up the framed photo of Martha.
"Mama, we did it. I was scared, but I saw you smile at me, I knew I could do it then. Thank you so much. I'm doing this for you, all the things we should have done together, but just didn't get to. It's all for you!. Tears streamed down the old mans face. Gingerly he kissed the glass of the frame before setting it down in its usual place. "I'm going to take you with me everywhere I go, I promise, I won't leave you behind."
The old man lay down on the bed, and set the alarm before he snuggled himself under the sheets. He drifted off to sleep the instant his head hit the pillow, and he had the best night's rest he had in the longest while.