Who is Beckett Stone?
The handsome young man ascended from the Roosevelt Tram and exited out onto 59th Street. Because the day was brimming with the cold, crispy sunshine that only winter could bring, the young man decided to walk across town – simply because. Simply to experience the rush of New Yorkers in front of him, behind him and crashing at the sides of him.
Finding himself tired, after having traversed from the East to the West Side, an idea came to the young man while standing on the corner of 58th and 9th Avenue:
He would walk into The Flame Restaurant and practice this thing called “generosity.”
The young man stepped lively into the restaurant, as if he had been doing it his whole life. Dressed sharply in a charcoal colored, Burberry Prorsum, slim-fit suit, the young man made quite an impression. Approaching, he rested both hands serenely – palms down, onto the counter top, and kindly asked to see the manager.
“I’m the manager. What can I do for you?” the weather beaten, middle-aged man had a thick mane of salt and pepper hair and a bushy black mustache.
“Good evening. My name is Dave. Nice to meet you,” Dave said as he extended his hand and shook the manager’s with a broad smile.
“My name is Teddy. Hello.” Teddy was suspicious of Dave. Maybe he was from building management and they had finally showed up to throw him out. Had Teddy missed a rent check? “Now what can I do for you?”
Dave smiled awkwardly and rubbed his chin. “This is a strange one. Don’t know whether you’ve been asked this before. You probably haven’t. Yet, you can trust there is nothing really weird about it at all. Really.”
“Okay. What is it?”
“Well, I suppose I should get right to it. I want to practice generosity.”
“Let me explain, because I’m about as confused as you are.”
“What do you want?” Teddy was growing impatient.
“I would like to ask you, if you’d allow me, to pay for everyone’s meal in the restaurant. Right now. Right here. I’ll cover everyone’s bill.”
“What? Come on, will ya …”
“Really. I will pay for everyone’s meal.” Teddy had a big grin on his face. Was he getting conned? Because he wasn’t born yesterday. ” I would be only too overjoyed if you’d kindly shut the door, put the closed sign up and allow me – not only to pay for everyone’s meal, but get to know them as well.”
“I don’t know …” A few of Teddy’s coworkers joined him by his side – trying to make out what was going on.
“For your trouble…for your trouble …I will give you – right now…” Dave dug into his coat pocket and pulled out an envelope, which he handed to Teddy. “Five thousand dollars. That’s five thousand dollars simply to let me have the restaurant to myself for a couple of hours.” Teddy’s eyes bulged as he looked inside the envelope and flipped through the cash. “It’s all there – you can count it. Money is no object to me. I am wealthy and would like nothing more than to pay for everyone’s meal today. Including the staff. What do you say?”
Teddy was stammering and stuttering. “I …I…I don’t know…” Teddy turned to his employees, hoping in vain to get some kind of helpful response from them. “Is this reality TV? Are there cameras somewhere hiding? This is crazy, just crazy! I see the money. I like the money…” Teddy cackled.
“Yes, yes, I am sure you like the money! Please! Have it! All I ask is that you allow me to do something good and generous. I just want to pay for everyone’s meal…if they’ll allow me.”
“Well, you will have to ask them. I don’t want anything funny happening in here.”
“There is nothing funny going on, I promise,” pleaded Dave. “Here, just to show you I am on the level, here…” Dave reached into the other side pocket of his jacket and produced another envelope. He handed that envelope to Teddy as well. “Another five grand. You can’t possibly say no to ten grand, can you?”
Teddy started cackling harder as he and the staff were having a good old laugh. “Costas…please…lock the doors. And put the closed sign up. I can’t say no to this. Someone has to alert the customers.”
“I will tell the customers,” said Dave.
Dave was eighteen, but he could pass for his mid-20s. It was his height – 6’3″ – that made him look older. A circular mass of freckles around each check bone, gave away his youth. As did his sensitive, hooded, blue eyes.
Costas, with a hand meaty like an old baseball mitt, banged the bell at the service counter. This got many of the customer’s attention. Dave was smiling and holding his arms and hands aloft – waving them – at the front of the diner. “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, everyone. I am heartfully sorry for interrupting your meal, but I have an announcement and it will be brief. All your meals today – are free. They are on me – tips included. Everything is FREE!” An applause erupted from the diners. “Absolutely, 100% free – no strings attached.”
Someone front the back of the restaurant shouted, “What’s the catch?”
“No catch. I am not running for office, I am not – as Teddy seems to think, a part of some reality TV program. I am just simply practicing generosity – that is all. I am extremely lucky to have been raised in this country and to have inherited the fortune I have. I want to give some of that back and I am starting today with all of your free meals.” More cheers. “And remember, no tips – I have covered that as well. I am just going to walk around and introduce myself, but please, carry on with the enjoyment of your food. And thank you…”
Hardly had the last utterance been said by Dave, that all the customers started calling out the waiters for seconds …for more desert, for even third courses. Dave shook Teddy’s hand again – they both smiled. Dave looked like the candidate he purported not to be, as he slid into the booth of two nearby customers. “My name is Dave, hope you don’t mind all this craziness!”
“No, not at all,” said a slight, young man with frizzy hair and sleepy eyes. “Man, I’m lovin’ this, you kidding me? I’m going to order another sandwich. My name is Jimmy, and this here is my girlfriend, Lucy.”
Lucy extended her hand. Her hair had a blue rinse to it as she found herself instantly attracted to Dave. “Pleasure treasure. Thanks for the food – we’re both kind of broke now. This is a huge help, believe me,” she said sighing and rolling her eyes.
“What are you both having?” Dave asked.
“Well…ummm…I’m having a tuna salad deluxe and Lucy…”
“I’m having a gyro deluxe.”
“That’s great! How’s the food here?”
“You mean to tell me you have never eaten at The Flame?” asked Lucy.
“I’m afraid I haven’t had the pleasure.”
“Awww man,” said Jimmy, “this is the best diner on the West Side. How long have you been in New York City? I could use a rich friend like you.”
“Yeah, kind of new…well, I am going to move around the tables. I’ll work my way back around the restaurant.”
“We’re going to eat more,” said Lucy, “hope you don’t mind.”
“Hey! Can we get a picture with you?” asked Jimmy.
“Of course,” said Dave, as he leaned in for a trio selfie.
“What’s the occasion?” Barked a senior citizen, wearing a rainbow colored eye patch. His other eye was encircled with warts. Dave turned and shook the gentleman’s hand. The senior citizen was seated across from a rather attractive, elder, dame. Dave bowed his head to her and grinned.
“Are you going to be a father?” asked the dame.
“No, nothing as exciting as that. Just because. That is all.”
“How old a fella are you? You look 12,” said the elder man.
“My name is Dave. I don’t believe I caught your name.”
“Because I didn’t throw it at ya!” Laughed the elder man. “Listen, comere…lean in.” Dave crouched down. The old man whispered in his ear. Well, it was far louder than a whisper. “My name is Samson. I’m 84 years old, I have one dimmer left that I can barely see out of, I piss blood, I can barely eat a damn thing anymore, and I just came out to my wife of 53 years. How do you like that? I told her I’ve been gay my whole life. She says she always had a hunch. What the hell does she know?”
“I know plenty, Sam, plenty.” Dave found all this banter rather amusing. “My name is Dee. I’m the one Sam hid his secret from for 53 years. You’re rich, for my suffering, can I get some money?”
“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you both. Are you enjoying your lunch?”
“I got a lot wrong going on,” said Samson, “but I got a free lunch. For this I am grateful.”
“You’re such a handsome young man,” Dee said, blinking her long eyelashes. “I would bet you didn’t make bad deals like ol’ Samsun here. Rockefeller over here squandered all our retirement money.”
“Let’s just be happy with the free meal, okay?” said Samson, feeling the pangs of guilt once more.
“We could have had 1.2 million dollars in the bank….but no!”’ exclaimed Dee.
“All right, all right, all right…” said Samson.
“Are you looking for a considerably older wife you can spend your money on?” asked Dee.
“Well, if you don’t mind, I have to make my way around the restaurant. Really a pleasure meeting you both. So happy to have met you. Please, have a dessert on me!”
“Ack! It’ll give me the runs!” exclaimed Samson.
As Dave worked his way around the room, introducing himself – chatting with folks from all ethnic backgrounds and nationalities, he noticed that – even though they were getting free food, most were not happy.
“She’s basically brain dead,” said a woman wearing a head scarf and biting her lip, “what am I going to do? She is my whole world. Who is going to pay the rent? Who is going to take me shopping? They’ll come for me and throw me in a home without her.” Dave sat in the booth right next to the grieving woman, arm around her – squeezing her close to him. She had begun sobbing.
Sadness: checked off the list, thought Dave.
He had begun scribbling a phone number on a diner napkin with what looked like an expensive, personalized pen. Dave handed the woman the napkin and clenched both of his hands over hers. “Please call me if you should need anything. This is where I am currently staying. I am sad for you and only hope you have the strength to pull yourself out of this awful, but I trust – temporary – ordeal.” Dave stuck some money in her hands – it was a bankroll – a hundred dollar bill at the top.
“Thank you, Dave! Thank you and god bless you! You are a fine, young man,” said the woman wearing the head-scarf.
“I hope this money and food will help.” Dave leaned in and kissed the woman’s forehead as she clenched her eyes closed and sobbed.
Those Dave did not get a chance to spend intimate time with, he introduced himself to, thanked and too pictures alongside them.
As Dave started to wrap things up, he noticed a WPIX news van parking abruptly at the curb just outside the diner.
“Looks like you’re getting famous,” said Teddy to Dave with a smile.
Dave just grinned and patted Teddy on the back: “I had better freshen up for my fifteen minutes of fame.”
“Yes! Of course! The bathroom is just over there to the right.”
“Here you are, Teddy,” said Dave as he quickly pulled yet another envelope out from under his coat, “this should cover the rest of it.” Dave shook teddy’s hand.
“I think this looks like too much – yes…maybe…” said Teddy, delirious at the money he was making that day.
Dave just winked and hurried off to the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
The reporter: a tall, attractive woman with wavy blonde hair, wrapped on the front door of the diner, trying to get the attention of the waiters. Teddy, flustered by all the bills and accounting before him, walked over towards the front door to let the reporter in.
“Are you the manager on staff?” asked the reporter.
“Yes, I am.”
“My name is Donna Waitland – WPIX News. We’ve been getting some info via Twitter that a patron has asked that the restaurant be closed; that this person – a ‘Dave’ – is paying for the bill of the entire restaurant – is this true?”
“Yes, why yes it is.”
“May we come in?”
After having spoken with a few of the happy, satisfied customers, concerning their experience with the friendly and generous, if mysterious, young man, Donna turned to Teddy: “Where is Dave? Is he still here?”
“He is the bathroom.”
“Oh, terrific!” said the newswoman.
“Let me see how he is doing. Been in there a while.”
The reporter and the two-man camera crew followed Teddy to the restrooms. Teddy knocked on the door: “Excuse me, Dave. The reporter is here – are you okay?” After knocking several times on the shoddy, wooden door, Teddy realized it was unlocked. Both the reporter and Teddy slowly stuck their heads inside the doorframe, while the cameraman lifted his camera high over their heads in an attempt to nab an optimal shot.
Not a sign of Dave anywhere. The bathroom was tiny with only a miniscule wall sink, a urinal and no window. There was no other way out of the bathroom than the main door, yet nothing in the small space looked disturbed.
0.4 miles and a 9 minute walk from The Flame Restaurant to the concierge desk at The Park Hyatt Hotel, Dave found himself in front of two, beautiful, young women.
“Good evening, Mr. Stone,” said the brunette.
“Good evening, Ms. Bianca and Ms. Randy.”
“Your cases of Wild Cherry Vintage Seltzer has arrived and was delivered to your suite, Sir,” said Ms. Bianca.
“Thank you, ladies.”
“You’re most welcome, Mr. Stone,” said blonde, Ms. Randy.
“Anything else we can do for you tonight?” Ms. Bianca asked – flirtatiously.
Mr. Stone thought it over: “No, that will be all. Thank you…”
“Can we get you more towels? Toiletries?” asked Ms. Randy.
“I’m perfect. Thank you. Are you both having a good evening?” They both nodded and smiled. Mr. Stone had begun backing up towards the elevator bank. “Don’t work too hard now…okay?” he said with a wink and a grin, as the blonde and brunette swooned.
When Mr. Stone entered his suite, three cases of Wild Cherry Vintage Seltzer were atop the bar, most having been put away in the fridge by the hotel staff. He removed his jacket and carefully hung it up on a hanger and placed it inside his closet. Grabbing a bottle of cold seltzer from the fridge, Mr. Stone walked over to the massive floor-to-ceiling windows and stared out, taking a large gulp. The view was dazzling. Darkness was beginning to descend upon Manhattan. The sparkling and glittering yellow and white lights running up 5th Avenue reminded him of home.
Mr. Stone was brushing his teeth as he walked out of the bathroom – towel wrapped around his waist. He had heard The Flame Restaurant mentioned on the evening news. Around his neck was a rope chain with a sparkly, charcoal rock hanging off the end of it.
The reporter standing in front of The Flame was a different woman – different news organization.
“We only know that his name is ‘Dave.’ Eyewitnesses say he is a compassionate, warm, young man, older than his years even. He sat down and spoke with everyone in the restaurant – learning about their lives; their hopes and fears.” Various pictures taken by patrons show Dave engaged with various customers. “The manager says that Dave paid the hefty bill, walked into the bathroom, and disappeared. Who is this ‘Dave’ person and why was he dolling out so much cash? Did he really inherit a fortune? Is he involved in illegal activities and was looking to give away the stolen money? All hearsay tonight. All we have are happy customers. And it’s a welcoming, if odd, selfless kind of story that is most welcoming with the holiday season fast approaching. Reporting from West 58th street – Lisa Benson – Fox 5 News.”
Mr. Stone showed no emotion or care as he shut the TV off, removed his robe, and climbed into his king-sized bed, wearing just his boxer shorts. He had to admit – he always liked the way the cool covers felt on his near naked body.
“Shuffle 80s playlist, please,” said Mr. Stone aloud to the room, as an invisible stereo began playing the horn introduction from “Pure” by The Lightening Seeds. Mr. Stone smiled and sighed: “Nothing’s changed. Nothing has changed,” he repeated, as he turned off the light and turned onto his right side – staring at the vacant space next to him on the bed. The music enveloped him. Nothing in time made him feel quite as soft and cozy as music.
The hotel suite was huge and opulent – he being a very small part of it.
“Well, Beckett Stone,” he said to the empty and darkened room, “generosity – check, comfort – check, loneliness – check.”