Jackson, a philosophically minded librarian, sat alone at his regular table in his favorite restaurant. He had just finished an excellent meal, well-prepared and quickly served. His table was against the front window, looking out of which he could view the efficiently-steered cars and trucks and buses going by in the late afteernoon sun. He could see, too, the well-dressed men and women swinging along, and in and out and through each other, on their way home from their stores and offices.
Jackson was thinking; he was thinking about how his fellow men so rarely voiced an opinion about morality. “Theirs not to reason why; theirs but to do and die”, he thought. “What a bunch of a-moralists I live amongst.” After paying his bill and turning to the door he heard, “Wait a minute, sir!” He turned back to the cashier, who was holding out a dollar bill. She said, “I mistakenly shorted you.” Jackson smiled a “thank you,” took the single and walked out into the street.
He happened to glance up and he saw a window washer some thirty floors high on a building across the street. Quickly and smoothly the man’s arm went back and forth, forth and back,, just like a windshield wiper. Down below, to Jackson’s right, a yellow cab made a sharp turn around a suddenly-stopping car, and shot out through the intersection, just making the light. At the news stand, which, with its spring-colored racks of magazines, stood like a flower in first bloom, Jackson bought a newspaper. Pictured on the front page was a man in a white space-suit standing on nothing outside of a space station, tiny stars behind his shoulders in the sky.
Jackson stood at the bus stop and pulled some coins out of his pocket. He fingered them pleasureably and looked at the shiny bits, and quoted, “Well-made, well-wrought”, and firmly clenched them in his fist. Sitting in the middle of the bus, he heard a conversation between two factory workers. “No, I tell you. The way we’re doing it now is wasting a lot of time. Switch station three with number five and have Mary go over to the packing table.” “Yeah, you’re right. Mary can out-pack any two girls combined. She’s being wasted where she is now. We’ll talk to the foreman in the morning.” Jackson sighed and thought, “Well, that’s not very edifying.”
When he got home to his bachelor apartment, Jackson saw that his housekeeper had mopped and vacuumed, wiped down counters, washed and put away dishes, made the bed and put everything in order on his desk. In the middle of the desk was a slip of paper with a few words on it. “Mr. Jackson”, it read, “I didn’t have time to dust the blinds today, as I have a dentist appointment at 1 o’clock.” “My gosh,” thought Jackson, “that means she did all this work in half the usual time, since she only gets here at eleven. Amazing.”
Then the phone rang, and he hurried to it, for he was expecting a call from his seventeen-year old niece. “Hello, Nan?” “Uncle Bob! I got it! I’m now the new assistant manager at McDonald’s! He said I was his hardest and most efficient worker, always on time and a fast and eager learner. Isn’t that great!” “That’s wonderful! Nan. I’m glad your boss recognizes your ability.”
Only much later, when he was lying in bed, ready to go to sleep, did a question pop into his mind. “If people never give morality a thought, how is it that it was such a good day?” Then Jackson slept and dreamed of men in long white flowing Grecian robes driving buses and taxis, waiting tables and washing windows, standing at assembly lines and mopping floors. Then he saw Nan, with her cheerful smile, behind a counter at McAristotle’s. On a huge marble pillar, behind and above her, hung the menu.
Hard Work $1
Desire To Do One’s Best $2
Jackson, still sleeping, rolled over, smiled, and rolled over again.