It was late afternoon on a Friday. We pulled to a stop in front of our last account for the day — a large house in a golf-course community.
We jumped out, grabbed our tools from the trailer, then spread out to tackle our individual jobs.
As we made our way from the front and side yards to the back, Stan — one of the younger members of the crew — started hollering from the back porch.
“Hey, guys!” he yelled. “Come up here! You got to see this!”
I joined Crew Leader Carl and the others as we trudged onto the wooden porch. Juan had a weed-wacker slung over his shoulder, and I was lugging my trash can and pruners.
Stan pointed to a gargantuan ice chest, which was pushed against the house. “Look!”
The ice chest was propped open, and it was crammed full of ice and bottles of Stella Artois. A handwritten sign was taped to the bottom of the lid. In black Sharpie, it read, “Please help yourself!”
“Nice!” said Crew Leader Carl. “Free beer!”
“You think the homeowner left this for us?” I asked.
“Of course,” Carl said. “It’s late in the day, and the homeowner knows he’s one of our last accounts. We don’t often get tips, but people sometimes leave treats for us, even if they’re not home.”
“We don’t want to drink the beer right now, do we?” I asked. “We won’t get anything done.”
“Of course not!” Carl said. “What are you, stupid? We’ll take the beer back to the shop, then drink it before driving home.”
“Oh, OK,” I said. “That’s a much better plan.”
Carl reached into the ice chest, then started handing bottles to everyone. “Here you go, guys. Take as many as you can carry. There has to be at least two cases crammed in here.”
Each of us carried an armload of beer to the truck. The bottles were ice cold. We shoved them behind and under the seats — wherever they would fit.
As we walked back into the yard, a BMW pulled into the driveway. A man wearing shorts and flip-flops climbed out. He was carrying a grocery sack.
“Hey there!” he said, smiling and waving at us.
“Afternoon,” Carl said. “Are you the homeowner?”
“Sure am,” the guy said. “And I’m glad you guys are here. You came just in time. I’m having a party tonight, and I wanted the yard to look extra tidy before the guests arrived.”
Carl’s eyed widened. “You’re having a party?”
“Sure am!” the man said. “I thought I had everything, too, but I forgot the hamburger buns. Can you believe that? I just ran to the store to get some.”
He elbowed Carl in the ribs. “Good thing I got plenty of beer though — right? You can never forget the beer!”
“No,” Carl said, swallowing. “I suppose you can’t.”