I think I owe a friend $1.87, and anxiety over the debt may cause the early demise of one or the other of us. No offense meant to him, but I’d like to try and make sure it’s not me.

I think I owe a friend $1.87, and anxiety over the debt may cause the early demise of one or the other of us.

No offense meant to him, but I’d like to try and make sure it’s not me. Either of us, actually, but I’m sort of dwelling on myself to the extent that the stress from it has become hazardous to my health.

OK, it may be too late in our lives for our demise to be termed “early.” Still, it’s possible that one of us could kick off in what most would consider an untimely manner, or at least in a cheap manner — for less than two bucks. How sad.

I don’t want to place blame, but it’s pretty much his fault. He did me a favor. He took a risk.

After topping off the fuel tank in his boat with diesel fuel at the end of the season so it could be stored, he dumped what was left in the tank of my boat. It took what we figured was $1.87 worth. Actually, he might have said it was “only a couple of dollars.” I was the one who might have used a calculator.

DIFFICULT TRANSACTION

I should have just given him two bucks right then and there, but he was up on his boat, and I was down on the ground beside mine. Throwing two dollar bills up a few feet is more difficult than you might think, unless you tie them to a rock. I suppose I could have heaved eight quarters up to him, but, according to what my mom told me when she caught me and my brother in a penny fight in the garage, coin-throwing could have poked his eye out.

So, out of fear for his safety, I just shouted up to him, “I owe you lunch.”

“I’m not worried about it,” he answered, and he wouldn’t be, of course, because we just had lunch at the marina. I would have bought him that lunch if I’d known I’d be facing this clam chowder for diesel fuel exchange so soon down the road.

Now, maybe it was because he suddenly remembered that I hadn’t yet bought him lunch for the diesel fuel dump he’d made last year, roughly a $2.03 value, I vaguely recall. Or, he could just have been trying to get a rise out of me. Whatever it was, he threw in an extra comment, one that went beyond an attitude of “forget it.”

“Of course, anything above a dollar-and-a-half generally keeps me up at night. I can’t eat. I get chest pains. ... ”

He kept on talking while I reached for my wallet. It wasn’t there. It was in my car, about 100 feet away — beyond the limits of most friendships. I’d pay him later with lunch. In the meantime, I said the only thing I could think of to offer him reassurance.

“Call 9-1-1 if you feel bad tonight.”

STILL IN HIS DEBT

I never did cough up the $1.87. Which is why, that night or early morning, I found myself in bed, awake, not really worried, but with a feeling of indebtedness.

I think he was kidding. He had to be kidding. Nobody’s health suffers over $1.87. Actually, mine would, if I didn’t stop thinking about it. But, I couldn’t. I’ve known this friend and his wife for 40 years. I didn’t want him to have a heart attack, even if it was a fake one.

“I almost called him at 2 a.m. and asked ‘Are you hungry; I’m thinking about getting some lunch ...’”

Finally, I drifted off to sleep. Nobody died from lack of sleep or got killed by someone when he called too early in the morning. But, it’s still bothering me.

So, please, people, take my advice, and pay your debts immediately. Always wear comfortable shoes in case you have to walk to your wallet. And carry a brick so your money goes higher.