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March 1, 2009 | Fiction

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service

Robert Swartwood

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service photo

I stop at a 7-Eleven for a pack of gum. I give the cashier a twenty.

"You don't have any ones?" the cashier asks.

I don't, but I say I do anyway.

The cashier just stares at me.

"Um, yes?" I say.

"Well if you have some ones, why don't you pay with those instead?"

"Because I don't want to."

"Why not?"

"Never mind," I say and leave the store.

I drive to another 7-Eleven. I go in, pick up a pack of gum, and give the cashier a twenty.

The cashier says, "Got anything smaller than that?"

"Yes."

"Well, um, can I have it?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Why does it matter?"

"Huh?"

"Why can't you just take the twenty? Why do you need something smaller?"

The cashier shrugs. "It'd just be easier."

"Fine, if you want to make it easier, then here." I pull a quarter out of my pocket, smack it down on the counter. "I'll give you this for that pack of gum."

"But the gum costs eighty-seven cents."

"Either you take the quarter or you take the twenty. Which one is it?"

The cashier looks from the twenty to the quarter, from the quarter to the twenty. Looks back up at me.

"I don't get it," he says.

I grab the twenty and the quarter and the pack of gum and walk out of the store. The cashier yells after me. I don't stop. Outside I stand on the edge of the curb. I open the pack, unwrap one of the sticks, and shove it in my mouth. It tastes like watermelon. I take out another, put that one in my mouth too.

I finish the entire pack by the time the police arrive.

"Isn't this the easy way?" I ask them, and blow a bubble so big it pops all over my face.

image: Ryan Molloy


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