Seventeen Bucks

“Hiya, Smiler!” The man behind me at the checkout looks like he works in a resource-based industry. He looks like my fishermen in Port Hardy, and as I’m leaving the till I smile, remembering them. The irony is that the checkout girl is surly as hell. You can see her hating everything. It’s like a cloud. The thing is, this store is under where I work. I stop in there about four times a week, for some fruit or yoghurt to eat at work, or if I need kleenex or whatever. I know all the cashiers. This one is new. I predict she won’t last long.

I pause outside the store, check my wallet. No. She hasn’t given me my change. I know this because I had a twenty and I was owed seventeen dollars. Which is not in my wallet. There’s no other money in there.

So I go back in and I wait at the end of the till. The smiler guy and his wife have a lot of groceries. Surly Cashier is sliding things across the beeper thingie. I wait. I am polite.

When Smiler guy and his wife are done, I as, “Excuse me. Did I leave my change here? I gave you a twenty and a nickel, and I can’t see my seventeen dollars’ change.”

“No.” She scans the next customer’s stuff. I check my pockets, unload my bag, check pockets and wallet again.

“Excuse me,” I say. “I really don’t seem to have it.”

“I gave you your twenty,” she says.

“No, it was seventeen dollars in change,” I say. “I gave you the twenty.”

I keep on looking, hoping that I’ve just stuffed the change somewhere I don’t usually put it, but I know I haven’t.

Finally, another cashier comes over. She’s been listening from her till. I know her. We talk about hair together, and recipes. “You can take your break,” she says to the Surly Cashier. SC goes. I can tell from those five words that she’s very unimpressed with SC. A little part of me is glad.

“Still can’t find it?” she asks me.

I indicate the stuff I’ve unpacked and my pockets inside out. “I don’t know what happened. But I sure don’t have it.”

She opens the till. Hands me seventeen dollars. “Here ya go.”

“Thank you,” I say. “This is so embarrassing.”

“No, not at all,” she says airily. “It happens.”

“And if I find seventeen bucks somewhere odd, I will bring it to you,” I say. And I mean it.

Thinking about it, I do not know why Surly Cashier was so obtuse. Maybe she thought she just made seventeen more dollars that hour? Anyhow, she was a bitch. She’s not going to fit in there for long.

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