BY STEVE COLORI
Copyright is held by the author.
THE RAIN was pattering the small slanted roof of the store that day. Customers were few and far between. A man in his forties walked in who looked like he was going on ninety. His eyes had bags and his son was hanging onto his leg.
“I’m taking off for the day. Remember what I told you. We can’t give any discounts to anyone anymore. The next person who gives a discount is fired,” the store owner told me. “I don’t want to lose any more money.”
“Okay, sounds good,” I said.
Placing his items on the counter, the man in his forties reached for his wallet. He had an EBT card. I looked at the bread, peanut butter, eggs, and milk. “Simple stuff. Must be low on cash,” I thought.
“I dunno if I have enough,” he said. I took the card and noticed he had no wedding ring. The card was short. “Let me check the balance on my phone.” His son smiled and I smiled back. He was wearing a Red Sox cap and shirt.
“I think I have an extra dollar here,” he said. Wallet litter and a one dollar coin were all that occupied the run-down leather. Taking the dollar, I swiped the card and the computer reported there weren’t enough funds.
“How much is on the card?” I asked.
“I think I’m about three dollars short,” he said with a strained voice.
Looking at the discount button, I remembered what the owner had said. He sounded like Ebenezer Scrooge. I checked my own wallet and had nothing. The man’s face was gaunt and his son looked at him. The button was glaring at me.
“Will I get fired? I can’t let him starve. What if I get fired though?” I pressed the discount button and the transaction went through.
“You really didn’t have to do that,” the guy said.
“It’s okay,” I replied.
“What’s your name?”
“So, you gave the guy a discount right after I left,” the owner said.
I gulped. “He didn’t have enough money on his EBT card.”
“Well, I told you no more discounts. Take your things and leave.”
I placed my hat on the counter and walked out. “It’s only side cash. I’ll find another part time job.” I checked my wallet and realized I was almost as poor as the guy I helped.
Sitting on the curb I waited for my ride.
“Hey, kid, what’s wrong,” a former customer asked me.
“I got canned today.” I went on to explain the situation.
“I heard this guy can be a real jerk sometimes. Have you ever done administrative work at an office?”
“Nah, not really,” I said. I stared into the dusty parking lot across the street. A run-down Corolla reminded me of the car I was trying to buy.
“Well I need some help on the weekends with my books. I’m not letting a guy like you fall short on his luck. Not today.”