Short Story

The man who cherished all walked to the counter-top with the goods he wished to acquire.

“What do you want for these?” he inquired.

The clerk gazed into his face was annoyed by such a trivial question. “I’ll just scan these and you pay ok buddy.” she thought. She was, after all, on the phone with the same person she spends thirty hours a week with. She had no need to be bothered by inane conversation with a differing outlook.

As she moved the cordless phone two inches from her mouth to below her ear, she answered, “Let me ring these up and you’ll find out.”

The man kept a mental note: brusque answer, one beset by annoyance.

“Yes, Sheila. I will be going alone tonight without you or your excuses for not hanging out with ME tonight. TOMORROW is my only day off this month.” he overheard her yell.

“That’ll be $26.74” she explained.

“I must apologize mam, I forgot my billfold in my other jacket. May I pay by other means?”

“We accept credit or debit also.”

Not his first go around on the merry-go-round, he knew the rigamarole of how this conversation typically went. He had the cash in his backpack to pay for this and every other item in the store, he just had a feeling in him beset by adoring parents to let this opportunity slip away from his periphery.

“How bout I make you a counter offer?”

“Uh, what?”

“I have the twelve best books I have ever read all filled with bookmarks and highlights of what made me who I am today. I would like to believe they have improved my life immensely. What say you if I give you two of these books, you cancel the order on the screen, then hand me the goods I brought to this counter.”

“Sorry sir, cash or card is all we accept.”

The man sighed then took off the backpack. He opened a side pocket in a smooth, efficient manner. He had some monetary goods in there. Putting his hand in a side pocket, he took out a pouch full of coins. Promptly, he scattered them in front of the clerk.

“That should be $30.00 worth of Jon Adams. You have a wonder filled day.”

He snatched what he needed then paced off briskly through the revolving doors.

“What a guy.” she thought angrily as she began to count.

The man still saw the homeless bum sitting outside still as disheveled as last time he saw him. He looked at his body with the bum’s head slouching against the brick wall behind him.

“Hey bum, learn something with your life or remain obtuse.” the backpack wearing one proclaimed.

The man took out two of the books in his backpack throwing them as he paced off towards, then behind the homeless man.

“Have those two books, they might change your life. They sure did change mine.”

The backpack faded in the distance as the unshaven, unkempt one was dumb founded.

“No one gave me shit throughout my entire life and then this fucking guy gave me words. Ha! Cruel fucking world.”

Every time the phrase “pay it forward was mentioned was a $100 bill book marker.

The homeless man was illiterate though. He just drank his life away.

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