All Over A Nickel

February 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm (Cussed Dumbers)

He looked about my age, but it was hard to tell. Squinty, leathery from the sun, he reminded me of what Papa Smurf would look like if he’d stolen Gandalf’s beard. He looked at our upscale selection. “No 24-ounce Mickey’s?”

“Nope, sorry. Across the street.” I pointed to the land of Four Loko and Steel Reserve.

“Gimme a book of matches.” I looked at him. It was not a request.

“Five cents.” If we give matches away, bums return every two hours for a refill.

“Pfft!” He threw a quarter onto the counter. I rang up a nickel and handed him the change and matches. He reached over the counter and ripped all but one receipt off the printer.

I gave him a dirty look for invading my personal space, and handed him the receipt that applied to him. “Might as well get the right one.” I gave it an extra serving of snark.

He dropped the other receipts on the floor, called me a “fat fuck” and headed for the door.

“YOU CAN PICK THOSE UP NOW!” I went around the counter, ready to assist Hobo Joe on his way out. (Teach him to fly, as Art puts it.) He went to the edge of the door, standing just outside. I toed the line just inside the door. Fuckin’ security cameras.

“Look fatty, you got some man-tittles! Want me to pinch ’em for ya?”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t ya? Sorry, these are reserved for lesbians!” I couldn’t think of anything wittier than that, and the absurdity of the moment was beginning to overtake me.

He volleyed another insult or two as he began to light a cigarette. We were standing close enough that I knew he’d blow smoke in my face, so I countered by blowing out the match.

“Sonofabitch!” He threw the match at my face.

“Don’t forget your receipt!” I pelted him with the wad of paper I’d picked up off the floor.

“Run away, ya fat bastard!”

“Get away from the store, you crab-infested cocksucker!”

Time to grow up; I turned and went back to my work station. A handful of customers were staring slack-jawed.

“Sorry you had to see that, guys and gals.”

A regular scratch-off player entered the store, “Did I miss something?”

“Just two old men in a pissing contest, Irene.”

“OH, ONE MORE THING! AM I ALLOWED TO SAY THIS?” Papa Smurf stuck his arm in and flipped me the bird one more time, for good measure.

“Freedom of speech, brother!” I looked at my customers, and we all busted out laughing. If I ever see Papa Smurf in a less aggressive mood, I will attempt to start anew.

I don’t know about him, but I got my nickel’s worth.

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