Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Borrowing without Permission - Chapter 1

As promised, here is the first chapter from the novel I'm writing. It hasn't been edited yet, so please forgive any blaring mistakes. Hope you enjoy!

New York, New York
The convenience store was a little shack of a building that stood on the corner of the empty street.  It had no doubt been a beauty in its youth, but time and weather had aged the building, and newer stores opening just around the corner had left it forgotten. The windows were plastered with public service posters and marker drawn graffiti. I pushed open the splintered door, walked into the convenience store and found exactly what I had expected: an empty store, a single cashier and dirty grey and black tiling.
The startled cashier looked up from her magazine and watched as I walked down the aisles of merchandise. I could feel her gaze boring into the back of my neck and I knew that working in a store like this, she probably had little experience with customers. Perfect.
I was looking for something in particular, but there wasn’t much to choose from. Other than a few aisles of junk food and a rack of magazines and newspapers, the only things sold were items for personnel hygiene. I glanced at the counter, where the cashier was still sneaking peeks my way. A little box of pens sat next to the cash register, with a sign posted on the front that read $1.00 each. I gradually made my way to the counter, pretending to be still contemplating the articles around me.
When I reached the cashier, she tried to act like a confident little employee, like she’d done this a million times, when I knew for a fact she hadn’t.  She was shifting her weight side to side, I sign of restlessness and she repeatedly tucked an invisible strand of hair behind her ear. And while her blinking rate was completely off, all it took was one good look in her eyes, and I knew for a fact she was bursting with excitement over my presence.  
I smiled at her. She smiled back. This was going to be too easy. Where was the fun in that?
“Can I help you with something?” she asked. Oh, she sure could.
I grabbed a black ballpoint pen from the box and set it on the counter. “Yes, I’d like to buy this,” I answered politely, pretending to examine the pen, like I was still ensure of whether or not I should go with the blue one instead.
“Will that be all for you today ma’am?”
“Yes, please.”
“Then you’re total comes to $1.00,” she said, dutifully speaking the rehearsed line.
I smiled again, then handed her a ten dollar bill. The cash register dinged open, but when she handed me my change in bills I exclaimed, “Oh no, you shouldn’t worry yourself with the change, I really don’t need it.” I waited for her to insist I take the money, and then on script, reluctantly let her place it in my hand.
As I leafed through my wallet, I painted on a worried expression and said, “I’m sorry to make this harder than it has to be, but do you think I could exchange that ten dollar bill I just gave you, for ten one dollar bills?”
“Oh, it’s no problem,” she replied. I handed over my pile of bills in exchange for the ten dollar bill, which I tucked safely away in my wallet. “So does this place liven up later on? Or am I your excitement for the day?”
“Yeah, you’re pretty much as exciting as it gets around here. Well, except for when the paperboy comes around with the weekly newspapers...uh...I mean...”
I giggled like a scandalized schoolgirl. The cashier gave a shaky chuckle and then began to count the bills, her cheeks reddening. She counted them twice over, and then said, “I think you may have given me nineteen dollars instead of ten.”
            “Did I? Oh, thank you very much for catching my mistake. That was so kind of you! Here, I’ll add another dollar to that nineteen, and you can give me back a twenty.” We exchanged bills and I took my pen. Before I could turn away, she exclaimed yet again.
“Wait! I’m so sorry; I almost forgot your receipt. I didn’t even ring it up.”
“Don’t worry about it; I don’t need a receipt for a one dollar pen,” I started to leave, and then stopped and smiled. “Thanks again, you did a great job. I’ll definitely be coming back here.”
Once outside, I pulled the collar of my burgundy trench coat closer and tied the belt tighter around my waist. Winter was coming and with it, crisp winds and cloudy skies. Walking back up the empty street of miscellaneous shops, towards the quaint coffee shops, soaring skyscrapers and brand name electronic stores, I plunged my hand into my coat pocket, and fished around for my wallet. As I pulled it out, I thumbed through the contents and extracted nine one dollar bills. The same nine one dollar bills the cashier had just given me without even realising it. I smiled. She was probably smiling too, back at the convenience store. We both had our reasons; she had doubtlessly just made her first sale in months, and thanks to her, I was now nine dollars richer - not bad for ten minutes work.    

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