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Gas & Go is on the corner of 300th Street and Marcs Boulevard. It’s across the street from a Starbucks and a McDonalds and diagonal from the city park. And it just so happens to be my place of work.
Yes, I work the afternoon shift at a convinence store. Unfortunately, I can’t sell cigarettes or alcohol so I don’t usually get to work on behind the counter. Instead I do menial work like sweeping and wiping down the Slurper machine. Also, on the second and fourth Thursday of every month I get to restock. This particular day, my boss Maribelle was working behind the counter because the other girl that usually worked was missing. It was a pretty bad day. Someone had spilled gas all over Pump #3 so there were caution signs all around it as she poured some weird stuff on the gasoline. “Logan, can you take the counter?” She asked.
“Yeah.” Then she locked herself in her office and wrote out a sign that the whole area was out of use. Lucky for me I got to sell stuff. Now I’m sure this sounds pretty lame. Candy bars and chips. I was only at the counter for ten minutes, and I only served one person.
He walked up, holding a giant Big Gulpie (as not to be sued for copyright infringment from 7Eleven). It was a dark soda, with every little plastic-y button pushed in. “One Big Gulpie,” he said.
I searched for the button on the cash register. When I located it three minutes later, and pressed it he did seem any less cheery than he had been before. “Three-seveteen, please.” He reached into his front pocket and found a crinkled five-dollar bill and put it on the counter. I gave him his change.
“Thank you.” And he gave me a sweet smile. Lopsided, but sweet.
This just would’ve been a random boy, although I must admit I did think about him when I got home that night, but he came back the next day, Tuesday, as I was putting plastic lids and straws into the soda fountain area. As I was shoving the straws into the slot, fitting as many as I could in one, I heard the hiss of the soda coming out of machine. Multiple times, from different soda dispensers on the machine. I looked over and it was the same kid from yesterday. Putting fruit punch, Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, lemonade, Brisk Iced Tea, and every other kind of beverage into the Big Gulpie cup.
The next day, he returned and did the same thing. For weeks, he would come in make the same concoction of drinks, buy it, and leave. And every time he would look for me even if I was in the back of the store. I liked this.
I was wiping down the Slurper machine and he came up to the soda machine and did the usual routine. This time, as I looked back at him, our eyes met. Magical, right? Not really, because he stumbled and spilled the soda all over the floor. “Oh sorry! I didn't mean to! I’m so sorry! Can I mop it up?” he asked.
I sighed and dropped what I had in my hand and walked into the back to find the smelly mop. When I came back into the main store area, I found him on his knees wiping the ice into a pile using his arms. “I’ve got it.” He stood up, ice in his hands, and put it into the little grates under the soda dispensers. Then he ducked out of the store, embarassed.
But he came back the next day, between three and three-thirty, and did the same exact thing. He looked for me again. I was putting Twinkies on a wire cart in the back of the store. Hidden, I watched him walk in, get his Gulpie, pay, and walk out.
That Friday, he came in when I was working the cash register. He made he soda, put it on the counter and waited as I pressed the button and told him the same exact amount of money he paid every day. “Three-seventeen, please.”
He dug in his pockets for a crinkled five dollar bill.
“May I ask you a question?” I said suddenly. I was kind of surprised at myself for blurting that out.
“Of course…” he said. He squinted at my nametag. “Logan.”
“Is that all you’re going to buy?”
“You could get a candy.”
“I know, but I don’t know what to get. Do you recommend anything?”
My eyes drifted across the candies displayed just beneath the counter. “Well, the sour squeeze candy is good.”
He grabbed two, and set it on the counter. “Five dollars and one cent.”
“I don’t have a cent.”
“Then put back a candy,” I said.
“But I want you to have one,” he replied.
“Well, I could loan you a penny.”
I took a penny out of my pocket and set it his palm.
The next day, as I walked into the store, I found him sitting on the counter with a bag full of pennies. He gave me the lopsided smile. I felt something similar crawl across my face as he got up off the counter and handed me the bag. “Here’s one hundred pennies.”
“I loaned you one.”
“Interest.” He dropped from the counter and onto the floor. He made his way for the door.
“Hey, kid,” I yelled after him as he left.
“Ethan,” he corrected.
“Are you going to get a soda?”
“Don’t worry, Logan. I’ll be back.”