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Petty Change

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I was already fidgety, and my eyes wandered before focusing on the girl paying at the front of the line. I hadn’t moved up the trail of people civilly waiting for their turn in order of arrival for at least a good three minutes, and my muscles demanded to exercise kinetic energy. My brain did as well, frustrated by the lack of progress. So my vision was sent to scout ahead for the source of the blockade, and my eyes narrowed when the image came to me.

The girl standing at the front of the line had spread out an impressive amount of circular objects on the counter. The cashier regarded her with an air of exasperation, but professionally restrained herself from sighing. Her body language made her thoughts clear though. What the hell was she trying to do, paying in dimes and nickels?

I was staring, and noticed her elbow brush off one of the smaller silver coins. A faint noise reached my ears as it hit the hard tiles we were standing on. My gaze moved down to the floor, where it lay, new and shiny. The girl was apparently preoccupied with mental calculations, and seemingly ignorant of the coin she had unknowingly rejected.

The cashier took the coins, one by one, and annoyance leaked into her voice when she said, “You’re short ten cents.”

The missing dime was at her feet, a mere step away, but not within her sights.

“No way! I was sure I had the exact amount!” she protested, unbelieving and gesturing wildly with her arms.

“I’m sure you didn’t,” the cashier snapped. End of discussion.

The girl dug frantically in her bag for her wallet.

I still eyed the coin, wondering why she hadn’t noticed it yet.

She produced another dime to replace the one she had lost, and the line finally moved. I went with it, surrounded by exclamations of “Finally!” and mutters of “took long enough.”

She walked right past me, and I heard her say to herself, “I was so sure I had enough.”

I don’t know what had kept me from bearing witness to her claim. Maybe I just hadn’t known how to say it. Or maybe it was because some bitter part of myself had decided that she deserved it for holding up the line and inconveniencing all of us with her petty change.

And why hadn’t anyone else said anything? The girl and the cashier had both been concentrated on counting, true, but the dime had made a noise falling.

In any case, it was too late to speak.

I continued watching the rejected coin, so obvious against the yellow-tinted floor. Then a foot stepped over it purposefully and covered it from my view, claiming it. I blinked in surprise, but not long enough to miss him coming up with some clever excuse to bend down and pick up the dime.

I knew I couldn’t have been the only one to notice it.



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