Cash & Carry

Shannon reached across the sprawl of groceries on the conveyor belt and picked up the checkout divider. She hated shopping. She began absentmindedly unloading the items from her cart as she silently judged the purchases of the person ahead of her in line. The conveyor stopped, momentarily catching her attention. Great. Price check. Why did she pick this line? She shoved the rest of her groceries into the space available, balancing the paper towels on top of it all.

The cashier (HELLO! My Name Is:  DEBBIE) handed back the receipt and coupons to the customer ahead just as the bagger dropped a sack of oranges, splitting the mesh. Oranges rolled everywhere. Shannon watched as cashier, customer, and bagger scrambled to collect them, everyone apologizing to everyone. The comedy show was mercifully short. Debbie turned back to her register, quickly replacing her fake smile before greeting Shannon. Meanwhile, the prior customer headed toward the produce section with the bagger to select some new oranges.

Shannon stepped forward, placing her purse on the little shelf next to the keypad. It was a fashionably over-sized purse and it barely covered up the receipt and coupons left behind. And the cash. She couldn’t count it right now, not without drawing attention to herself, but she could see there were at least three bills. That’s sixty dollars, a nice reward for putting up with the checkout drama. Her day was looking brighter. It wasn’t technically hers, of course. She should probably just hand it back to the cashier. Who knew what Debbie would do with it, though. She might just keep it herself to cover up her mistake. Nope. This was a case of finders keepers.

Debbie had an endless supply of inane observations to make about the weather, traffic, Shannon’s choice of yogurt, and everything else. Shannon wasn’t interested in conversation. She was thinking about how to get the cash from under her purse to inside it without being obvious. All she needed was a moment when Debbie was turned away, then she could slide it out and tuck it inside. So far that hadn’t happened. Debbie just kept babbling as she scanned and bagged. The original bagger had apparently gotten lost in the produce section, never to return.

Only a few items remained on the conveyor belt and Shannon felt a little anxious. Her eyes nervously darted from the conveyor belt to the candy rack, then over to the service desk, and the front door. The open front door. It was open because the previous customer had just passed through it and she was striding briskly back to this register. Shannon was out of time. She would need to make her move or lose out.

Fortunately for Shannon, Debbie turned to follow her gaze toward the agitated woman approaching. Finally, she was facing the other direction! With one hand resting innocently on top of her purse, the other slid beneath and extracted the bills and paperwork. She would sort through it later. For now, she swiftly slid it up the side of her purse toward the opening, the money shielded on one side by her large purse and on the other side by her body.

She wasn’t quite swift enough, though. The previous customer had arrived and everyone was facing Shannon again. The customer complained that she didn’t get her cash back, Debbie assured her that she had given it to her, and neither had a receipt to prove that it even existed. What a cluster. Shannon realized that this was going to work out for her after all.

Suddenly a clear, young voice silenced the argument. It came from Shannon’s right, just behind the handle of her shopping cart. Sweet, innocent, and helpful, Shannon’s daughter pointed straight at the prize as she gleefully announced, “Mommy found your money!”

Author’s Note:

This was written for a contest with the following prompt:

“The battle between good and evil is endlessly fascinating because we are participants every day.” – Stephen King

I decided on my approach shortly after reading the prompt, but did not start writing it until late in the day. Then I was invited out to dinner and I chose that over submitting the story. The next morning I finished the story anyway because it was fun. Then I double checked the contest rules, did the time zone conversion, and realized I still had an hour left to submit it!

A few hours later I collected my first writing contest win!