My cohorts of left behind to tend to the convenience store on my own. The guy that usually runs the store said that he was locking the doors behind him, pulling the roll-cage and all that… So I go about my business inside, taking notes, reading, etc. I ignore the clamoring outside because he had locked up; he had post the sign that reads “back in 15 minutes”. Right? Apparently not because as I get up from the table to use the restroom, I see a young child (maybe 2 or 3 years old) pulling a bag of hay off the lower shelf. I turn toward the door and there is his mother (caretaker?) and several other similarly young children. The mother is dressed in some dress or sari that suggests far-flung origins. She startles me just as I appear to startle her. She has several other bags of the hay up on the counter and she is miming to me that she is ready to pay. I try to explain that I do not know how to run the cash register (nor do I know how much the bags of hay even cost) but she will have none of it. She mimes to me that she understands (points her finger to her head) and that she is ready to pay (rubbing her thumb against two fingers); she gets out her check book and writes one out. I say to myself that this ought to be fine — even if I don’t know how to work the cash register then at least my friend (the shop keeper) will have gotten his piece for the goods.
But I hear a little voice in my head start to explain what to do. Push these buttons, scan the bags this way… So I got through the motions like the voice says. And the cash register throws up a total that’s nearly three times what the woman has written out the check for. She is furious and gestures to the orange starburst sticker with the “99¢” printed on it. Sale items? I should have known… I try explaining that I’ll honor her check — at this point, it seems like the only “good customer service” thing to do and anyway, the voice in my head is explaining that the hay is really just grass clippings that my friend has swept or otherwise raked up off the ground in the surrounding exurbs.
After the woman and her children leave, I turn around to see a short little mutant of a man. He is about three feet tall, has a face (from the nose down) a bit like Robert DeNiro but his scalp has been replaced by short tufts of hair that stick out of a haphazard cluster of at least a dozen eyestalks. This little mutant, that is where the voice in my head was coming from. He climbs up on the shelves of chips and candy bars and tries to get my attention, tries to get me to change my mind about calling my friend in my blind panic.