By Robert Hilferty
It was too late now, he had committed to being an asshole.
“What do you mean I don’t have enough?!”
All fire and denim jacket, Luke Walker roared at the convenience store clerk, a pasty teen whose stomach spilled from beneath his shirt.
“I’m sorry sir you’re twenty-five cents short. You’re going to have to come up with the money or put something back.”
Luke’s eyes bulged and he ground his teeth behind his bristle brush moustache.
“Listen to me—” Luke’s eyes flicked towards the nametag on the teen’s chest. “Kevin. I told you when I was over there on the Pac-Man machine that the fucking thing ate one of my quarters. If you’re a quarter short why don’t you waddle your fat ass over there and get the damn money yourself.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that sir, I’m sorry. If you want, I can give you the number to—”
Luke slammed his palms on the counter.
“Are you fucking kidding me?! It’s only a fucking quarter Kevin. I came in here for a six-pack, some smokes and some rubbers and when your machine. Your. Machine. Steals one of my hard earned quarters you’re telling me I can’t?! Is this what you’re telling me Kevin?”
Kevin shifted his weight and put his hand behind his back.
“Sir I’m going to have to ask you to calm down—”
“Oh, Kevin, this is me calm. I’m as cool as a fucking cucumber right now because I’m not leapin’ over this goddamn counter and chokin’ the life outta you. Now let me buy what I came in here to buy or let me speak to your goddamn manager.”
Kevin took a step back.
“I’m very sorry sir but I’m the only shift leader on duty tonight and I can’t let you walk out of here without paying.”
“Oh, you’ve gotta be fuckin’ kidding me.”
“No, sir, if you’d like to speak to someone above me, my manager will be in tomorrow at 5 a.m. so you can lodge a formal complaint.”
Luke looked at the digital clock behind the fat fucking greaseball named Kevin. It was 11:37 p.m.. Shit. He was supposed to be at Beckie’s already. He dug his nails into the laminate countertop.
“You’re goddamn right I’m coming back to speak to the manager. I’ll be here at 4:59 a.m. waiting for his ass, lettin’ him know what kind of people he’s got working for him.” Luke bounced the box of condoms off of Kevin’s protruding stomach. “Put the fuckin’ rubbers back and get me one of those love roses instead.”
Karma Chameleon played on the radio behind the counter as Kevin finished the transaction in silence.
“Thank you for shopping wi—”
“Fuck you, Kevin.”
Robert Hilferty is a contributing editor. Read his essay "Picking Up the Pen: Overcoming Your Fear and Becoming A Writer."