Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Balloon

It was Christmas Eve. The store was mildly busy, winding down from a hectic two weeks. A man approached my till.

Do you have cellophane? he asked, voice terse with seemingly desperate need. My mind slipped sideways and not a little in reverse. It crashed back in the 60s and out popped Saran Wrap.

No, I said, we don’t sell food wrap.

No! he all but shouted, cellophane ... for wrapping stuff.

My mind went around another corner. Oh, you mean shrink wrap, yes, yes, of course, its ....

His eyes bugged out, my obstinate stupidity threatening to unhinge him. Never mind, he snarled while stabbing his debit card into the machine. It was then I got it: he wanted the clear crispy wrap for gift baskets. Go to Michaels,I said, they sell it there.

But the words were lost. The interact machine had taken the limelight—it was too slow. His fists clenched, his forearms strained; the machine teased. Life could not have been worse at that moment.

I glanced over his bent head at the woman behind. We exchanged smiles. Nice balloons, she said, looking at the green and red globes above my till.

I nodded in perfect understanding.

Bringing my attention back to the man I asked: would you like a balloon?

His shoulders relaxed and his face softened; he smiled and almost laughed. Yes, he said, I would. And with balloon in hand went out the door into the night. 

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