“There’s your receipt,” Laura said in a bored, friendly way. “Thank you for shopping at MacKenna’s today.”
“You forgot my change,” the customer said.
“Yes, I gave you a $20 bill and the total is $17.22; I should get $2.78 in change.”
“Oh, right.” Laura’s chin began to quiver. “Not again,” she moaned softly. “Um… Look.” She paused and tried to keep from crying. “Look, I’m really sorry, but I can’t give it to you.”
“See, I’ve been doing this a lot lately — forgetting people’s change. And it means I have to do a No Sale to get the cash drawer to open again. That gets recorded on the computer every time I do it.”
She paused as though she had given a cogent explanation.
“So push the No Sale button and give me my change,” the customer suggested helpfully.
“Well, see,” she said, fighting back tears, “my boss, Mr. MacKenna, said that if I had just one more this week, I’d get fired.”
“I’m really sorry about your money, but I need this job. I just can’t lose it. Please. My little girl is counting on me. If I lose my job, her idiot father might get custody, and God knows what sort of drugged-up bimbos she’ll have to deal with then.”
“I mean….” She looked around to make certain their conversation was still private. Arnie was coming up from the back, but he found something to do in the greeting cards. “If it was just me, I could find another job somehow, I suppose. I wouldn’t be able to keep my apartment, but maybe I could live with a friend or something. But I’d really hate to lose my precious daughter over a dumb mistake with $2.78.”
Laura’s tear-filled eyes looked deep into the customer’s confused pair.
“Well, if that’s what it would mean, then of course the money is no big deal.” He laughed. “I mean, I probably drop that much on the ground in a day. Well, in a month. Forget about it.”
Laura sighed noisily and almost collapsed on the counter. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you so much. I won’t forget this, and I won’t let this happen to you again.”
The customer smiled at her. “Good luck with that No Sale button.” He picked up his purchase and left.
When he was safely gone, Laura pushed the No Sale button on the register. The cash drawer bounced against her navel and she plucked $2.78 from it, placing it in her pocket. She closed the drawer again as Arnie approached.
“You’re never gonna get rich with that trick, you know,” he said, grinning at her.
“It’s not about money,” she said with faux hauteur. “Ars gratia artis, like the lion says.”
“ ‘Art for art’s sake,’ ” she translated, then did a pretty fair impression of the MGM lion, which made Arnie laugh. “Of course,” she continued, “when the art is particularly good, it deserves to be rewarded, even in a small way.”