Another day of work, and another steaming line of irate customers. My hands are moving so fast during the rush that I have become one with the cash register. The greeting, the items, the money, the change, the receipt, the smile...it goes on and on. No matter how fast I move my arms, no matter how independently controlled each finger is, no matter how quick my mind, all I can do is fight to survive.
And then, a sigh of relief and the world opens up as I awake into such a stillness that my entire body tingles and my mind feels weightless. A moment to breathe. A moment to rethink my life.
And then, quite simply, my life changed.
Perhaps it was destiny. Perhaps I was the chosen one. But for whatever reason, Mr. Joel decided to enter my line-up out of all the tills he could have chosen. Apparently, he was coming to pay for his half-eaten ice cream bar.
At first, only my routine changed. My greeting was shoved aside by a stare that was quickly followed by a laugh. That was the first change. And though it was relatively small, it innocently signaled the beginning of the impending rock slide. And I could never have seen it coming. It was like a cute furry squirrel sitting happily on the cliff side; who would suspect it had a million tonnes of dynamite behind it?
Mr. Joel was wearing an impossible shirt that finely displayed the unnerving clash of Hawaii with tie-dye while a purple bow-tie drooped over his collar and his pants positively shone as if with the radioactive glow unleashed from an explosion of highlighter pens. The pair of specs that sat upon his nose were so small and red that squinting through them would be similar to squinting through two half-sucked jolly rangers.
Mr. Joel tossed me a lopsided smile, and I nearly fumbled it. Somehow I managed to get a grip. But what I was gripping, I didn't know. Perhaps it was a ripped bag of marbles.
"Can I help you?" I asked. What a stupid question! I'm not a phsyciatrist.
"Well, I think my ice cream bar is damaged. It's half-eaten. Is there a discount on that?"
I opened my mouth, but it was hard to reply to such a question. "No, I'm afraid you'll also have to pay for the half you already ate," I said.
Mr. Joel laughed. "Well I don't actually have any money," he said. "I thought maybe if I licked it, you wouldn't want it back. But," and he laughed again now, a few octaves higher this time, "I thought I'd eat half of it just in case you wanted to argue."
The bag of marbles dropped and spilled across the floor with a clatter. How would I ever find them all again? Maybe I wouldn't. That was the point. But metaphors aside, I asked, "Do you not actually have any money?"
"Not a cent!" he said. "So I'll just be going then."
Now, I was prepared to let him leave with the ice cream bar and not say a thing about it, but it was the DVD player under his arm that made me stop.
"Hold it," I said, "You can't take the DVD player too!"
Mr. Joel tossed me a secretive grin, winked like the shutter lens of a camera, and then said happily, "But I licked it too."
And then he left.