He stands behind the formica counter sliding grimy quarters
into his palms like desperate wishes into the belly of a well.
The cashier waits for him to finish counting, only his wrist trembles
and every time she reaches to steady him, he quietly growls.
The store is closing because people are weary of raking their fingers
through second-hand scarves knotted for cold or kink; their own belongings
call to them because these are other peoples’ secrets stashed away
in the land of never used or used too much or used enough to surrender
to the sterile shelves decorated with a thousand epic poems culled from
trash bags and sweating plastic bins and lonely garages.
This customer has settled on a tie that reminds him of his father, one with
orange frayed pineapples, so instead of feeding the meter outside since
he’s left his wallet at home, he’d rather give his change to the cashier.
He worries that if he leaves and comes back the tie will vanish, like his father’s mind did.
He scrapes his pockets to give her half a dozen quarters and three dimes
and fuck the meter maid’s ticket and who cares if the lights have been switched off.
All that matters is the girl behind the counter with the burgundy hair and lit cigarette
hiding beneath the counter nodding that half a dozen quarters are enough tonight.
Sarah Clayville’s fiction and poetry have been featured in The Threepenny Review, StoryChord, Literary Orphans, and a number of other journals. A teacher, author and editor for Mothers Always Write, she is currently at work on a young adult novel. Visit Sarah at SarahSaysWrite.com or follow her @SarahSaysWrite.