by Patricia R. Corbett

Colleen had adjusted to her convenience store job. Although most of her past positions had been white collar, she liked being relieved of sitting in a sea of cubicles desperately wanting a window, a ray of sunshine and the feeling of freedom to move. Her customer service job was eight hours of drudgery. Angry customer service calls and drones for coworkers. She put a new life in motion when she handed in her resignation. She saw the world in a whole new light.

Colleen worked the 11am to 8 pm shift. She deep fried chicken and made sandwiches for the hungry broods that poured into the Stop and Shop. The crowds were a mixture of coarse mechanics, construction and lawn care workers. They ate their sandwiches with dirty hands and used the back of these same hands as napkins. Although they were polite with their "Yes Mams" and "No Mams", their words dripped in a southern drawl filled with an essence of superiority and white male privilege. In Colleenís mind they were all working a Ďserviceí jobs just like her and that was the great equalizer. But she was a black woman waiting on working class white men and she would never be equal in their eyes. Colleen knew from the bent union jack license plates on their Ford pickups that she should keep her conversation short. These men ate heartily and quickly so she ignored their dirty back handed compliments and incessant flirting. Three hours before her shift ended she switched from the deli department to the cash register. After cleaning the deli, she walked the store to reface merchandise and tidy up. As Jake totaled out his register, she moved absentmindedly moved merchandise around.

"Plans for tonight?"

"Nah. Gonna drink a few beers and watch some tv. You?"

Colleen laughed. "Mindless television and munchies."

Jake locked up his register for the morning manager and handed Colleen the key.

"Be safe tonight and screw the drive offs if you get any. We aint paid to be heroes."

"Right. Fuck Ďem."

Jake left the store and hopped into his Mustang. Colleen stopped for a moment to think about what Jake said. She had three drive offs in the past week. For whatever reason she felt she was being targeted. The thieves would fill their tanks and lay the nozzle on the ground so the machine would register that they were still pumping. This pissed Colleen off because they always pulled their move when the station was busy. She hadnít been sleeping well since this happened. She shook off the thoughts and reasoned that her shift was ending. Collen moved along the candy aisle. Her foot kicked something. She looked down and saw a worn brown wallet. She picked it up and looked into the security mirror. The store was still empty.

Returning to her place behind the counter, she opened the wallet. Colleen searched for some form of identification. There was money in the side pocket, but the wallet appeared to be void of anything else. There was no license, photo id or work id. There were two business cards. The first card read Knights of Columbus KKK with a local address. Colleen was mortified. The door opened and startled her. She dropped the card. Gathering herself, she picked it up and laid it behind her and waited on the customer. Colleen nervously returned to the card as soon as the customer purchased his Kodiak jack chewing tobacco. Looking at the card with amazement, she said aloud," Fucking unbelievable." She went back to the wallet to look at the second card. This card was for PIR, the Psychiatric Institute of Richmond. Colleen had seen commercials for this place. Continuing through the wallet she found a phone number. After some internal debate, she dialed the number.

"Hello. My name is Colleen and I work at the Stop and Shop."

"Yeah can I help you?" The manís voice was Lucky Strike harsh. He spat tobacco at the end of the question.

"I found someoneís wallet with this number in the store."

The manís tone changed. "Thank you. Thank you. Itís my brotherís wallet. Me and him will be down there in 15 minutes."

Colleen held the wallet in her hands and look at its contents again. She put it in the safe under the counter.

Within in 20 minutes two men in dirty sweat drenched white t-shirts walked through the Stop and Shop doors. They approached Colleen.

The big burly one of the two spoke. "Weíre here to pick up a wallet. This here is my brother and it belongs to him."

"Oh yeah. I called you. Let me get it." Colleen reached under the counter and grabbed the wallet. "Here you are."

Both men smiled. The bigger one handed the wallet to his brother. The brother opened it. "What the hell. I had $150 and there is only $50 here."

"What happened to his money?" Snapped the big guy. Colleen stammered. "I donít know. The wallet was given to me."

"Who give it to you?" barked the brother. "He had $150. He just got paid today."

"Look. I just called you to come get the wallet. I donít know anything about the money."

"Well it was there. What did the person look like that gave it to you?"

"I donít know. A white guy."

Leaning on the counter toward Colleen. "You sure he was white?" he spat.

Colleen stepped forward. "Yeah Iím sure."

The big guy called his brother over and they stormed outside. They talked while pacing back and forth. Colleen watched nervously as they returned to the store.

"Well we aint going nowhere until he gets his money back."

"Do you want me to call the police?" Colleen picked up the phone.

"We donít need the police. We can handle this on our own."

The men continued to linger. They walked around the store and stared at Colleen in the security mirror. She continued to wait on customers grateful that the store was getting busy. After about 20 minutes of threatening looks and spitting tobacco, the two men left. Colleen breathed a sigh of relief.

When Logan showed up for his shift at 7:45pm she was ready to go. She didnít mention the events of the day. While driving home Colleen realized she was super tense and needed to eat down her anxiety. She stopped at the grocery store to grab her usual munchies and a few pieces of fruit so she wouldnít feel guilty for the chocolate she was about to consume. The cashier made small talk while ringing up the items. Colleen watched intently. She noticed a large Mason jar on the counter with a note handwritten in red, black and green markers taped to it. The note read,

Donate Today to
Drums NO Guns Beats over Violence

"Your total is $31.87." Colleen smiled and pulled out a $100 bill and paid the cashier. She took the change and put it in the jar. At home she reflected upon the day, ate her spoils and slept well for the first time in weeks.

Reciprocity by Patricia R. Corbett

© Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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