Jasper Townes’ face was red and his mind brimming as he took halting steps to the cash register. The beer delivery was late, the fuel truck was late due to a bad wreck on the expressway, a health inspector was arriving later. Jasper was a new store manager at the local Bloode Oil Co. gas and food mart. He had been supervisor at fast food restaurants, and then department supervisor at a national lumber and hardware store until he was fired for leaving his shift to attend a parent teacher conference. Jasper was late this morning to the store to relieve Martha who had a dental appointment which she was forced to cancel. (Martha will receive a bill from the dentist for not having canceled with 48 hours notice.)
Jasper was running late after a disciplinary talk with his daughter for not doing her school homework. The drive to work was seven miles and there were blocks of farm fields that stretched along both sides of the road. So Jasper sped along at 70MPH until a state policeman stopped him and gave him a ticket, scolding him to be more careful for his own consideration. You could never know when a deer might jump across the road. Jasper drove an old Ford 250 Pickup and told the officer he wouldn’t be the worse for wear if it happened. The officer responded that the deer did unpredictable things when it was hit. It could go through the windshield. Before he got to the store his wife phoned him. His daughter would not go to school. Jasper told his daughter to give her phone to her mother and she could have it back after school, and if she didn’t go to school he would take it for a week. It was Friday, and it would be inhuman to take his daughter’s phone from her on the weekend. That would be an offense for which he might never recover.
A few miles from the store a ragged looking man in his fifties gets into his car bitching about the can that had to be in his left pocket so that he couldn’t reach the keys, bitching at the keys for fumbling in his fingers, bitching because somehow the rearview mirror was now crooked. He starts the car and realizes he needs to get gas. “Oh. Lord! Is anything gonna go right for me today? I need a cigarette. I gotta stop for them anyway.” Smokes settled him down. Harold was an agitated man, one of those people riddled with anxiety not in any way caused by his actions or indulgences, but driven by an anxious impulse that was always ticking.
Harold went into the store to buy cigarettes and a few other things and Jasper didn’t look him directly in the eye or say hello as he stood behind the counter. Harold saw the inward look of frustration on Jasper’s face as he glanced at him. It was a bit disconcerting because Jasper was a big man. He wasn’t tall but had a big neck, thick torso and big thighs. Harold had seventeen dollars change coming back and when Jasper looked into the drawer he saw he had no tens. “Dammit, always running out of tens” he swore and shook his head, looking down at the cash register. Harold realized there was more to it than the tens. “That’s alright” he said summoning all the quivering calmness his body could muster. “Fives or even ones is ok. It’s all good.” Jasper’s body relaxed and there was a slight brightening of the eyes as his hands dropped into the cash register and he counted out three fives and two ones then gave them to Harold and said “thanks, man.”