Everything $20 by Corey Mesler
Jim, the writer, was jogging in an unfamiliar part of town when he had an inspiration. He’d brought no paper with him but his fanny pack held a pen. He eyed the businesses nearby and saw a sign over what looked like a sundry store, Everything $20.
He jogged in.
“Paper?” he asked the slim, disinterested young fellow behind the narrow counter.
The fellow gestured toward some pads and post-it notes. Jim grabbed a small package of the latter, stripped it of its cellophane and made a frantic scribble on the top note.
“Ok,” Jim said, as if the clerk would share his enthusiasm. “How much?”
“$20,” the clerk said.
“Ha,” Jim answered. “Seriously, how much?”
“No, look, I’ve got, what here…$3. Surely it’s not more than $3.”
“$20,” the clerk reiterated.
“I’m not paying $20 for a pack of post-it notes.”
“You will or I’ll call the cops,” came the surly answer.
“Right, you’ll call the cops over post-it notes. That I’d like to see.”
Sam and Janet had just gotten married. It was early in the morning after the first night in their honeymoon city and its tony hotel. They were strolling, hand-in-hand.
“I need a newspaper,” Sam said.
“Here.” Janet pointed toward a store.
There was a stack of newspapers on the counter. Sam picked one up.
“Look at the headline,” Janet said. “It’s about that missing writer.”
“I see,” Sam said. “How much?” he asked the clerk.
“$20,” came back the reply.
Oh, come on,” Sam said with some heat.
COREY MESLER has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and New Stories from the South. He has published over 20 books of fiction and poetry. His newest novel, The Diminishment of Charlie Cain, is from Livingston Press. He also wrote the screenplay for We Go On, which won The Memphis Film Prize in 2017. With his wife he runs Burke’s Book Store (est. 1875) in Memphis.
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