The Northville Review
an online literary journal
The Check Out

M.J. Iuppa

This isn’t a Where’s George story. Not exactly. Still, it’s hard to locate a dollar, especially in the check out seven or less aisle when some kind of wiry, tobacco-stained guy jiggles and flips his wheel of keys. This is a competition to see how quickly one can process with less. She is one less. (She knows she stashed a dollar in her purse’s inside pocket, next to her scratch off winnings– her wad of bills hand-rolled tight into a blunt and held by a wide purple rubber band.) “Where is it?” she whispers, blowing her bangs out of her eyes. Everyone leans toward her and peers into her black leather purse. She knows they see. She huffs, “It’s here, just a minute.” (She can’t touch her winnings. Once you tap the principle, it’s gone. That’s what mom said, over and over. She’s not going to be a loser. She’s a winner. Luck is a big fat Take Five ticket. She always has a lucky dollar– a come on, baby, be the one.) The check out looks over her head to the clock and says, “Take your time.” “Yeah, right,” he twirls his keys, “all the time in the world.” “Hold on, I almost have it.” She takes another gulp of air and dives in again, under wrinkled receipts and gum wrappers, pens and tubes of mint flavored lip balm, pinching loose coins with her fingers and come up with just enough. She opens her hand flat– small constellation of coins. “Here. Sorry about the change.” It’s really no big deal. The check out hands her the receipt. She hears the some kind of guy ask for a carton of cigarettes. One minute later he passes her, carton under armpit, as she stands hunched over, feeding a curled bill into the lotto machine. He can’t resist saying something. “Your dollar’s up in smoke.” She snatches the ticket from the tray and holds it between her fingers. Her eyes look hard at the carton of cigarettes, then into his lizard eyes. She smiles, slipping the ticket in her side pocket. She knows she’s got the dope.

About the author

M.J.Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Her most recent chapbook is As the Crows Flies (Foothills Publishing, 2008) and second full length collection, Within Reach, (Cherry Grove Collections, 2010). She is Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Arts Minor Program at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY.