Sticks and Stones Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEGThe door chimed. A heavyset bald man in shabby clothes was at the counter scratching off lottery tickets as if his mortgage depended on it.

Dot looked up at Mason and eyed him with routine suspicion. He was used to it. In one of her gossipy rants at the mailbox, Fran Vickers of the neighborhood watch had let it slip that Dot’s husband, a bigwig at the power plant, left her for his younger secretary after thirty-five years of marriage. “Poor thing. Wouldn’t even take any alimony. Must be hard starting all over at the age of sixty. Hasn’t been to church in three months.”

Mason smiled at the uptight store clerk. “Hey Dot. How’s it going?”

Her lips twitched, Dot’s version of a smile.

The heavyset man shouldered past him, muttering under his breath as he banged through the doors. Mason watched as he sank into an old station wagon and shrieked out of the parking lot in a blaring cacophony of heavy metal.

“Sore loser?”

Dot shrugged, tidying up her counter.

He walked over to the ATM, already intimidated. It wasn’t just the confusing digital display and touchscreen keypad, even the size of the thing was imposing. Like some robot linebacker.

He rambled to Dot as he tried to make sense of the monstrosity. “So remember a couple of weeks ago? When I almost gave you a heart attack running through the door? Turns out it wasn’t a bat that was chasing me after all.”

He pulled the ATM card from his pocket and stuck it in the slot. It immediately spit it back out. He frowned. “Know what it was? You’re never going to believe this…”

Another try, another rejection.

He glanced at Dot. “It was a drone. Swear to God. I was under the impression that drones were, like, military weapons but apparently not, because an eleven-year-old boy on my street is flying one around like a chopper.”

He slapped the machine.

Dot flinched. “Oh!”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Can you help me out over here? I don’t understand this damned thing.”

There was a heaviness in her steps that Mason knew all too well. Sadness has a walk. Thirty years of living among the broken, of being broken himself, made it easy to recognize.

He handed her his card. “Might be defective. I got it from the same lawyer that gave me those counterfeit bills … kidding.”

She shook her head. The machine accepted the card and the display changed. “Type your pin here.”

“It’s 1970, the year I was—”

“Sshhh!” she hissed. “You don’t tell people your pin. Type it. Right here.”

He touched the numbers on the screen. Four asterisks appeared.

“Are you withdrawing from checking or savings?”

He reached and tapped the box marked Savings.

She nodded. “How much?”

“A hundred dollars,” he said. “I bet you think it’s weird that I can’t operate this thing. Technology isn’t my strong suit.”

She smirked as if to say ATM machines are not exactly the face of technological advancement.

Five crisp twenty dollar bills whisked into the slot. He pocketed them along with the receipt. “Thanks Dot. Next time I should be able to do it on my own.”

Her look said, It ain’t rocket science, but her mouth said, “Here’s your card.”

He lingered a moment. “Dot, there’s something … look, I don’t tell everybody this, but the reason I don’t understand drones and camera phones and ATMs is because I’ve been in prison since I was eighteen, okay? I’d appreciate it if you kept that between us, but if I ever appear a little lost, well, I wanted you to know why.”

Her eyes softened. “I already knew.”

“You did? How?”

She nodded toward the cul de sac. “Fran Vickers.”

©2018 Sticks & Stones by Malcolm Ivey
All rights reserved.