Henry Spends His Hard-Earned Cantaloupes

Writing Prompt: All Currency in the World is abolished. What are the Consequences?//

14bf046fa24d9315155d5a3664cd14ac30588Henry stood at the counter and fumbled around in his jean pockets. He’d recently replaced them with large, sewn-in zip-lock bags, in order to better hold the three cantaloupes, two soda tabs, and fourteen grapes he needed for his groceries. He grabbed two of the cantaloupes and placed them on the metallic counter. One of them rolled slightly toward the conveyor belt. The cashier stopped it and softly pushed it back toward the other. Henry reached back into his pocket and blindly counted out six grapes and both soda tabs. He then placed them next to the cantaloupes.

Henry looked up at the cashier. She was fat, kind of like the fat you’d expect to see on a TLC documentary about children’s pageants, but not quite fat enough to absolutely need a Rascal scooter. She was seated, which Henry figured was probably for the best. Her hair was a slightly darker black than her skin, clearly straightened and held flat with way too much oil and wax. The green apron—which all the store’s employees wore—rested awkwardly on her distended belly, covering far less of her body than it should. He wondered whether the apron served much purpose if it covered less than half of her torso, but, he guessed, it still made sense if she spilled something on her chest.

“You don’t have enough,” said the cashier. Her voice was deep, much deeper than he expected it to be. He stared at her neck and looked for an Adams apple, but none was to be found.

“What am I short?” he asked.

“A boot,” she said.

“A boot? Where am I going to get a boot?”

“Probably from someone’s feet.” Henry placed his hand on his hip and stared at the woman, she appeared disinterested in him and likely everything else in the world.

“This is ridiculous. I bought less food last week and it cost me only four grapes and one bottle cap. Now the prices are through the roof. I barely get paid six soda tabs a day. How are you regulating your damn prices?”

The cashier shrugged her shoulders, the skin on her third chin touching her cheek and first chin at the same time. Henry reached into his pocket and pulled out the remaining eight grapes, then rolled them onto the counter.

“Will you take this? I don’t have any boots. I just want to buy my Hotpockets.” Henry didn’t even like Hotpockets, but there really wasn’t many other choices in terms of foods for him to have. Since the World Political Summit of 2017 had moved to completely remove all currency—including gold—from having any monetary value (and the people of the world strangely agreed in unison), various products had gained makeshift value.

In New York, where Henry had been living for the past few years, an array of foods, clothing items, and soda tabs had become the new dollar. Their value, however, fluctuated almost constantly. For example, the pizzeria he’d been going to for years had gone from $1.50 a slice, to $32 Popcorn kernels, to $1 Watermelon and $2 socks, to the now ludicrous $1 packet of shredded cheddar, $1 jar of tomato sauce, and $1 pound of pizza dough. Food, as a result, had become very sparse for eating purposes. Plus, the desire to enjoy a handful of grapes that had been carried in purses, pockets, and various change drawers had very little allure anymore. Hotpockets, which held almost no value world-wide, became the staple of New York diets. While the Hotpocket CEOs enjoyed lavish lifestyles abroad their $400 pumpkin yachts and $720 Converse All Star shoe helicopters, the rest of the world was forced to imbibe on their horrid product, working for mere bottle caps, tomatoes, and plastic wrist-watches a day.

“I don’t know,” said the cashier. She glanced over at a manager, who was sitting at a table counting out various fruits for the day’s profit. “Hey, Marko, can we accept 14 grapes, two bottle caps, and two cantaloupes for some Hotpockets?”

“What flavor?” yelled the man, not looking up from his counting. His voice was squeaky and awkward, like that of an old Blues singer who had no idea that blues was not supposed to sound like teen pop.

“Ham and cheese,” yelled the cashier. Her skin jiggled under her jaw as she shouted.

“Yeah, I don’t like that kind,” said the manager, still staring at his collection of food money.

“Yeah, we’ll accept this,” said the cashier. He chin jiggled far less when she wasn’t yelling.

“Great,” Henry said. “Can I have a receipt?”

“No,” said the cashier. She stared at him without saying another word.

“Why not?” Henry asked, averting her gaze as if he had done something wrong.

“Because our register still doesn’t have keys for grapes and bottle caps and cantaloupes. Just the old dollar. Like last week.”

“Oh,” said Henry. He would now have to try to remember what he had paid this week, again, while trying to balance his finances. It was always such a hassle. “Well, okay.” Henry grabbed his Hotpockets. The box was cold against his hand, still icy despite having been out of the freezer for at least fifteen minutes. He opened his zip-lock pocket and slid the box in, just atop the remaining cantaloupe. He was careful not to crush the box, which would be his dinner for the few nights.

Henry smiled at the cashier and thanked her. She nodded without looking, eyes focused intently on her nails. They had been painted an eclectic array of colors, none of which particularly good looking. Henry turned and walked toward the door, mentally deciding upon where to spend his remaining cantaloupe. Perhaps he’d go to the casinos and try to win big at the slots. Today’s jackpot, he had heard, was over $800 computer mice and $550 Coke cans. He smiled, imagining the lavish lifestyle he could live with such riches.

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