Cover photo for this issue by Liam Hogan.
My thanks to fiction editor F. John Sharp for contributing The Note for this month. Enjoy.
Up at the corner minimart there's a cashier named Tobias. He's regular height but goes about 275, with thin brown hair he keeps in a ponytail. The thing that irritates me about Tobias is that he won't extend his arms. The counter is wide and when he takes your money he only reaches about a quarter of the way, like he has gator arms, and you have to lean to give him the money. So I always say screw it and I only reach a quarter of the way, and if he wants the money, he has to stretch. But when he gives the change, he makes me reach, I guess because he knows if I want my change I'll make the effort. So then I start setting my items on the edge of the counter right in front of me, making him reach all the way across to scan them. We never speak of this, and he never shoots me a look, but I know the game is on.
So today I'm buying a soda in a cup and there are no lids. I ask him for a lid and, painfully slowly, he comes out from behind the counter to get new lids. Aha! Got him. Then he shows me the lids on the other counter that I failed to notice. Point, Tobias.
When I go to pay, I'm whipped, handing the money most of the way across. and I'm trying to think of how I might win back a point when he hands me the change most of the way across. I almost don't take it because it's just wrong. It's not how the game goes. But then I look at him and he's just holding the money and glancing at the self-serve gas pumps, waiting for me to take the change so he can conclude this transaction and do whatever it is cashiers do between customers. And I realize, he's not even playing, and he probably never was.