Two Item Limit

He just had a pack of cigarettes, and a pack of gum, and a hangover. The lights made his head pound, and the gridlocked checkout aisles stretched parallel like telephone poles to the horizon.

Two Item Limit, said the one next to him. No line.

He watched the Winstons and Wrigleys Doublemint shift down the conveyor belt, inch by inch, past -- wait, there didn't seem to be anything on the shelves -- and then his gaze met the cashier's bangs, which were black, and then her glasses, which were also black. "Hey," she said.

"Just this. Thanks." He fished out his credit card and put his hands back in his pockets. The elevator music did an appropriate little flourish.

"We don't take American Express." His back was to her now, and he turned around.

"That's a Visa."

"Yeah. We don't take American Express either." She pointed to a sign on the counter: We Accept: Bank of Whales, Enema Gold, Sgt. Bob's Family Credit-O-Rama, Diner's Club.


"You know, by England." She was behind the regester again, typing and chewing gum.

"Uh, yeah." He shifted uncertainly and thumbed through his wallet for a ten.

She grabbed the bill, bagged the items in one fluid movement -- "six twenty eight" -- then handed back his change, and he started the long walk out; the door was maybe fifty feet, and the parking lot beyond invisible behind paperboard but sunny -- or, no, wasn't it night now? -- and something made him turn.

"Why a two item limit, anyway?"

"Hey, don't ask me, I don't work here." Helpless smile.

The chords were unhooked by now; she took the cash register under her arm and followed him out the door.