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Tiff Holland


A new McDonald’s had sprouted up in less than a week. Stick-in-the-ground banners announced “Now Open!” and I wondered how that could be?  The building had been there for months, but nothing inside, no booths, no kitchen and then “poof” it was open. I put on my blinker and turned into the CVS across the street. Tired of waiting in line at Walgreen’s I had been methodically transferring my prescriptions to CVS. In response, Walgreen’s sent me a coupon which promised twenty-five dollars the next time I transferred a prescription there. Sometimes, I played this game.  In the past I had sent the prescriptions back and forth in response to the coupons, racking up hundreds of dollars towards unspecified “merchandise.”

Now, I sat in the car with the engine running, wondering if I should bother picking up the prescriptions. I considered leaving the money I would spend on them at home on my dresser along with the rest of the cash in my wallet and with a list of instructions and ATM pin numbers. Then,  I remembered we were out of peanut butter. The kid would need it for her lunch the next day. I turned off the ignition and went in.

I didn’t want anyone to see me, so I left my sunglasses on. At the front of the store two clerks were filling carts with leftover Halloween items: candy, decorations, remnants of costumes. I went to the ATM machine in the corner, emptied my account. The peanut butter was on sale: three jars for five dollars, but there were only four jars and the plastic was buckled on the sides of three, so I decided on just the one. Then  I headed to the aisle which could only be described as sundries—no rhyme or reason to it. Aisle fifteen: light bulbs, lint rollers, scraper blades, little pine tree cut-outs  people hang from the rear view mirrors in their cars. Although it was twenty cents more, I went for the familiar, the green box of safety blades like the one my dad used to keep in the medicine cabinet in the downstairs bathroom. On a whim, I grabbed one of the pine trees, even though I hate the way they smell.

I asked the clerk at the counter if they still accepted Walgreen’s coupons, and she said they did. I handed it to her, told her my name.  She grabbed three prescriptions from the bin, asked me to verify my address. Then she scanned my card and had me sign for receipt. I pried the box of safety blades from their oyster packaging and shoved it in my pocket. I figured I’d just keep it there,; that would be enough. I only needed to buy myself a day. If things got tough, I could put a hand in my pocket, feel the edges of the box, knowing what was inside. If things got worse, I could slip one of the cardboard sheaved blades out and leave it loose in my pocket. I tried not to think any further, tearing open the top of the plastic envelope for the pine-tree. I hung it over the mirror like I was anyone else, as if my pockets were empty.

Tiff Holland's poetry and prose has appeared in dozens of lit-mags, e-zines and anthologies and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her poetry chapbook Bone In a Tin Funnel is available through Pudding House Press and her story "The Boys" was named a notable story 2008 by StorySouth magazine. She teaches at Austin Community College.

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