Buy One, Get One Free

The hand painted board outside says ‘Super Bazaar.’ Plastic buckets and boxes are set on the sidewalk, tumbling out of the corner store and onto the street. Inside things are just as chaotic. The soaps are stacked next to the spices, which are stacked next to the crayons. The store smells of detergent and damp grain.

There is a young boy at the counter. He is dressed in a faded maroon shirt. He wears a new moustache, but you can’t really call it that. Not yet at least. His long, bony fingers drum an impatient tune on the wooden counter. The white pearl on his little finger – no doubt a birthstone prescribed by the family astrologer, seems incredibly heavy in comparison. His left thumb nail is long, it curves like a bird’s talon, and is painted pink. She finds the nail unnerving, but likes the colour. She wonders what brand it is.

The boy looks bored. His eyes are cold and black, and his mouth is fixed in a sneer. He intimidates her, much like the kids who huddle by the corner of her building. She avoids eye contact even though his eyes follow her. He doesn’t offer any help.

She keeps her back to him, and focuses on the shelves, her fingers trailing over the many smudges on the glass that covers them. Soaps, shampoos, lotions, creams, her eyes take them all in. She knows exactly which brand is running an offer, which one gets her an additional unit free, and how much extra product she’ll get for her notes. She picks only those out and places them on the counter next to the boy. Her movements are measured, much like the way she uses her oils and shampoos, not wasting a single drop.

The boy with the pink talon surveys the counter with a smirk. His expression says what he doesn’t. Despite his shabby appearance, she knows he doesn’t have to bother studying the season’s offers. She avoids his eye as he tags and bags her rations.

It comes to a bag full; the boxes and bottles bulge out at grotesque angles. She waits for the boy to write out her bill in pen. It bothers her when he scrawls the total carelessly. It bothers her how little this number affects him – a number she has been obsessing over, silently adding and multiplying, subtracting and eliminating.

It bothers her that he doesn’t appreciate how much value she has managed to extract from that number he has underlined. As she grabs the shopping bag with both hands, she clutches her purse to her side, squeezing it in between her rib cage and upper arm, protecting the remaining cluster of notes that’ll see her through for a better part of the month.


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