civic duty by phoenix.writing

16 Jan

It was a reasonably busy Saturday afternoon, the bell on the door dinging every few minutes as someone came in or out, most of them greeting Janet and exchanging pleasantries as they headed further into the shop on a quest for something new to read—or at least a way to pass a few minutes out of the drizzle that had yet to let up all day.

There was nothing about the day to suggest that it was going to be at all out of the ordinary—right up to the moment that Janet caught a glimpse of a very guilty-looking Tom stuffing a book under his jacket near the back of the shop.  He was partially obscured by shelves, but there was really no doubt about what he had done.

She’d always been a good deal more tolerant than many in her generation when it came to the youth of today.  While others complained about the degeneration of morals, lack of respect, and the destruction of the English language, Janet usually found that people got what they expected.  When treated with respect, there was a pretty good chance that someone would respond with respect.

This was not universally true, of course, so while Janet always wrote off a portion of her stock to theft, it was generally a small portion, and she tended to think of it as charity work.  There were those who could barely afford to feed themselves, never mind keep entertained, and Janet would just as soon that someone took up with a book than went out drinking or joyriding or fighting.

Tom, however, could afford a book.  The slight, dark-haired boy—young man, now, she supposed—was a favourite of hers.  He was quiet and studious and had spent whole afternoons with her when he had a spare, helping out if it got busy just because he could.

He’d refused to be paid, though she had occasionally managed to talk him into taking merchandise, seeing where his eyes strayed and then pressing the book on him as he was leaving, not taking no for an answer.

That was what made this so shocking.  Had he asked, she would have given the book to him, a fact which she had assumed him well aware of.

He waited until she was busy with a customer before sidling past the counter, offering her a faint wave as he hurried out.

Janet had to wait nearly half an hour before it let up enough that she could head back to the section that Tom had been browsing.  Her lips tipped up at what she found.

There, on the floor, was a twenty dollar bill, folded so that it looked as though it could simply have fallen out of someone’s pocket.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford the book, it was that he’d been too embarrassed to buy the book from her.

Apparently, it was time to order a couple more copies of The Survival Guide for Queer & Questioning Teens.


One Response to “civic duty by phoenix.writing”


  1. prompt: peter on vacation « the character project - January 17, 2011

    […] out last week’s stories about Janet: Protocol by pyritefortune Civic Duty by phoenix.writing Small Town Chill by jmforceton Mrs. Johnson by pjrob Gorillas in the Sunlight by snedapants Joy by […]

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