Orchids For Beth

Two ten dollar bills, their ends curled up as if they had been stuffed in someone's pocket, lay on the floor in the middle of the bread aisle. Beth looked around. No one in sight. She scooped up the money and pushed it into her coat pocket. Now she could afford to buy that red and yellow striped moth orchid she'd been drooling over in the floral department.

But that wasn't right. It was senior's day at the grocery store and this was likely some pensioner's grocery money--maybe all they had. She must give it back. But how? She walked along the end of the store peering down aisles but no one seemed agitated. Of course they wouldn't realize their money was missing until they went to pay. She'd go and watch at the checkout. At the front of the store she found she could not see customers at all the checkouts at the same time because of the display racks. How could she return the money to the right person?

Once, many years ago when two dollar bills were still legal--and worth something--she'd found one on the floor in the theater lobby, She'd turned it in to the ticket booth and the next week when she asked if it had been claimed, the ticket seller had denied any knowledge of it. It had been claimed all right--but probably not by the owner. She had as much right to the money as any store employee--more actually. She'd just go and buy that orchid. But then she thought of how she would manage if she lost her grocery money, and shivered. She must give it back.

Then she had an idea fuelled by her favorite Columbo episode. She stood beside the Easter candy display and fingered the bills in her pocket while she worked out the details. Her plan finalized, she stepped up to the service counter.

"I just found some money on the floor. I'd like to return it to the owner."

The clerk held out her hand. "We can keep it here for anyone who enquires."

Oh no. She wasn't falling for that one again--

"How much did you find?"

--or letting on how much she'd found.

"I wondered if you could announce it? The person is likely still in the store."

Looking a little disgruntled, the clerk snatched up the mic and her voice boomed through the store. "Some money has been found. Please apply at the service desk if you are the loser."

To Beth's astonishment a number of shoppers converged on the desk. As she watched them gather she noticed some were standing back, obviously just curious, but three stepped aggressively up to the counter and accosted the clerk.

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Orchids For Beth

author
Ruth Zavitz is the author of two historical novels: Flight to the Frontier and Niagara Odyssey and is currently working on the third of the trilogy. She was also a finalist in the John Kenneth Galbraith Short Story Contest in 2008, 2009, and 2013.