Cash Only

by C.D. Wight

Sometimes it was fun to make waves. I enjoyed being the only girl in Yokosuka-Shonan High School science club, and I took secret delight in making the boys squirm when I was right. Other times science compelled me to challenge nonsense, and I wasn’t afraid to put up a fight.

“Kan-chan! Remember to return the movie,” mother called from the kitchen.

“I don’t have time!” I yelled back, pulling my school uniform sweater on and tying my hair back. Science club met in half an hour.

Mother caught me in the foyer as I slipped on my shoes. “The multi-media store is on your way. Here, take the video,” she insisted. “And be polite to the club – do not talk them down.”

“I will tell them when they’re wrong,” I stated, seeing no reason to be easy on them.

“Wear a scarf! It’s cold,” she demanded as I shut the door.

I did not wear a scarf. The calendar showed January, but that did not mean it was cold.

The multi-media store offered no place to deposit the movie, so I took it inside, waited in line, and browsed magazines on the rack. The front covers showed pretty, popular celebrities, but that did not mean they had talent.

At my turn I placed the video on the counter, nodded a quick bow, and began to step away.

The cashier man swiped the video and waved me back. Four-hundred and twenty yen displayed on the screen. “One day late. Please pay the fee,” he asked.

I showed my public transportation charge card.

“Payment of fees is cash only,” the clerk said.

I had no cash. “Sorry, I’ll pay next time,” I promised.

The cashier pushed the video across the counter me: “A video cannot be returned if a fine is owed.”

The sign on the register showed the rule, but that did not mean it held value. My nerves toughened, and I became a nail that refused to be hammered down.

“Keep it!” I heard myself say, and rushed toward the door. After a moment of shock the cashier dashed the length of the counter to head me off, video in hand.

I moved faster, both thrilled and afraid. Outside, I ran a few paces to put some distance between us, my book bag flopping on my back. The police would not come. I had broken a rule, not the law. The cashier stopped a few paces out the door and waved the video case, yelling, “two days late!” before he went back into the store.

I managed to catch the train to Yokosuka and attended science club, flushed with defiance and ire. None of the boys held their own against me, though I did remain polite.

The next day I returned to the multi-media store to pay the fee, a jar of hundreds of one-yen coins in hand. I saw no reason to go easy on them. I remained a nail not hammered down in Japan.

Cash Only

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