Quarter to midnight in the land that I love

The elderly shopkeeper made no move towards the register, but glanced down at the items on the counter a second time:

Two styrofoam cups filled with ice. Two 40s. Two blunts.

The counterman’s eyes flicked back up to the guy on line in front of me, who looked about seventeen.

“ID? Please.”

The man—the boy?—fished around in his pocket for a while. For a moment it looked like he might walk out, or yell at the man behind the counter. Then he produced a wallet, extracted a small card, and laid it on the table.

“You see me in here every day, man. Every day.”

The old man pulled on his half-moon glasses with unhurried ease to check the dates, the photo, and the security features printed on the card. He even ran his fingers slowly over the surface to test the finish. Doing the right thing. He didn’t want any trouble.

The shopkeeper removed his glasses. “Ten dollars, please.”

The boy—the man—paid with two fives and left the store muttering, head down against the drizzle as he stalked back to the housing development across the street.

I stepped up to the counter with a grin to show how friendly I was, paid for my soda pop and my apple pie—they didn’t have cherry, I’d checked—and wished the proprietor a good night and a happy Independence Day.