Buried Treasure

20 May

The wallet came first – it was the obvious choice.  After all, the wallet was the hub of the purse.  Almost everything was in there.  Cash, driver’s license, credit cards, insurance cards, pictures of children, receipts dating back five months.  Joyce looked under each credit card and behind her license, even though she never put anything behind it.  She shuffled through her cash – perhaps it was hidden between some bills.  But she had no such luck.

Sighing, Joyce put her bag on the counter with a good THUMP.  The light sitting on the corner of the counter, next to the chocolates that looked oh-so-tempting, flickered.  But Joyce didn’t notice.  She just kept digging.

The checkbook came next.  Joyce often slipped pieces of paper in there without thinking and then wouldn’t clean it out for two or three weeks.  When she opened the checkbook, which was bound by a rubber band, more receipts poured out.  Apparently it was time to do a little cleaning.  She mentally added it to her list of things to do today.

Joyce quickly shuffled through the receipts, the black print blurring against the white.  Trying to focus, she asked, “What color is it?”

“It’s pale blue,” said the cashier.  Joyce could hear impatience in the young woman’s voice, but chose to ignore it.

Behind the checks was a five dollar bill that Joyce had forgotten about.  Behind the register, an old friend’s address and phone number.  Giving up on the checkbook, Joyce rebound the receipts in with the newly found money and her checks.

Sticking her hand all the way to the bottom of the purse, Joyce felt around for her coin purse.  Her fingers brushed against two hard, little round things, which she knew was the claps of the coin purse.  She pulled the heavy little sack out of her purse and opened it.  Only coins were ever put in the coin purse, but she wanted to be thorough in her search.

“It’s also a hard plastic card,” the cashier offered, but Joyce already knew that and so chose to ignore the girl once again.

Loose items came next in hopes that it was just buried underneath all the junk.  Comb, contact solution, aspirin, bobby pin, safety-pin, more change, a mint without its wrapper, a half-done crossword puzzle, a pen out of ink.  All of these Joyce laid on the counter in front of her as she continued to dig, looking for buried treasure.

“And you’re sure you can’t look it up using my name?” Joyce asked, clawing at the fabric at the bottom of her purse.

“Yes, but if you know what phone number you provided, I can look it up that way.”

“I never give out my phone number,” Joyce replied curtly.  Did they think her for a fool?  She knew they just turned around and sold her information.  All these businesses were alike.

Unzipping the inside pocket, Joyce felt around in there and pulled out a pad and tampon, although it was getting close to the time when she would never have to carry those again.  She didn’t know how she felt about it yet and chose to think about more pleasant things instead.

“Can I get back up to the front, please?” the cashier said over the intercom.  Joyce mentally scowled at the girl.  She was going as fast as she could!  “Back up to the front, please,” she repeated.

Joyce glanced behind her quickly and took in the growing line and the irritated look of hate man directly behind her.  He held a folded newspaper under arm.  He looked at his watch and continued to tap his foot impatiently.  In that split second she took to look at the other customers, she caught sight of a teenage girl dressed in a short top and an even shorter skirt, talking on her cell phone.  “Some old Magoo is holding up the line,” Joyce thought she heard the teen say.  “Probably couldn’t find her ass if she was sitting on it.”

Determined more than ever now, Joyce turned her purse around and pulled out the contents of the front pocket: cell phone with a pinpoint light glowing to let her know that there was a new voice mail, a used tissue, a bottle of nail polish top coat, a nail file, and a dulled pink Bic razor.  And there, miraculously underneath the empty wrapper that belonged over the mint, was what she was looking for – her discount card.  She clasped her hand over it and in one fluid motion, took it out of the pocket and raised it above her head.  “I’ve got it!” she exclaimed, relief waving over her.  She may have imagined it, but she thought she heard a collective sigh from behind her.

Smiling broadly, Joyce handed the card over to the cashier and proceeded to put everything back where she found it.

“Um, I’m sorry,” the cashier said, and Joyce snapped out of her happy daze.


“This isn’t our card.  This is a card for a different store.”

“I don’t believe it!”  Joyce grabbed the card from the girl’s hands without excusing herself and looked at the store name on the front.  “Well, where am I?” she asked and the cashier told her, confirming that she was not, indeed, at a grocery store but at a bookstore.

“Well, they look so alike, I thought that this card was for your store,” Joyce said, trying to save face, but the card she held was  bright green, not pale blue as the cashier had earlier described.

The cashier just nodded, although she didn’t look convinced.  Joyce didn’t know what to do.  She wanted to save money on her purchase, but she had already looked in all her compartments.  The card wouldn’t be anywhere else in her purse.  Joyce glanced behind her again and saw that the line was quickly dissipating as back up cashiers came to help.

“Is there any other way to find out what my card number is?” Joyce asked.  “Now that the line is down, we have a bit more time, don’t we?”

“I’ll call a manager,” said the cashier in a bored voice and paged the manager over the intercom in the same bored voice.  In just a minute, the manager was standing in front of Joyce.  The cashier quickly explained the situation.

“I can call support services for you,” the manager offered, “and they can look it up using your name and address.  Would you have a few minutes while we did that?”

Joyce smiled and nodded.  This woman was much more pleasant than the cashier and was obviously more willing to help a customer by going the extra mile.  “That would be wonderful.”

After calling the support line and relaying Joyce’s information, the manager made small chat with Joyce as they waited for the other end of the line to find her card number.  After a minute, the manager listened intently into the receiver and nodded a couple of times.  “Thank you for your help,” she said and hung up the phone.  Turning to Joyce, she said, “I’m sorry, but our records don’t show that you’ve ever purchased one of our discount cards.”

“Oh, there’s a fee?”

The manager kept her smile plastered on her face, although it wavered for a second.  “Yes, for just 15 dollars a year you can save up to-”

“I don’t pay for cards.  I think that’s a horrible policy.  Pay to get a discount?  Why can’t I get the discount for free?”

“I understand,” the manager said calmly.  She glanced quickly at the register monitor and then back to Joyce.  “However, if you got a discount card today, you would save 10 dollars.  That means you would only be buying the card for 5 dollars.”

“No, it means that I would be buying the card for 15 dollars and you guys would be robbing me of my precious money!”

The manager nodded and let the smile fade completely away.  Her tone still pleasant, she said, “Alright.  Have a good day, then.  I’m glad I could help sort out this matter.”  She left. leaving Joyce with the cashier.

“It’ll be one-oh-one sixty today.”

“Can I write a check?” Joyce asked, pulling out her checkbook.

“Yes, I just need to see two forms of picture ID.”

Joyce pulled out her wallet, opened it, and removed her license.  She checked her credit cards but none had her picture on them.  Maybe her Wholesale Member Card would, but wherever did she see it?  She looked through her checkbook and even behind her checks but all she found was a five dollar bill.  Five dollars!  She couldn’t believe her luck.


Posted by on May 20, 2010 in Short Story



2 responses to “Buried Treasure

  1. Roxane

    May 20, 2010 at 10:25 am

    LOL! Nicely done!

    • elizabethsidley

      May 20, 2010 at 10:32 am

      This story actually came from a writing exercise in the book The Writer’s Block. The exercise was to write a story about a woman who has to empty her purse, but she cannot be held at gun point. Immediately I thought of the many customers who’ve done it in front of me!


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