The Hundred Dollar Bill
“Dude I can't cash this.”
“What?” said Jeff.
“I can't cash a hundred -it's a cup of coffee for Christ's sake,” the barista said shoving a hundred dollar bill at him.
“A hundred?” Jeff said confused. Where the hell would he get a hundred? He barely had the ten he put in his pocket every Thursday night. He hadn't even looked at the guy when he handed him the bill. Jeff searched his pockets for the ten, but came up empty.
“But...it's all I've got.”
“Sorry,” the barista said, not looking sorry at all.
“Fine,” he said, taking back the hundred, “forget it.”
Every Friday for the last year Jeff bought a vanilla latte, grabbed a paper, and paid to ride the bus to work. He looked forward to it every week. Instead of a reheated cup of the swill his wife called coffee, and a carpool with a bunch of grouchy men with hangovers, he had twenty minutes of peace.
Where the hell did this hundred come from? he thought, walking toward the bus stop, until he realized he had no money for the bus. They required exact change or a pass, neither of which he had.
Well, this sucks, he thought irritated at this disruption in his routine. And now I'm going to be late for work. He weaved in and out of the crowds of people as fast as possible but still didn't make it until eight forty. Forty minutes late.
What a start to my weekend. No coffee, no quiet ride to work, half an hour late. Of all the times to find a hundred! Why couldn't it have been last Friday at the bar? Never thought I'd wish for less money.
Wish for money...the thought lingered. What was it about that saying.? Oh, the fountain. He'd been so drunk he'd forgotten until now. His buddy Bill had won five thousand dollars with a quick pick lotto ticket and they all went out to celebrate. Jeff thought Bill would at least buy a round, especially since he was the one who had insisted they go to a fancy hotel bar instead of their usual dive.
“Somewhere the drinks aren't watered down and the waitress ain't a grandma,” he'd said. So they'd gone. But that cheap bastard didn't pay for a thing. Stupid overpriced beers. His tab had cleaned him out. Didn't even have money for a cab. His wife had to come get him. While he was waiting he'd thrown a penny in the lobby fountain and wished for more money.
But that's crazy! There's no such thing as a wishing well.
“Keats is looking for you,” Jeff's coworker, Robert said, interrupting his flashback.
“Of course he is.”
“You getting in on the football pool or what? Today's the last day.”
“That's right!” he said reaching into his left pocket. He'd put an extra ten in his left pocket for the football pool. Today was the last day to get in. But that ten was gone as well.
Hey, can I catch you after lunch?” Jeff said. What the hell was going on? What happened to his cash?
No! It couldn't be! There's no such thing as a wishing well. Was there?
But what if...what if there were...he could go back...make a real wish...
Maybe he could run out at lunch and break the hundred.
But he couldn't. Keats caught up with him. “Hope you brought your lunch because your working through it today. Unless you want to make up the half hour tomorrow, at regular pay, not overtime.”
So no coffee, no bus ride to work, no lunch, and no football pool! Where the hell did that hundred come from? This is crazy. There was no such thing as a wishing well.
But...where else would it come from? Money didn't magically appear out of nowhere, right?
What if...what if...
It would solve everything...
What would it hurt to try? Just stop by and make a wish...
I could swing by tonight. It was Friday, just like last time.
By the time his shift ended he had decided he would do it. He would go back to the bar and make a real wish. It was crazy, but where else could the money have come from? When he was able to catch a a ride home with some guy who'd stayed just the ten minutes late Jeff needed, and happened to be heading Jeff's direction, he just knew his luck was changing.
He walked into his house with a big smile on his face.
“Hey baby,” his wife said when he walked in. “You must have found my little surprise?”
“What surprise?” he said hanging up his coat.
“The hundred dollars. I put it in your pocket when I got back from Bingo last night. I won two hundred dollars and thought I would share the wealth. You know, brighten up your day a bit.”
Like this short? Now all my flash fiction is available in one book, Starved. Available at all ebook retailers.