Tales From the Life of Jack McKnife: Everything’s a Dollar

We have this store in my neighborhood called “Everything’s A Dollar”. I like to go in and look at stuff. Then I’ll yell up to the front counter, “Hey, Sal, how much for this package of wooden spoons?”

And he’ll say, “A dollar.”

A little later on I’ll ask, “How much for this picture frame?”

And he’ll say, “A dollar.”

“What about this mug? How much is this?”

“That’s a dollar.”

We go on like this for hours sometimes, sparring in a battle of wills that neither of us can bear to lose. He is determined to remain cheery and businesslike, no matter how painful that may be, but I am just as determined to see him crack. I bide my time, waiting for his guard to drop.

Patiently I sift through the crayons, the ankle socks, the measuring cup sets, the little ceramic cows. Quiet. Unobtrusive. Customers come and go. Time passes. Sal forgets I’m even there. Then suddenly I pop up from behind the baskets of crepe flowers and say, “Hey, Sal, how much for this sewing kit?”

I hear a sharp intake of breath as Sal stifles a scream. There is silence, then weakly, “A dollar.”

He can no longer hide the pain in his voice. His breathing comes in harsh, labored gasps, rasping through his throat before escaping in barely muffled sobs. I’m surprised at the strangely menacing chuckle which I cannot suppress as I saunter up to the counter. “Nothing for me today, Sal,” I say, “just a Coke.” He reaches into the cooler and with a trembling hand he removes a soda. “Thanks, Sal. What do I owe you?”

“Seventy five cents, please.”

I hand him a dollar. “Keep the change,” I say. “See you tomorrow.”

“Yes. Yes, of course. See you tomorrow. Have a nice evening.”

“Thanks, Sal, I will. You too.”

I leave Everything’s A Dollar. As the gentle jingle of the string of bells on the glass door fades away, I inhale deeply. The evening air is rich with the sweet smell of victory. Ah, maybe next time, Sal, maybe next time. If there is a next time.

Lately I’ve been thinking that perhaps I need bigger game, new challenges. There is a big new place I’ve noticed over on Western—Dollar Daze. I haven’t yet explored this vast terra nova, but it calls to me across the mighty boulevards of the city, and one day the lure of its siren song will no doubt prove irresistible. When that day comes, I pray I am ready.