Image acquired from the Internet Hive Mind, specifically Wikipedia
[It's Dirty - flash story]
"When can I put ActionMan down, dad?" The four-year old held the toy over the conveyor belt.
Joe reached across the moving rubber. "Let me just put the bar between mom's stuff and yours. That let's the cashier lady know to ring up your ActionMan separate."
"So I get to pay with it with my money!" His parents had decided he was old enough for his own allowance. Joe and Scott had spent most of the shopping trip picking out the perfect toy to spend his first week's allowance while Cheryl and April, still relegated to sitting in the cart, did the family groceries. Joe was pretty sure Cheryl had the easier task. Once the bar was down, Scott dropped the toy. He gripped the side of the machine to stand on tippy toe and watch its slow movement down the belt.
After a while he got bored and started looking around at all the impulse items specifically placed at child level in the candy aisle.
"Keep an eye on him," Cheryl instructed her husband. "He wanders."
"My son, the explorer."
"Your son, the destroyer." She placed the last of the baby food on the belt, after moving the bar and toy back a bit. "Eyes on him."
Chuckling, Joe watched as his son bent at his knees and carefully studied things on the bottom-most shelf in the squat position small children did so easily. "He isn't that bad."
"Karen," Cheryl addressed the cashier, "what do you think?"
The black lady behind the counter smiled at her realtor while moving the merchandise over the scanner. "We do show a profit on your visits."
"Well said." The blond turned back to her husband. "Sweetie, every stocker in the store knows Scott's name."
Joe came over to kiss Cheryl on the cheek. "That is because he is an extrovert just like you."
"Goldfish!" Scott explained.
Both parents turned around to see Scott waving a small carton of Goldfish in the air.
"Do you want that, buddy?" Joe asked, approaching the boy and gently taking the carton out of his hands before he crushed it.
The four-year old nodded vigorously. "Yes!"
"Inside voice." Cheryl's automatic response drifted from the front of the line as Scott's expositions finally crossed the threshold of too loud.
"Yes." He stage-whispered to his dad.
"Well, let's look at the price." Joe knelt down beside the child. "What do the numbers say?"
"Okay, do you remember how much money ActionMan is going to cost?"
Scott's young face scrunched up in thought. "No."
"It's okay, I do." Joe recited the numbers. "That leaves just eighty-nine pennies leftover of your allowance."
"Which is more than one-nine, right?" Scott looked up eagerly.
"Yes it is more than nineteen, but this is one hundred and nine. That zero is important." Joe held the carton in front of him, lifting it up and down as though weighing it. "You got a choice buddy. You only have so much money. Do you want ActionMan or the Goldfish?"
"But I'm hungry!"
"And mommy just bought a whole bunch of food. When we get home we will unpack it and then I'm going to start cooking dinner." Joe stood and picked up the toy from the belt and then knelt again, with the toy in one hand and the food in the other. "Which do you want? We can only get one."
Scott gazed longingly at one and then the other. Sighing deeply, he pointed at the toy. "I want ActionMan."
"Good choice buddy." said Joe, giving a response he decided to give no matter what the choice was. At this point making a choice instead of throwing a tantrum to get both options was a great choice. But overall the engineer in Joe liked the fact his son went for the long choice instead of the immediate result. He passed the carton to his son. "Now put this back since we are not getting it." He stood up as he watched the tiny learning machine put the food back on the bottom shelf.
Subdued Scott returned to his dad's side, who gave him the toy. He stood on tiptoe and placed it back on the conveyor and watched until the bar hit the cashier area. His mom pulled out the little coin purse where she was storing his allowance.
"Ready for me to scan this, little man?" Karen asked.
Scott nodded solemnly.
"Listen for the beep."
Once the scanner made its noise, Scott's face lit up again. "Was that beep mine?"
"Yes, it was." Cheryl handed Scott the two bills making up his allowance, while the cashier bagged the toy. "Now you need to pay for it."
Smiling from ear to ear, he handed over the money.
"Eighty-nine cents is your change." Karen leaned across the counter, placing the money in the two small outstretched hands.
While trying to get the coins into the money holder, the dime escaped. Scott looked at it a moment.
"Aren't you going to pick it up?" Joe asked.
"It's dirty!" Scott declared, before handing the coin purse to his mom and going to get his toy from the bagging area.
Cheryl opened her mouth, then closed it, looking at her husband in consternation.
Joe shrugged. "Which rule do you want?"
Seeing her son engrossed with the toy, Cheryl quickly bent over, picked up the coin, and dropped it into the purse.
"Hygiene wins." Joe smiled wickedly before adding, "Good choice sweetie."
"I'll good choice you." She whispered back in pretend anger.
"Tonight, after dinner and laundry ... if April doesn't wake up."
(words 934 - first published 3/20/2016)