No Refunds, No Exchanges

By Brock Foreman

The bell over the door jingled.

The boy placed his heart on the counter, right above the X in “No Refunds, No Exchanges.” The woman at the register, eyes fixed on her phone, said, “Did you see the sign?”

“It doesn’t say No Exceptions,” the boy said.

“It should.” If she glanced up at him while his eyes flickered across the empty shelves behind her, he didn’t see.

“It doesn’t matter,” the boy said. “I’m not here to exchange, and I don’t need a refund.”

“We don’t do repairs, either.” The woman still did not look up, had probably not even seen the heart beneath his hand on the plywood counter. “Not on those. Not anymore.”

“I don’t need it repaired,” the boy said.

She put her phone away and hopped off her stool. She did not meet his eyes. “No.”

“Please,” the boy said. “I’ll pay you.”

“We’re not allowed,” the woman said to the beaded curtain between the shelves.

“Please,” the boy said.

The woman returned with a roll of paper towels. She swept up the back of the counter, then scrubbed the puddle on the floor. It would leave a stain, she thought. It wouldn’t be the first. The boy made no move to pick up his heart.

“Please,” he said.

“I can’t,” she told the floor.

The boy teetered, foot to foot. His heart fluttered between his fingers. “Then what should I do?”

The woman placed things on the counter: a sewing needle, some pocket lint, two matches, a comb, a stubby pencil with the eraser torn out, a guitar string, and a plant in a cardboard pot. She placed them away from the heart, so they would stay dry.

“How much?” the boy asked.

“They’re yours.”

“I can’t just take them,” the boy said.

“They’re yours.”

“What do I do with them?” the boy asked.

“No instructions.” The beaded curtain rattled.

“It doesn’t say that on the sign,” the boy said.

The beaded curtain was silent.

The bell over the door jingled.

The woman returned with a fresh roll of paper towels. She swept up the back of the counter, then scrubbed the staining floor. She mopped the empty countertop clean.