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Essay: Twenty Dollars

It’s my turn at the checkout counter and the clerk rings up my items. She’s courteous but not friendly and I don’t mind. It’s been a long day and I’m not especially friendly either.

“Your total is $22.42,” she says. I open my wallet and pull out a twenty and then look for some ones. When I glance down at the counter, however, there’s no twenty.

“I thought I gave you a twenty but I don’t know where it went,” I say. I had three twenties in my wallet and now there are just two. “I’m sure I gave you a twenty—“ I say again but the clerk isn’t buying it.

And I realize she’s probably heard this a million times—heard this lie a million times.

I look all around and back in my wallet while the clerk waits and the people behind me in line grow impatient.

Suddenly I begin to wonder if I am lying, if I never had three twenties, and finally give the clerk more money just to get out of the store.

Then, as I’m leaving with my bag of items, the woman behind me in line says, “Here it is!”

And she picks up a twenty from the floor and hands it to me.