INSUFFICIENT FUNDS

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INSUFFICIENT FUNDS
by Ryan Ritchie

My hair was flat in front and
straight up in the back. I had just
rolled out of bed less than
an hour prior, but the wrinkles in the
beige shirt I slept in probably told her that.
And if there was any doubt,
I yawned when I approached her counter.

“Hello” she said as she flipped
a strand of black hair from her forehead
to behind her ear. I like when she does this.

“Hello” I said back,
conscious of how stupid I was
for not at least throwing on a hat
and a clean shirt. She’s the cute one,
the one I’d go for,
the one I always go to,
even though I feel
the tidal wave of embarrassment that comes with slipping
an attractive stranger
a $300 unemployment check.

She smiled and giggled and if I was
anyone else I would have smiled
and giggled back. But I’m not anyone
else. I’m me. I’m grumpy in the mornings
and not good with small talk regardless of
the time of day.

So I punched in my code and hoped
staying quiet made me seem
mysterious. But she looked up
at me and spoke
before sending my government hand-out
through the machine that stamps checks.

“Ryan,” she paused, “Ritchie.
That name
sounds
familiar.”

I forget all sorts of things,
cute girls are not one of them,
and I was certain she had no other way of
knowing my name other than
through reading some of my work
because we had for sure never met
outside of her place of employment.

I waited for her to say
what I longed to hear: That she
read my poems. Or my short stories.
Or my blog. Or my column in the local
magazine. Or my home tour features or
the music stories or food articles or goddamn
anything.

It was the best awkward silence of my life.
And then it ended.

“Do you deposit checks outside on Sundays?” she asked.
I said I did because it was on the way to
the farmers market.

“That’s where I know your name. I’m in charge
of processing the weekend deposits.”

“Oh” is all I could come up with. I hoped
for a home run and came up with
a strike out. Again.

“It’s so nice to be able to put
a name to a face,” she continued. But
I didn’t care. I wasn’t who I wanted her
to think I was. I was, in fact,
just another bum.

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