Danny stepped up to the glass counter, throwing his loose book bag over his narrow shoulders. He slapped the slim green box on the counter before hiking up his pants and belt. The guy behind the counter seemed uninterested in him as his eyes gazed to the back of the game store where two kids were making a mess of a shelf while they giggled.
“Hey”, Danny said as he nodded and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “That’s all I want.”
The spectacled man glanced at him for a moment before picking up the game and inspecting the cover. Chainsaw Nation it read. The cover showed a suggestive picture of men climbing over each other with knives, swords, spikes, and bats with barbed wire wrapped around it. But mostly chainsaws. There was a lot of blood in the image.
The guy shot a glance over his glasses at Danny and sucked his teeth slowly. “Yeah,” he said slowly. “I’m gonna need to see some ID.”
Danny shrugged and fished through his pants and snagged his wallet between the loose fabrics. He pulled out his ID and held it between the pointer and middle finger. The man took it and held it at the corners as he inspected him. According to the ID, Danny was Daniel Langley of Forest Hills Avenue, male, 23 years old, an organ donor standing at 5’5’’ brown eyes and white. He’s also supposed to be 248 pounds. The man flashed his eyes over at Danny. This Danny was at least 130.
The man nodded as the corners of his lips curled in disbelief. “Yeah, sorry. You’re gonna need an adult to accompany you,” the clerk said.
“What,” Danny asked slowly.
“You can’t buy this,” The clerk said. “It’s mature audiences only.”
“But, I am an adult. 22 years old. My ID says so,” Danny pointed at his card.
“ID says you’re 23,” the man said with a smug grin.
“Birthday was last week,” Danny said. “Apologies if I stopped getting excited for birthdays after 12.”
The guy shook his head. “This isn’t you.”
“Yes. It is,” Danny rebounded firmly.
The clerk studied the card before showing him the picture. “Where are you in this picture?”
Danny stared at inset; a round boy with squinted eyes and fish lips. “I killed him with a cleaver made of asparagus and a hilt made of cauliflower,” he thought. “I am standing there,” he said respectfully.
Really,” he scoffed.
“I lost weight,” he said. “Didn’t lose the low self esteem though,” he thought.
“You’re gonna need a parent,” he said in a low voice through his teeth.
Danny’s head filled with years worth of insults of insensitive classmates. “My mom is in California,” Danny said after a quick breath. “Do you want her to come all the way to the east coast so I can buy a game I am legally allowed to buy?”
“Buy it online then,” he said with a chuckle.
Danny lifted his head and stared at the soft tiles above him. “I don’t want to buy it online. I want to buy it here. From you.”
“Not gonna happen,” he said with a stiff lip. “Not from me.”
“Why doesn’t this guy believe me,” Danny thought. “Unbelievable,” he finally said aloud, shaking his head.
“Knock it off,” the clerk screamed.
Danny jumped and saw the man eyeing down the kids in the back of the store. Thy snickered to himself and flipped him off.
Danny’s heart hammered in his chest. He wasn’t the same person who he was before the weight loss. This clerk was simply reacting to the result. An amazing result.
“See those children,” Danny said, pointing at them, “that’s disrespectful. The only thing I want is to be heard. I want to be treated as an adult.”
“Sure,” the man chuckled with his shoulders and a smile. “This ID is fake!”
“Prove it,” Danny said.
“The picture,” he said wild eyed.
“That’s not how you validate an ID, dummy.” Danny twisted his head. He shouldn’t have said that.
“I thought we were having an adult conversation,” the clerk smirked.
“I can only have an adult conversation with someone who is also an adult.”
The man smiled and stood waiting in front of the counter. Danny stood tall, but felt as if he was beginning to shrink in his giant clothes. “To validate an ID,” Danny continued, “there is a book that shows how IDs are fake. Retail stores have this.” Danny stepped to the edge of the counter and pointed to the space where the clerk stood.
“It also has to show the person who is present before me,” the clerk said in an animated way as if he were teaching a class.
“I am standing in front of you.”
“No, you’re not,” the clerk said.
Danny shrunk in his mind before the unmoving store clerk. Everyone he’d known knew about this achievement. Why couldn’t this man? Even the kids in the back of store he never met, knew. “Ugh. Is it inconceivable that the person in the picture could have lost weight? Are you saying that man… it’s impossible to lose weight,” Danny asked.
“No,” he shrugged.
“And what do you think he would look like if he lost weight,” Danny said energetically.
The clerk stared at him and rubbed his chin in thought for a moment. “Nah! Sorry bro. Can’t take this.”
“Unreal. So you think I just wear oversized clothes,” Danny asked, pointing to his tee which was halfway falling off his shoulders.
“I dunno what kids are up to these days,” he said, with his palms waving defensively.
“Making a mess of your store and stealing action figurines,” he pointed with his eyes to the back.
“HEY,” the clerk barked. “If you’re not getting a preorder for a new game, then get out of my store!!” He leaned forward fishing for eye contacts from the brats. “Leave it,” he screamed. He pointed towards the exit. “NOW!”
Danny stood in silence with his eyes closed as the boys shuffled angrily across the carpet. “Just sell me the stupid game,” Danny said as the door jingled close.
“No,” he said flatly. He grabbed some magazines that rested atop of the glass counter and stacked them together in an orderly fashion.
Danny was losing this battle. Don’t whine. Don’t do it. Don’t give him power. “I’ve done what is required by law,” Danny mustered the courage to say finally.
“You got any credit cards,” the man asked without making eye contact.
“No,” said Danny.
“Sorry,” he said with a shrug as he continued cleaning the counter.
“That is not a requisite to buy a game,” he said. Danny fought the urge to come off as a child.
“It is with a fake ID.”
Danny looked to the ceiling and gripped the edge of the counter. Maybe the truth would work. “Look man, I was teased mercilessly as a kid and I got rid of the weight.”
“Last night,” the clerk asked with a scoff.
“As much as I want to take that as a compliment,” Danny mumbled under his breath.
“What was that?”
“I said everything is the same on that ID except for the weight.”
“I am not selling you this game,” the clerk said as he lips bunched together and shrugged.
Danny blinked and calculated the best route to getting his wish. He looked down past the clerk as he fished for a resolution. “You said if I bought my mom here, you’d sell me this game, right?”
“How would you know if she was my mom,” Danny asked as he looked at the clerk’s face. The man stood there and thought about the statement. Danny felt validated when he saw him squint and couldn’t find an answer immediately. Danny smiled to himself. “Be right back,” he said with his pointer finger in the air. It was less than a minute until Danny returned with an older woman. The clerk shifted his weight back and gave a frown as he smiled. Danny whispered in her ear until they approached the counter.
“Okay, I’d like to buy this game,” Danny said confidently.
The man studied the woman for a moment before he asked, “is this your son?”
She paused for a moment and answered. “Yes.”
The man squinted. “I thought your mom was in California,” he asked Danny.
“Is it store protocol to perform an investigation for a used game,” Danny asked with a tilted head. “You know what? Forget it. Can you buy this,” Danny asked the woman.
She paused for a moment again and answered. “Yes.”
“No,” the man said.
“Why,” Danny asked.
“I saw you pull her off the street,” he said with a laugh.
“Seriously,” Danny asked as he dipped his head.
“Sorry,” the man said, shaking his head slowly.
“You don’t want to sell me this game,” Danny said to himself. “Give me the ID back,” he said as he held out his hand.
“Excuse me,” Danny asked. “You’re confiscating my ID?”
“Go get a real one,” the clerk shoved a thumb over his shoulder.
“Can you call the police,” Danny asked the woman.
“Yes,” she asked after a moment.
The man squinted suspiciously. “Can you say anything besides yes?”
“Yes,” she said slowly and carefully.
Danny rolled his eyes and pushed the woman out of the store. He came back and placed his hands in front of the clerk and took a deep breath. “Look, I am asking nicely. Please sell me the game.”
“Please give me my ID back.”
“You have no legal right to do that.” Danny felt himself shrinking in age as the conversation continued. Maybe this weight loss wasn’t worth it…
‘You can call the cops,” the man said confidently.
“With what identification will I show them,” Danny asked reasonably. “You took it because you don’t believe I lost weight.”
“When did you lose weight,” the clerk asked finally.
“I don’t know,” Danny said as his shoulders dropped. “It was a vigorous program. You lose weight over time.”
“And it just magically disappeared, huh?” The clerks eyebrow raised.
“That’s how losing weight works.”
“I call,” the clerk said finally. “No one loses weight that quickly without a mark to show for it.”
Danny craned his head to the side to make sure he heard him correctly. “What?”
“Prove you lost weight,” the man said, crossing his arms.
Danny couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “How? I lost it.”
“Hey, if you were that big, your ass would have stretch marks,” he said as he pointed at Danny from head to toe.
“You want to validate my identity by showing you my stretch marks.”
“Yeah, I guess I am,” he said with smirk as he grabbed his nearby snack of mixed nuts and threw some in his mouth.
Danny sank back as his face flushed with grief. This conversation took a wild turn. He couldn’t get to the DMV to get a new ID. The idea of calling the police seemed like it would escalate the situation unnecessarily and it wasn’t an emergency. How badly do I want this stupid game? Danny bit his lip as he shifted from one foot or another. Why do I have to expose myself?
Danny flashed a look back at the clerk who leaning against the back wall with a smile. Danny’s eyes shot back to the ground. He could feel his gaze as he chewed and nodded silently. I want this game. Why do I have to do this? I deserve it. What am I? Some side attraction at a carnival? Danny swore he could hear the embellished carnival theme music, coupled with the laughter he used to hear when class was dismissed in grade school.
“Why you hesitating,” the clerk asked finally.
“Cause I don’t know if I think you’re worth all this,” Danny said as his face tensed up. He couldn’t look at the clerk in his eyes.
The clerk shrugged. “I’ll just put this away then.” He grabbed the box and eyed a canister that had a heap of empty boxes.
Danny shot his right hand down and reached for the bottom of his shirt. It caught the clerk’s attention. Danny began to sweat. “Are you sure you want to do this,” he asked the worker.
The clerk held up the cover of Chainsaw Nation as he continued facing the canister. “Yeah, I’m sure.”
Alright. Screw it. You’re gonna see the hard work I’ve done.
Danny slowly lifted the front his shirt. It felt like a red curtain at a Broadway show. The clerk jumped to the edge of the counter and craned forward. Danny looked away as the clerked gawked.
“Yuck,” the clerk exclaimed with a chuckle. “That is nasty, bruh.”
Danny looked away, wishing he could run to be anywhere in the universe, but he had to stand there, pinned under the gaze of the guy whose name he didn’t even know.
“Yeesh,” the clerk said after a few more agonizing moments. “Fine, I’ll sell you the game.”
Danny shoved his shirt down and wiped his arms. He took a deep breath as he tried to calm the negative thoughts, racing through his head. The door was right there; an exit. He could just run. He could never step foot inside again. Maybe Danny could return if this clerk got transferred or quit. The door was so close. Fifteen steps. Ten steps if he ran.
“Yo,” the clerk’s voice brought Danny back. “You still want this?”
The clerk nodded and grabbed the game from his drawer.
“Let me get a preorder,” Danny said. He felt as though he had been crying for hours.
“What you want?”
“Let me get WellShock.”
The clerk punched in a code on his keyboard.“Will that be all?”
Danny cleared his throat. “Let me get the Kingdom of Mana preorder. And Infinite Skring.”
The clerk was pleasantly surprised. “Nice,” he said as he bounced. “That’ll be $37.42.”
“Fantastic,” Danny said with a wide grin. The water that collected in eyes bubbled onto his cheek. He fished for the money and slapped on the counter. “Here you go.”
“Have a great day,” the clerk said as he closed the drawer and handed Danny his receipt and ID back.
“Oh, I will soon enough. Can you look up my reserves?”
“Sure,” the clerk said. He punched in a few codes and Danny’s name and studied his computer screen. “Oh, you got ten including the ones you got today.”
“Awesome,” Danny said with glee. “Do me a favor? Cancel all of them.”
The clerks face dropped as sweat immediately started to build under his arms.
“Yup.” Danny beamed.
“Are you sure,” the clerk asked.
“Yep! I’m sure.”
“There’s a lot of great games you got here. Some special editions that are sold out.”
“Oh, you’re right,” Danny said. He felt light within. “The thing is I’m spending a lot of time at the gym, so I don’t have much time for games. But you know what, I really like it here. So, I want you to cancel one game at a time. And I want ten receipts please.”
The clerk let out a big sigh.
“Do you need my identification again?”