I am working on an A-Z challenge, this one featuring short pieces of fiction. Today’s letter is W for wallet.
The three boys walked into the fast-food restaurant, with the most pressing issue on their agenda being whether to order onions on their cheeseburgers, or not. Marty was the one who found the wallet, sitting right on the chair as he pulled it out from under the table. It took him a second to make the connection, that someone had obviously set it down, and then walked out without it. Either that, or it simply fell out of someone’s pants pocket, and sat there until he stumbled across it.
“Hey, check it out!” He held the wallet up for the others to see.
“Sick, Dude,” exclaimed Ryan. “See if there’s any loot in it. I could use new ball-bearing wheels for my skateboard.” He thought of his own wallet, with his paycheck nestled comfortably inside, awaiting a trip to the bank.
“You’d do that with someone else’s money?” asked Rob, looking sideways at Ryan.
“You better believe it. Finders, keepers-losers weepers.” Ryan folded his arms and stared belligerently at the others.
“Hey, let’s not get carried away,” said Marty. “Let me see if I can get this zipper undone.”
It was an old-fashioned kind of wallet, with a zipper where the cash usually was stored. Marty fumbled with it for a second, observing to the others that it seemed awfully stuffed with something. By the time he had opened it up, the others were beside themselves with excitement.
“Sheee-it,” was all Marty could say, as he turned it sideways for the others to take a look. It was crammed with currency, and the bill on the outside had Ben Franklin’s picture on it.
“Count it up! What are you waiting for?” Ryan was ogling the wallet with his eyes bulging out.
“Is there a driver’s license?” Rob wanted to know. “Maybe it belongs to the mafia. See if there is an ID of some sort.”
“Hold on!” Said Marty. “I can’t do everything at once. Besides, I don’t think it’s too good of an idea to pull out a wad of cash, right here where anyone can see, and start counting it out. Let’s get our food, and head back out to the car.”
The five-minute wait seemed like an hour, before they were able to convene to the relative privacy of Rob’s VW sedan. Once there, he pulled out the money and started counting it, as the others watched, too excited to even dig into their burgers and fries.
By the time he was done counting, Marty was speechless. Altogether, there was almost nineteen hundred dollars, most of it in one hundred dollar bills. It was a small fortune.
“What do you know about that?” he whispered, as if saying it aloud would cause him to awake from a dream.
“This is our lucky day,” said Ryan. “The hell with new ball bearings, I can buy a whole new skateboard.”
“What are you talking about? You didn’t find the wallet-I did!” Marty was visibly shaken and his hands were trembling.
“Is there some form of identification?” asked Rob. “See if we can figure out who it belongs to.”
“What’s the point?” demanded Ryan. “You act as though we’re going to return it. That would be so stupid.”
“So says you. What do you think?” Rob asked Marty. “Are you going to give it back?”
“Slow down, you guys. Let me check out the rest of the wallet.” Marty started going through the rest of the contents of the wallet, finally pulling out a driver’s license, and examining it carefully. “It belongs to some old guy. His date of birth is 1952. Let’s see...that would make him sixty years old! Man, that’s old.”
“Where does he live?” asked Rob. “We could return it to him, if it’s not too far away. Otherwise, we could mail it.”
“What’s wrong with you guys?” spit out Ryan. “Why do you want to return it, when we could make good use of it?”
“Hey, have you ever lost your wallet?” asked Marty. “I did. I got it back but whoever found it took all my money out first. It hurt.”
“How much?” demanded Ryan.
“Well, only twelve bucks, but I was twelve, so it seemed like a hundred.” Marty seemed genuinely conflicted about the situation.
“Hey, karma is karma,” opined Rob. “You get back what you put out.”
“Bullstuff,” muttered Ryan. “Nineteen hundred in the hand, is better than karma in the bush. Besides, this guy’s probably loaded. Who carries around this kind of money, if he’s poor?” Ryan looked triumphantly at Marty, as though he were the Pro from Dover.
“Look, here’s a phone bill,” said Marty. “It’s got his phone number on it. I’m going to call him.”
“What? You’re just going to give the money back? I don’t even believe this. What a dick.” Ryan was obviously disgusted.
“Look, when you find a pile of loot, then you can do what you want. I found it and I’ll return it if I want.” Marty took out his cell phone and punched din the number. He stepped out of the VW, so as not to have Ryan venting into his ear, as he talked to the man whose wallet he had found.
Returning two minutes later, smiling happily, he informed them, “The old guy was thrilled to hear from me. And he’s not loaded. That’s his paycheck from his job, a whole month’s worth of work. And he needs it to pay his bills. He was so grateful to me for calling. Come on. I got directions to his house. Let’s go. He said he’d give me fifty bucks for returning it.” Marty started up the VW.
“Fine. Whatever you say,” muttered Ryan. “But on the way, can we stop at the bank so I can cash my check?”
“Sure,” said Marty, obviously relieved that the argument over whether or not to return the money was finished. “I need to stop at the grocery store, and the post office. I told the old guy it would be an hour or so.”
“Yeah, I need to pick up some groceries myself,” agreed Ryan. “Maybe that cute checker is working. She’s a sweetie.”
Later, as the boys were lounging around at Rob’s place, hashing over the events of the day, Marty mentioned that the old guy had been very effusive in his appreciation for the return of the wallet. “He told me,” said Marty, “that he was a little surprised in this day and age, that someone had enough integrity to return that much money, and that I must have been raised right, to be able to see above the immediate gratification of having a fistful of money. It made me feel good.”
“Well, you can’t help the way your mom dresses you in the morning,” sneered Ryan. “Come on. Let’s go to the mall. I want to buy some CD’s.”
“Whatever,” said Marty, heading out to the car with Rob, where they still sat, five minutes later, waiting for Ryan. “What’s taking him so long? He’s the one who wanted to go.” He beeped the horn, and waited another minute, before Ryan came out, head hanging, looking as depressed as they could ever remember seeing him.
“What’s up with you?” asked Rob. “You look as though you lost your best friend. What’s wrong?”
Ryan looked sheepishly at them. “I lost my wallet. It’s not in my pants pocket, and I know that I had it back in the grocery store. What a bitch. It had the money from my paycheck in it.”
“Well, I’m sure someone will return it,” said Marty, lamely.
“Yeah, sure. You guys head on without me. I think I’ll hang out here, by the phone. You never know. There might be some honest guy out there, who will try to call and tell me that he found my wallet.”
With that, Ryan turned and went back in the house, wondering about the mysterious world of karma, and what his chances really were.