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Volume 2 Number 1 • Spring 2010

Eric Chandler

No Thanks

My buddies and I rode our bikes to the bowling alley to play pinball. We spent most of the rainy spring Saturday inside with the clatter of falling bowling pins and blue smoke. I went to the counter to get change.

The lady was a giant wall of flannel with a cigarette stuck in her face. I waved the dollar bill and she threw four coins on the bar.

We played a few more games, trying to become pinball wizards. I tried to shove my last quarter into the slot and it wouldn't go. I took a closer look and realized I had a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin in my hand. It slowly dawned on me that I could get away with something.

I went back to the counter, barely containing myself, and the big lady gave me four more quarters for my dollar coin. Sucker, I thought, as I shoved them in my pocket and ran out into the cold.

After pedaling home in the mist, I burst into the house. My dad was sitting in his chair reading a book. I told him how clever and rich I was while I crammed my wet jacket into the closet.

He closed the book, stood up, and said, “Put your coat back on.” “What for?”

“We're going back to the bowling alley.”

I sat staring past the windshield wipers as they parted the fog and spitting rain. I held the 75 cents that didn't belong to me. I rationalized the fear away and imagined I was a big man as we got closer to where I'd face the music. I would have ethics and survive.

I put the three coins on the bar.

The giant lady with her mustache and stringy hair and permanent cigarette walked over.

“Ma'am, you gave me three quarters and a dollar coin for change earlier. Here's the extra money you gave me.”

And now she'll tell me what a good boy I am, I thought.

Instead, she grunted, slid the coins into her meaty hand, and limped back to the till.

My dad didn't say anything. We got in the car and drove home. I was pissed. Just like adults are when they're stupid enough to do the right thing.

Eric Chandler is a husband and father of two, who lives in Duluth, MN. He flies the F‑16 in the Minnesota Air National Guard. He's been to Iraq three times to fly in Operation Iraqi Freedom. His work has been published in Flying Magazine, The Talking Stick (Vol. 18), Northern Wilds, and Silent Sports Magazine. Visit for more of his writing.

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