The Remainders

By Matthew Arnold Stern All Rights Reserved ©

Drama

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Reseda

Things have been going great at Buck & Awesome. I guess I became sort of a celebrity after getting shot. People would come up to me and ask how I’m doing. Fatima’s family and members from her mosque thanked me for stepping up to protect her. I was nervous about the attention at first. Ngoc didn’t like me chatting with customers. But he seems cool with it now. He’s even nicer to me.

Reza started shopping at the store. He came in for these generic Mexican candies that are both sweet and spicy. I had been paying him back for the damage I caused that night.

“So, when’s your dad coming back to visit?” He put a bag of candy in his basket.

“Sunday. I’m finally going to meet his girlfriend and her kids. The oldest is really into baseball.”

He grabbed a few more snacks off the rack. “You should all go to a Dodgers game.”

He headed towards the register. I walked with him.

“I’d like to,” I said, “But Dad’s a die-hard Angels fan.”

“Is there such a thing?”

“You’d be surprised.”

A lot of things Dad told me surprised me, especially about my great-grandmother. I surprised him too with the things that happened to me, especially about Zoey and the baby. What surprised us both was how much we have in common, and how much we could help each other. All those years we wasted being afraid, angry, and resentful. At least, we didn’t have to waste any more time.

Reza and I went to Pearl’s register. She was ringing up the woman I once saw at the dumpster, the homeless woman I gave all that money to. Her name is Francine. She used that money to get herself and her kids to a halfway house. She got herself clean, and Magdalena gave her a job working at the restaurant.

“I heard they’re fixing up and reopening the theater,” Francine told Pearl. She was talking about the abandoned movie theater I lived behind for over a month. “That’ll be great for business at the restaurant.”

Pearl smiled. “That will be great for all of us. Four thirty two, please.”

The woman handed her a five. Pearl rang her up and handed her the change. Francine dropped the coins into the plastic box for United Cerebral Palsy.

“Have a pleasant day.” Pearl then turned to Reza. “Hey, Reza.”

“Hey.”

Pearl then gave me a long, lingering glance and a broad smile.

“Dylan?” Ngoc’s voice came from the other end of the store.

“Gotta go,” I said to Reza.

He patted my shoulder and whispered, “You’re lucky.”

I only had a second to smile back at Pearl before rushing over to Ngoc. He had a hand truck and a box of books.

“Can you please put these in aisle 12?”

“Sure thing, Ngoc.”

I wheeled the hand truck to the aisle. When I got to the shelf where we stock the books, I knelt down, slid off the box, and opened it.

Inside were copies of Face Time with Jesus. I took one out. And there was Steven on the front cover with his perfect hair and self-satisfied smile. But on the bottom, a black mark streaked across the pages.

“Do you forgive him?” Mrs. Cimino was staring at Steven’s book.

I stood up and faced Mrs. Cimino.

“Do you?”

She smiled. “It took me a while. I came realize that despite what he did, it doesn’t make his lessons any less valid. And what he did to you, Dylan, is what helped you find the path you needed to follow. God takes us where we need to go...”

“And teaches us the lessons we need to learn.” I smiled and nodded. “Thank you, Mrs. Cimino.”

“You’re welcome, Dylan.” She stepped to her cart and continued down the aisle.

I looked at Steven’s smug face again. His book was written by the hands of an asshole, but they are still words from the mouth of God. And it is a remainder. Something that seems worthless can still have value.

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