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Time is Money

John D. Sperry is an author, photographer, drummer, and teacher from Springfield, Oregon. His writing career was initiated when a professor at the University of Oregon introduced him to hard-boiled detective fiction. He tried his hand at the genre and failed miserably, but that didn't stop him from discovering his love for writing. His current publications consist of two YA urban fantasy novels in his Immortal Light series available online, in paperback, and in eBook formats. John served an LDS mission from 1998-2000 in Italy then earned both his B.A. in English Literature and M.Ed. in Teaching and Learning from the University of Oregon in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2001 John married his true love, Sarah Sharp, and they currently have five children.

Walter Stanwick grabbed his usual newspaper and cup of coffee from the P&D Market on the corner of 53rd and Industrial. It was his routine. In Walter's world, consistency was the secret to a long life.
"I'm sorry, sir, but you'll overdraw your account."
Walter looked up from the stand of creamers and additives to see the red-haired kid behind the counter having a difficult conversation with a haggard looking man with graying hair and a shabby coat.
"No! That can't be, I need it! Today!" replied the man, already slurring his speech at eight-forty-five in the morning. On the counter, Walter noticed a clear glass bottle of equally clear liquid. The label on the front verified what he had already concluded. Liquor.
"I don't have a choice, sir. You know what'll happen if you overdraw. That's serious business."
The man ran an unsteady hand through his hair and groaned desperately. He then gripped the lip of the counter top like he wanted to rip it up from its supports.
Walter stopped stirring his coffee to watch. That's when the man grabbed the bottle around the neck and dashed for the door.
Walter hastily set his cup down, spilling some of the contents on the plastic surface of the creamer stand. He darted around a display of packaged cakes and took three gaping strides toward the assailant.
The shabby man had barely put his hand on the glass door before Walter had him by the collar of his coat. A small puff of dust rose up from the garment as Walter pulled the fellow back toward the counter.
"I don't believe that's yours, friend," Walter said as he relieved the man of the bottle.
"Hey, give it back!" the man complained as he lost his balance and fell to the floor.
Walter bent down to look the grizzly face right in the eyes. The man couldn't have been much more than thirty-five years old, maybe forty.
"The boy says you don't have enough for it. That means you don't have enough."
"It's my choice!" the man slurred and stuck his tongue out at Walter, like a child.
Walter stood up and handed the bottle to the youthful clerk.
"Thanks, Mister," the kid said, adjusting his white, paper hat.
Walter looked down at the man on the floor who had suddenly fallen unconscious.
"Well, it was no use, anyway," Walter said. "If he didn't have enough for that bottle of rot-gut, he wasn't going to last very long. You'll need to call the authorities. His account seems to have expired."
The boy looked grimly over the counter at the expired man on his floor. "Oh, yes, sir. I think you're right."
Walter walked back to his coffee and paper, adjusted the fedora on his head, and tied the belt of his trench coat.
"How much for the coffee and paper?" Walter asked.
The boy totaled up the two items on the register. "That'll be five minutes and forty-nine seconds, sir," he said with a commercial smile.
Walter placed a hand over the small chrome scanner next to the register "Thanks, kid," he said, then walked out of the market, reading the morning's headlines.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Author Comments

"Time Is Money" is a story born from a lunchtime conversation in 2012 between me and my good friend Matthew Auxier. That day's catalyst of conversation was finding a new way to make humanity more responsible for its actions, something more severe than money and debt--the end of the world was a popular subject of conversation that year and we liked to discuss the legacy humanity would leave behind. Ultimately we found ourselves discussing the question "What if everything we purchased, took time off of our lives?" It was a fascinating world to explore for the twenty-five or so minutes we delved into it, but once the conversation had ended and we returned to work, the idea went into hibernation for two years. That stasis lasted until, for some odd reason, the subject reemerged at the exact same lunch table with the exact same Matthew Auxier in early January of 2014. That's when I decided I had to pen something from that world.

- John D. Sperry
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