The front doors of the bank were locked, forcing Vicky to sit in the snaking progression of cars wrapped around the brick building. Behind her, more vehicles joined the line at regular and frequent intervals. Vicky felt badly for the teller running transactions at the drive-up window, some unfortunate soul left to work an extra hour while the other bank employees headed home for dinner and an evening of rest.
She glanced at her signed paycheck resting on the passenger seat, wishing the numbers typed on it were larger. Nick’s child support was late – again — and she’d lost a lot of hours at work these past two weeks as each of her three kids fell ill with the latest bug tearing through the local elementary school. This paycheck wasn’t going to be enough to cover all her outstanding debts, but with some creative financing she hoped to keep all her utilities on – if she could get to the gas company before noon tomorrow, and if the water authority would be satisfied with a partial payment.
Vicky’s fingers drummed a nervous tattoo on the steering wheel while she turned her predicament over in her mind. After the kids fell asleep tonight, she would pull out her coupon file and peruse the local grocery store circulars. Last week she had reluctantly spent the last of the cash hidden under her mattress on groceries and medicine. Now her emergency fund was empty — and the refrigerator shelves were bare once more. The kids wouldn’t complain if she served buttered noodles for dinner again tonight, but she felt frustrated over the lack of fresh fruits and veggies in the house. No wonder everyone is sick, she thought with a frown.
Finally, it was her turn at the window. Vicky dropped her paycheck and I.D. into the canister and pressed the button that would dispatch it on its brief journey into the bank. When she was a child, she’d loved coming to the bank with her mom and watching the canisters sail through the tubes. The best part was when the teller sent the receipt back, along with a special treat for her, a lollipop.
The canister returned to her quickly, landing outside her window with a PLOP! The teller’s voice thanked her through the scratchy speaker, and Vicky mumbled an acknowledgement as she pulled the cash and receipt out of the cylinder. She quickly counted her money before preparing to drive away. When the numbers didn’t add up, she added again. A third counting revealed the same total, as well as a personal dilemma: the teller had given her too much cash.
The car behind her honked loudly, but Vicky ignored it. She was holding an extra hundred dollars in her hands. Was this providence? Was she finally getting a lucky break? Maybe her guardian angel had sent this money to her. I work hard. I deserve this money. Vicky counted the money one more time, just to be sure.
“Is there a problem, miss?” The teller’s voice reached into her open car window through the failing intercom system. Vicky cleared her throat.
“Yes…You gave me too much money.” Vicky pulled the canister back out of the tube and placed five twenties into it. With a heavy sigh, she closed the lid. She watched, depressed, as the money made another journey through the vacuum tube.
Inside the bank the teller counted the money.
Even two lanes over, Vicky could see the teller’s face blanch. The speaker sounded off again.
“That would have come from my own pocket. You might even have saved my job!”
“No problem,” Vicky said as she shifted her car into gear. She paused when the cylinder dropped next to her again, with something inside it. With her foot on the brake, she leaned out and grabbed the container.
Inside she found a hastily scribbled note thanking her for her honesty, and a candy bouquet of eight tootsie roll pops held together with a thick rubber band. Her troubles were still with her, but Vicky was satisfied with the choice she had made. At least, she thought with a wry smile, we have dessert tonight!