I shook my head. I must be hungrier than I thought.

Cutting it off with Debbi, I made my way to the lunch room. There was going to be an after-hours work party at the pizza place. I was really thinking about the party and anyone interesting I might meet.

The school term finally lurched to an end. We were all exhausted with finals and term projects.

One day Debbi told me “I knocked over a lamp in the living room and haven’t had time to pick it up.”

In some weird way, that made total sense. Our little group babbled endlessly either about school or the current boyfriends.  

However, life chugged on at the Megastore. I got to work a bit late the next Saturday and people were milling around in clumps, whispering. Debbi and another State girl were huddled together. I had to immediately invite myself into the conversation. They talked in low voices.

“I can’t believe it!” Janet, a short, somewhat chubby, English major was saying. “I was just working with her!”

“I know, I know,” Debbi was saying with a brilliant gleam in her eye. “Isn’t it something!”

“What, what?” I was practically jumping up and down at this point. What was going on?

“It’s Sharlene,” Janet almost whispered.

“What?” I said too loudly and two of the day girls turned and stared at me, then turned away.

“She got arrested!” Debbi blurted out.

“Arrested!” I was stunned. My mouth formed an O shape.

“Handcuffs and everything,” Janet chimed in. “The police were just here and they took her away.”

My head was reeling. “For what?” I got out.

“Stealing,” said Debbi smugly. My mouth dropped.

“It’s like this,” explained Janet. She did a small finger point to the corner where the payment book and the box had been. They weren’t there.  “She was taking the payments from the customers and giving them a receipt for their money, but then taking maybe $5.00 from the payment and putting it in her pocket.”

“But the book had two copies,” I said. “How could she change the bottom copy?”

Debbi glanced around then leaned forward, proud of herself, “She found a way to cover the bottom copy when she was writing and then changed the bottom amount to what was in the box.”

“So how did they find out?” I was dumbfounded.

“Well,” Debbi was having more fun than a barrel of exploding snaps, “these people kept coming in and complaining that their statement in the mail didn’t match how much they had paid in the store.  When one or two people said it, Marge thought they were just trying to pull a fast one, but then so many came in, she began to suspect something.”

“Yeah,” said Janet in a very hushed voice, “that’s when she started watching all of us.” My stomach got queasy.

“They finally figured out it was Sharlene but they could never really seeing her doing it. So, they had to wait until they saw her do it two or three times and then they could get her.”

“Yeah,” Debbi had to add, “Marge wants to eat Norma’s head.”

“Why?” I said incredulous.

“Because Norma didn’t notice the difference in the inks on the paper,” whispered Janet.

“Wow,” was all I could say. “How much do you think she got?” Janet put her hands up and shrugged with a question mark face. We finally all decided we should at least look busy and drifted back to work.

We never saw Sharlene after that day. And, Megalopolis Furniture Store did not specialize in any form of employee rehab. Debbi, Janet and Mark, the accounting guy, and I all graduated from State that year. I stayed with Megalopolis a few more months after graduation, just long enough to get a transfer to San Diego and find a full-time job.

We all went on with our separate lives. Still, from time to time I think about Sharlene and my own decision to just think about this green stuff as ‘paper.’

The End