The only thing left for Ones, he considered, a week after the incident with the mother and teenage children, was to find out the man’s name. Then he would fall back into dreams, never to wake again.
Try as he might, though, this wouldn’t happen.
Bills were only roused when considered, as themselves, a fortune in and of itself. It was ironic, this law. How it bounded them among their many constraints. They would not return to their former state until abandoned, whether by chance or intent, by those who addressed them. It was a thought Ones developed in the darkest hours of each night. When there was no brewing, no business, no man.
“There’s no way out, then. At least not until he wants to get rid of me,” thought Ones. “I know he won’t forget, but I wish he would.”
And Ones was right. The man never did forget.
Another few weeks went by, the days grew shorter, and the man still wouldn’t move the bill. Even though it stayed there, in his eyes, waiting for others to occupy the jar with it.
“You are lucky though,” said the man to Ones. “James’ condition hasn’t worsened.”
He hadn’t said this out loud yet– the comment about James. Something that was growing on his conscious.
It was a recognition that gave him reason to change everything at the shop.
The man’s approach from then on, presented to Ones a whole new man. He started right after, smiling to the shop’s visitors. The next day, he arrived clean shaven and even attempted at conversation. Most were shocked, and had nothing to say, but a few were rather honest. They were upset he had seemingly left, but they wanted to respect his privacy. They also told him they would never leave his business based on the unfair accusations made against him. Some said they knew he’d come back.
Ones was astonished. The man’s history was unveiled a little more each day. Still, though, nobody said the man’s name and nobody tipped him, either.
“Maybe they don’t believe he’s back to himself,” thought Ones. He wanted to know about the accusations and who James was. It was enough not to wish he’d be disregarded.
Soon after, it all came together.
A young man entered the shop on a rainy afternoon. Upon recognizing this customer, although Ones had never seen him, the man welcomed him and offered a coffee on the house.
“Not today, Reed,” he said. “I came to see you.”
“What? See I’m alive again?” Reed muttered.
“So it is. You talk like that when you’re embarrassed,” replied the young man.
“So it is, Alan,” Reed said, taking a deep breath. “I’m ready now. For everything.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Reed. That night was never your fault,” said Alan.
Reed hesistated, but got the words out.
“1 drink. It’s what’s done me in. I can’t let that go and neither can the rest of town.”
Alan disagreed, but continued to talk to Reed, getting him to say more than Ones ever thought possible. He watched them make small talk, and eventually cross into Reed’s touchy subjects. The crash. Jeanne, his wife, and her funeral. How Reed got by since ignoring Alan after the service. About home and the shop. And about James, Reed’s 4 year old, still recovering from the crash.
It went on for hours. Reed attended to customers here and there, but everyone knew to leave. It was clear to them all, including Ones, that Alan was the closest friend Reed had. They knew not to interrupt.
Finally they discussed what made Reed change.
“The kindness of an older woman,” he said. “But not until weeks later did I realize it. She gave me that dollar over there, even when I was rude to her. She wasn’t from this town, but it’s almost as if she knew. Since I got that tip, I dunno. It’s been different.”
Alan found this amusing and took out a single himself. He emphasized that it was for Reed’s own good, motioning towards the jar.
“Hilarious,” Reed muttered, refusing the bill.
Alan insisted, placing it next to Ones and telling him that it was lucky.
Reed laughed, telling him that that’s what he called the other bill. Their ongoing conversation, though, no longer mattered to Ones. He never thought it’d happen, but here he was, in similar company.
“Where am I?” asked the new bill.
Like Reed, Ones was changed. His hope surged and his outlook on his and his fellow bills’ constraints was altered forever.