Many Happy Returns
"I don't know!" Molly, the clerk, still clutching the receipt from her last transaction, wiped muddied, stinging tears from her eyes, trying to see where his voice was coming from. "I was just about to put this in their bag, and-"
"Holy hell, guys." Sam was back from his break, making his usual, unaffected commentary from somewhere outside the perimeter of their ground zero. "Did you know the ceiling's kinda, um, open, Brad?"
"Sam! Lock down the front door until we can get to the bottom of this. Don't let anyone loot us!" Brad's loyalty to his duty as store manager was, as ever, in tact--swimming in debris though he may have been, he still had his priorities straight. "And call the police when you - what the heck is this?" He suddenly spat a large chunk of sparkling, tinselly confetti out of his mouth. A deflated, dirt-caked yellow balloon made its way down and landed on his shoulder. "Oh. Oh, it can't be..." Memories of Brad's early training manuals suddenly surfaced, and a long-forgotten footnote now announced itself to his consciousness.
"Molly! Molly give me that receipt! Who was that?"
"I don't know! It was a woman and her kid."
"Go, find them! Find the woman that was here!"
"She ran out as soon as that stuff started falling on her!"
"Sam, you locked the doors, right? Bring the customers to me one by one."
Only three customers remained, most having left their carts full of goods behind in favor of avoiding the attempt at being unlawfully detained by the zealous shop manager. Brad went by each one, inspecting their bags, trying to find the match for the all-important receipt in his hand. Molly apologized for the confusion to each one as they were dismissed. As she began to sweep the glittery dust storm, Brad interrupted her efforts.
"We've got to find the woman who matches this receipt!"
"Is she Cinderella?" Sam's usual humor was wasted on Brad's seriousness and Molly's mood.
"She's the millionth customer!" Brad's reddened eyes grew larger, his already hoarse voice rasped loudly. "Jim and Elba, rest their souls, when they built this place, they had an idea for a prize to celebrate getting their millionth customer. I didn't know they actually did anything about it! The, the trap-door in the ceiling, oh my God, I had no idea. But we have to find her! We've got to give her her prize!"
"Okay, um, call the news?"
"Sam, you're a genius. Whomever can bring me the exact contents of this receipt, and match the identity Molly remembers, can claim it! You just earned yourself a raise, young man." Molly scowled, still sweeping thanklessly.
She came forward a week later. Her picture plaque still hangs on the wall by the cash register. "Jemma Blackner, 1,000,000th customer." She spent her $10 gift card on another bottle of shampoo, the last one having been spent on the efforts to get the dust out of her hair.