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HUGEPOP!!!Bedtime StoriesOne Man's WorldThe Mispronouncer

Good Friday Sale

                Red sat thinking on a stool behind the front counter at Just Pop’s Electronic Devices. He was the “Pop” from the name of the store. He had a wife named Noreen, but she refused to have anything to do with the store, so that’s why it was named “Just Pop’s.” Because it couldn’t be a mom-and-pop store without a “Mom.”

               Red’s most trusted employee was a woman named Winifred. She was two years older than Red and would have made a great “Mom” for the store, but Red didn’t think that was appropriate since he was married to Noreen. His belief was that the “Mom” and “Pop” of a mom-and-pop store needed to be married to each other.

               While Red sat thinking, Winifred locked up and turned the sign in the window so the word “Closed” faced outward.

               “I’ve got it,” said Red, pleased that his showy display of thinking had borne fruit. “We’ll call our sale a White Friday Sale.”

               “I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” said Winifred.

               “It’s the opposite of a Black Friday Sale,” said Red.

               “It sounds Nazi-ish,” said Winifred.

               Red pouted. “Fine, then we’ll call it a…Good Friday Sale.”

               “There’s already a Good Friday right before Easter,” said Winifred. “Religious people aren’t going to like you calling our Black Friday Sale a Good Friday Sale.”

               “Oh, they don’t like anything,” said Red. “They don’t get to monopolize ‘Good Friday.’ Those are two very common words. I’m tired of thinking about it. People will naysay no matter what I come up with. We’re calling it a Good Friday Sale. It’s to the point. It lets people know that we want to incentivize good behavior at our sale. No pushing, no shoving, no grabbing, no yelling. At the Just Pop’s Electronic Devices Good Friday Sale, the good people get the best discounts in Multioak!”

               Winifred didn’t argue.


               “Look,” said K. “Right here on the flyer.”

               Geri, his wife, opened the oven and wafted the pie aroma toward her nose with her oven-mitted hand. “I saw the flyer,” she said.

               K read it aloud anyway. “It says, ‘At the Just Pop’s Electronic Devices Good Friday Sale, the good people get the best discounts in Multioak!’”

               “I know what it says,” said Geri, closing the oven door. “I saw the flyer. I’m saying I don’t know what it means.”

               “Isn’t it obvious?” asked K. “Everyone knows Black Friday always brings out the worst in people. The fighting, the stampeding, the trampling. Just Pop’s is presenting their sale as an alternative to all that. It’s a Good Friday Sale, Geri!”

               “Good Friday is in April,” said Geri. “And this sale starts on Thursday evening, so it isn’t even Friday.”

               “You’re missing the point,” said K. “You’re missing the point on purpose. All the Black Friday sales start on Thanksgiving evening now, so it only makes sense that Just Pop’s Good Friday Sale would start on Thanksgiving evening too.”

               “Please stop emphasizing the word ‘good’ every time you say ‘Good Friday Sale,’” said Geri. “It’s annoying me.”

               “You’re irritable,” said K. “And I understand you’re baking pies, and pie-baking makes you irritable, so we’ll talk about this later when you aren’t baking pies.”

               “I’m irritable because I like to spend time together as a family on Thanksgiving evening,” said Geri. “I like to play card games and snack on leftovers and watch that funny tap-dancing pilgrim video that Jordan showed us on the computer last year. How are we supposed to do any of that if you and the girls are off participating in Black Friday?”

               “First of all,” said K, “that tap-dancing pilgrim video isn’t even 30 seconds long. We can easily squeeze that in before we go to the sale. Second of all, we can still be together as a family on Thanksgiving evening because you are welcome to join us at the sale. I want you to be there. And third, we will not be participating in Black Friday. You know that I am morally opposed to participating in Black Friday. That’s exactly why I feel so compelled to participate in the Just Pop’s Electronic Devices Good Friday – excuse me – Good Friday Sale. Because it stands in opposition to Black Friday. It repudiates everything that Black Friday represents, and I want to support that.”

               “And yet, Just Pop’s still makes money,” said Geri. “Despite its bold anti-Black-Friday stance. Convenient.”

               “You’re being cynical,” said K. “This is a great opportunity to teach the girls that goodness pays off. That there are rewards for goodness.”

               “Like 30 percent off on a new sound bar for the TV,” said Geri.

               “You’re joking, but yes,” said K. “Although I anticipate the discounts will be even better than that. I just have a feeling.”

               “I’m not going,” said Geri. “I’ll watch the tap-dancing pilgrim by myself.”

               “There will be plenty of time for us to watch it with you,” said K. “It’s a very short video.”

               “I like to watch it more than once,” said Geri. She adjusted her oven mitts, opened the oven, and delivered the pie from within it like the oven was a mother and the pie was a baby being born.


               K’s real name was Kevin. He had gone by “Kev” for most of his life, but for some reason, that wasn’t good enough for his daughters. They had to be the ones in charge of the family nicknames. So “Kev” became “K,” “Geraldine” became “Geri,” “Jordana” became “Jordan,” and “Josephine” became “Joey.” When Geri pointed out that it was ridiculous for the girls to dictate her and K’s nicknames since they always called them “Mom” and “Dad,” the girls stopped calling them “Mom” and “Dad” and switched to full-time use of the nicknames, which was initially a pretty devastating backfire, but now everyone was used to it. The family-wide nicknaming had happened when Jordan was ten and Joey was eight, and K had comforted Geri by insisting that it would be a short phase, but that had not proven to be the case. Now Jordan was 17, Joey was 15, and when K imagined what it would be like for his daughters to call him “Dad,” it made him feel weird. He did not want to go back to that. He liked things how they were, both in terms how his wife and daughters referred to him and in general.


               Thanksgiving dinner was delicious, but tense. K and the girls’ impending abandonment of Geri hung over the meal. K wanted to use the time together at the table as a last opportunity for him and the girls to convince Geri to go with them to the Good Friday Sale, but whenever any of them broached the subject, Geri said she didn’t want to talk about it, that she just wanted to “try to enjoy the time we have left,” phrased and delivered in a way that made it sound like she was in the late stages of a terminal illness. The girls did not appear to let this get them down. They were excited for the Good Friday Sale. K had made it sound like it would be an adventure. They also had friends who went shopping on Black Friday, and K’s past refusals to allow them to do the same had perhaps made them feel left out, or a little curious about what they were missing, at least. The Good Friday Sale at Just Pop’s Electronic Devices was a loophole through which they could take part in a cultural event that had always been denied them. And they were excited by the prospect of a new electronic device or two. Maybe the discounts would be so amazing that they would each be allowed to choose something! K had warned that this probably wouldn’t be the case, but he had also conceded that it might be the case, and had further suggested that the discounts might be even better than the girls were hoping for.

               It was after 5 and already dark by the time Thanksgiving dinner began to wind down. The girls were extra helpful once the pie was finished, cleaning up the leftovers and dishes in an efficient, cheery way that also made it clear that they were rushing. K’s peace offering to Geri was to get the Christmas stuff out of the attic so the family could get an “earlier start” on decorating the house the next day. It was an admittedly feeble peace offering.

               “All right,” said K, as if he and the girls weren’t minutes from leaving. “Let’s watch that tap-dancing pilgrim video! Let’s watch it at least twice, maybe three times.”

               “What tap-dancing pilgrim video?” asked Jordan. She sat at the very edge of the couch in the family room. Joey sat next to her, matching her posture. K was glad they were excited to go to the Good Friday Sale, but he wished they’d make it less obvious in front of Geri.

               “You showed it to us last year,” said K. “On the computer.”

               “Oh, just go,” said Geri. “You don’t have to watch the video.”

               “Do you mean a break-dancing pilgrim video?” asked Joey.

               “No,” said K. “No, it was tap-dancing. Because remember how I remarked on how they made his tap shoes look like real pilgrim shoes with big buckles on them?”

               “Pilgrim hats have buckles,” said Jordan.

               “The shoes do too!” said K. “Back me up, Geri. It was a tap-dancing pilgrim, right? You said so yourself the other night.”

               “The girls are probably right,” said Geri. “It’s been a year since I saw it. I know it was some kind of dancing.”

               “I don’t remember it at all,” said Jordan. “But it was probably break-dancing. Why would someone make a tap-dancing pilgrim video?”

               “If we’re talking about people from history tap-dancing, I’d rather see a conquistador tap-dance than a pilgrim,” said Joey. She had just concluded a big project on conquistadors for her history class.

               “Just go,” said Geri. “Have fun being good at the sale. I’ll do some online Christmas shopping.”

               The girls ran upstairs to put on more layers of clothes.

               “Coats, hats, scarves, gloves, warm socks!” K called after them. He looked at Geri, who sat in an easy chair sipping at a steaming mug of tea. She did not look upset, which emboldened K enough to ask, “Are there any specific electronic devices you’d like me to get?”

               “Do not even think about attributing any portion of this outing to me,” said Geri. “Don’t even consider it.”

               “I’ll probably just see what they have, then,” said K. “Won’t go too crazy.” He was relieved when his daughters clumped back down the stairs.

               “Bye, Geri,” said Jordan.

               “Bye, Geri,” said Joey.

               “Have fun, girls,” said Geri. “Be good.”

               K couldn’t tell if that was a shot at him or not. He decided not to interpret it as one. It would not do to show up at the Good Friday Sale feeling even slightly bitter.


               The parking lot at Just Pop’s Electronic Devices was already full by the time K and the girls got there.

               “Ah, man,” said Joey. “It’s so crowded already. Everyone’s going to be in front of us.”

               “I’m glad it’s crowded,” said K as he searched for street parking. “That means we’re not the only ones who want to see goodness rewarded instead of greed and selfishness. And remember, that’s what the ad says: this a sale where ‘good people get the best discounts in Multioak,’ not the people who get in line first.”

               “But if everyone’s here because they’re good, then won’t the people who got here first still get priority?” asked Jordan.

               “Well, there’s a difference between being good and just acting good so you can get a good discount on an electronic device,” said K. It took him three attempts to parallel park in a tight spot two blocks from the store, but he maintained exceptional patience throughout, even when someone honked at him between attempts two and three.

               “So you think the people at the store will be able to tell the difference between who’s actually good and who’s just acting good so they can get a discount?” asked Joey. Almost as tall as her older sister, she walked on K’s left side. Jordan walked on his right. They both had their plaid scarves pulled up under their noses against the wintry night air.

               “Why would a respectable establishment like Just Pop’s go out of their way to change the name of Black Friday to Good Friday and then specifically target their ad to good people unless they were specifically interested in actual goodness?” asked K.

               “I guess so,” said Joey, rightly interpreting the question as more of a miniature lecture.

               The line of people waiting to get into Just Pop’s Electronic Devices started at the door, ran along the front of the building, around the corner, and down the sidewalk.

               “There’s no way there’s enough stuff in that tiny store for all of us to get something,” said Jordan.

               K didn’t like the doubt that had crept into his daughters’ voices. “Just keep a good attitude,” he said. “Both of you. That’s what I’m doing.”

               “So you want us to act good,” said Jordan.

               “I want you to keep being as good as I know you really are,” said K. At the back of the line, he made sure to graciously allow Joey and Jordan to stand in front of him, putting others before himself as all good people should. He was a little disappointed at how quickly Joey accepted her spot in front of her sister. It would have been nice if she had suggested that Jordan take the front spot, but K didn’t bring it up out of a fear that Joey might protest or say something sassy, a reaction that would not look good in front of the people near them in line.

               K, Jordan, and Joey stood in silence for a minute. K wished he had taken the clothing instructions he’d given to his girls. His socks were not thick enough, he had not worn gloves, and though he’d worn an old, gray stocking cap, he had neglected to bring a scarf. He stood with his hands in the pockets of his coat, hunching his shoulders so that the coat’s collar covered more of his neck.

               “When will they start letting people in?” asked Jordan.

               “I don’t know,” said K.

               The middle-aged woman in front of Joey turned around and smiled. “No one knows,” she said. “But I’m sure it’ll be soon.” Her makeup had been applied, by her or someone else, with an artist’s precision. “Hi. I’m Paula.” She extended her hand to Joey, then Jordan, then K, tilting her right ear toward each of them as they told her their names. “It’s nice to meet you all. Isn’t this fun? The name of the sale is a little odd, especially for religious people, probably, but I’m sure the owner and the people who work here didn’t mean any offense by it.” She touched the back of her hand to her nose, but did not sniffle.

               K’s daughters looked at each other, then at him. “Yes,” said K. “It’s fun. We think this is such a neat idea.”

               “Oh, me too,” said Paula, clapping her hands together, the sound of the clap neutered by her gloves. “I think more businesses should incentivize goodness for a change. It’s so refreshing.”

               “Well, now, hold on,” said K. “I don’t think Just Pop’s is incentivizing goodness. I think they’re rewarding goodness. There’s a difference. An important difference.”

               “Well, yes, of course, you’re right,” said Paula, her smile turning desperate. “Maybe I misspoke, but yes, it’s such a neat idea.” She turned to face the back of the man in front of her again.

               “That was embarrassing,” said Jordan in more of a mutter than a whisper.

               “No, it wasn’t,” whispered K. “Don’t be like that, Jordan.”

               “You think it’s ‘good’ to lecture friendly strangers about their innocent word choices?” asked Jordan.

               “You don’t know if it was innocent or not,” said K. “You think it’s ‘good’ to just let people carry and spread wrong ideas?”

               “You think it’s ‘good’ to assume the worst about people?” asked Jordan.

               “Shh,” said K.

               “You ‘shh,’” said Jordan. It was the kind of response that sometimes made K wonder if it had been a mistake to let the girls refer to him by a nickname.

               “You’re both being embarrassing,” said Joey. “Just stop.”

               The trio lapsed back into silence. K shivered. He felt dismay creeping in at the edges of his good attitude. This blessed event was not highlighting the goodness of him and his daughters. Not so far, anyway. But as far as he could tell, no one from Just Pop’s had witnessed their little conflict, so no harm had been done, probably. And really, it was more of a discussion than a conflict. No one was really mad or hurt. And besides, goodness wasn’t always about agreeing with people. That was a childish view of goodness. Turning this sale into an opportunity to deepen his daughters’ understanding of goodness was a very good thing for K, as a father, to do. And he was certain that the Just Pop’s people would have an equally deep view of goodness, perhaps even deeper. He would not be denied an incredible discount on an electronic device just because he had embarrassed his teenage daughters. If not embarrassing teenage daughters was the standard for goodness, then no father of teenage daughters could be good. He chuckled to himself at this pithy observation.

               “Don’t chuckle to yourself,” said Joey. “It’s embarrassing.”

               K scowled. But not in a not-good way.


               30 minutes later, nothing had happened except that a few more people had joined the line behind K: a couple in their late 30s sharing a thermos of coffee, a man wearing a cap with a fake ponytail attached to it, and a woman in her 20s dressed like she was on an arctic expedition. The young woman appeared to be wearing a fair amount of real fur. K wondered how the Just Pop’s people felt about the ethics of wearing fur. He wondered if this woman had already forfeited her shot at a great discount just by her choice of clothing. Part of him hoped so. Not because he felt strongly about whether or not people should wear fur, but because that would be one less person he’d have to worry about being deemed more good than him. Not that being good was a competition of course, but then again, if the supply of electronic devices was limited, then being good was sort of a competition in this specific case, but a competition that brought out the best in people, the good kind of competition.

It was also becoming clear to K that he and his daughters were at the end of the line. Almost all of the people who were coming to the Good Friday Sale were already present and in front of him. What did that mean? Did that mean that the people in front of him were more punctual than him, and therefore more good? Or did that mean that he was more good because he had devoted more of his Thanksgiving Day to spending time at home with his family? And also, when he showed up, he’d brought his daughters, and a father spending time with his daughters was universally recognized as a good thing. If only Geri had been willing to come to complete the picture of the close-knit family. But maybe people would think that he was a single father? But that left open the possibility that people might conclude that he was a single father because he had done something to make his wife want to leave him. But having the girls with him might make people think he had custody of the kids, which would imply that his ex had been the bad one. Unless the daughters were just visiting, like, he had them for Thanksgiving and his ex would have them for Christmas, which most people considered to be the superior holiday, which might make him seem like the one who was more at fault in the divorce.

K’s train of thought was interrupted by a ripple of chatter in the line.

“What’s going on?” asked Joey.

Paula turned around and, without looking at K, said, “They’re letting people in!”

“Really?” asked K. “Who? How many people? How are they deciding?”

Paula looked him in the eye, started to turn away, but then thought better of it, took a moment to measure her tone, and said, “I’m sure they’re doing it as fairly as possible.”

“I’ll get out of line and look around the corner,” said Jordan. “I’ll see what I can see.” There was a crumb of renewed enthusiasm in her voice.

“OK, go for it,” said K.

Jordan walked down the sidewalk with short, choppy steps past the people waiting in line and disappeared around the corner.

“Do you think they have, like, judges?” asked Joey. “Do you think they’re interviewing everyone?”

“Maybe,” said K. “I wouldn’t think a simple interview would be enough to determine a person’s goodness, but they’ve probably brought in some very perceptive people.”

“Like behavioral psychiatrists?” asked Joey. Her best friend’s mom was a behavioral psychiatrist and Joey had decided that’s what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“Maybe,” said K with an affectionate smile. He resisted the urge to reach out and pull Joey’s red stocking cap down over her eyes, just in case she found it less funny than embarrassing. Now that people were actually beginning to receive their discounts, his mood was rapidly improving.

Minutes passed. K was beginning to wonder what had become of Jordan when he heard shouting from the front of the building. A woman was screaming obscenities and other voices were trying to shout her down. Then there was a brief lull followed by a man’s voice shouting obscenities, and the sound of people booing. Joey looked at K with wide, worried eyes. “Should we make sure Jordan’s OK?”

“I’m sure she’s OK,” said K. “The Just Pop’s people won’t let anything get too out of hand.”

“What do you think is going on?” asked Joey.

“It sounds like some people who aren’t very good showed up looking for great discounts,” said K. “And now they’re learning a hard lesson.” All along what K could see of the line, people were discussing whatever was going on around front, but he saw a lot of shrugging. It didn’t seem like a full account had made its way around the corner yet.

From the parking lot, K heard the roar of an engine, heard squealing tires, and saw a car careen out of the parking lot, turn right, and zoom past the line, a woman in the passenger’s seat flipping everyone off with both hands.

“Wow,” said Joey. “They seriously thought they were good people?”

“Everyone thinks of themselves as good,” said K. “That’s what makes a sale like this so necessary, though. It separates the truly good from those who only think of themselves as good. It’s not an easy thing to do, but Just Pop’s Electronic Devices thinks it’s important and so do I.”

“Here comes Jordan,” said Joey.

“Jordan!” called K. “Over here!” He waved her toward him with both hands.

“Dad, stop,” said Joey. “She knows where we are.”

As Jordan walked past the line on her way back to her spot, other people continually called out to her to tell them what was going on. She kept pausing to give them information, which K found maddening. She was his daughter, she should give him a complete account first. He knew it would irritate Joey, but he couldn’t help himself. “Jordan, come on!” he called. “Hurry over here!”

He could tell by Jordan’s expression that she had liked this even less than Joey had, but it got the desired effect out of her. She cut short whatever she was saying to the people farther up the line and continued toward her father and sister.

“What happened?” K asked as soon as Jordan was close enough to converse at a normal speaking volume.

Several of the people in front of Joey had turned around in order to be part of the audience for Jordan’s response.

But before she could answer, the man behind K wearing the cap with the attached fake ponytail said, “She can’t get back in line.”

K looked over his shoulder, scoffed, and turned back to his daughter. “What was all that shouting?”

“I’m serious,” said the man in the cap. “She got out of line, she lost her place, she can’t get back in line there. She has to go to the end.”

               “You can’t be serious,” said Jordan. “You saw me standing here. I only went up there to see what was going on.”

               “I already said I am serious,” said the man. “It doesn’t matter what your reason was. You got out of line.”

               “Look,” said K. “This is supposed to be a sale for good people. Do you really think you’re being good right now, sir?”

               “Yes, I do,” said the man. “I’m sticking up for justice for all the people behind you in line who could have wandered out of line to see what was going on, but who know that the proper way to wait in line is to stay where you are. If everyone just felt they could come and go as they pleased, there wouldn’t even be a line. People like your daughter feel free to flout the rules only because most people know better.”

               “This is crazy,” said K. “We were holding her place in line for her. It’s not like we all left and came back.”

               “So because you came with more than one person, you get to take turns wandering away,” said the man. “But because I came by myself, I’m stuck here. That’s what you’re saying? Because my daughters are nurses for special needs orphans overseas and can’t be here with me, that means I have to stay in line but you don’t?”

               K looked past the man to the thermos-sharing couple and the young woman wearing fur. “Do you guys agree with him? Are you upset that my daughter got out of line and we saved her spot?” He expected the people to protest, to insist that no, of course they didn’t agree with the unreasonable man, of course it was OK for Jordan to leave the line and come back. But they just looked uncomfortable, glanced at each other, and shrugged.

               “See?” said the man. “They agree with me.”

               “No, they don’t,” said K. “They just don’t want to disagree with you in front of you because they know you’ll turn on them too.”

               The young woman wearing fur cleared her throat and said, “Maybe you and your daughters should just go to the back of the line. It’s not that much farther back. It’s not a big deal. Just for the sake of, you know, peace.”

               K looked to the thermos couple one more time as potential allies, but they would not commit. They probably liked the idea of being three people closer to the front of the line just as much as the man with the ponytail cap and the woman wearing fur. K wondered if he would be allowed to comment on the goodness of other people in line when the time came. Would that be considered tattling? Or was tattling more a matter of tone? No one called it tattling when a witness testified at a murder trial, for example. “Come on, girls,” said K. “Let’s set a good example and move to the end of the line.”

               “No, no,” said the man with the ponytail cap. “You’re not setting a good example. You’re only doing it now that you’ve seen everyone is against you.”

               “Not true,” said K. “We could keep arguing. We could refuse to go. But we’re willing to sacrifice our rightful place in line to deescalate tensions.” He got out of line, walked past the thermos couple, walked past the ponytail cap man, and motioned for Joey and Jordan to stand behind the woman wearing fur. Then he took his place at the end of the line. Last place. Last. The last good man. This thought gave him some grim satisfaction and he chuckled to himself.

               “K, please,” said Joey. “Do not chuckle to yourself. Everyone knows you’re just doing it for attention.”

               “Wait,” said K. “Jordan. You never told us what happened.”

               “I was trying,” said Jordan.

               “So what happened?” asked K.

               “I guess they opened the doors and started letting people in,” said Jordan. “But only a few at a time so it wouldn’t get too crowded.”

               “Started letting which people in?” asked K.

               “The people at the front,” said Jordan.

               “At the front of the line?” asked K.

               “Yeah,” said Jordan.

               “But how did they know those people are good?” asked K.

               “I don’t know,” said Jordan. “But there was this one lady who was next in line to go in, but then one of the other people in line stepped out and talked to the guy at the door and he told the lady she couldn’t come in.”

               “Hmm,” said K. “Interesting. That other person must have witnessed some evidence of her lack of goodness while standing in line and he must have felt it was his duty to preserve the discounted electronic devices for the truly good people.”

               “Well, he was, like, a spy,” said Jordan.

               “A spy?” asked Joey.

               “Yeah,” said Jordan. “Like, he wasn’t really a customer. He was working for Just Pop’s. Standing in line pretending to be a customer. And I guess he saw or heard that lady do something that showed she wasn’t good, so he told the guy at the door, and that guy said the lady couldn’t come in, so she flipped out and started screaming. But then when people figured out that the spy was a spy – a fake customer – the lady’s husband started yelling about that. He’d been trying to stay in line so at least one of them could get the discount, but I guess the spy thing pushed him over the edge. So he got kicked out of line too, and then some people started booing, but I don’t know if they were booing the people who got kicked out or the spy or the guy at the door kicking people out or what. So the people who got kicked out got in their car and took off and then I came back.”

               “So,” said K, lowering his voice, “there are spies monitoring people’s behavior while we stand in line, looking for signs of lacking goodness.”

               “I guess,” said Jordan.

               K paused and considered his next move. The last good man. He suppressed a chuckle. Then he got out of line, resisted the urge to sarcastically call for his daughters to save his spot, and strode up next to Paula, who had formerly stood in front of Joey, and who was now standing in front of the thermos couple. She glanced at K out of the corner of her eye as he looked her over, then turned to him and said, “Can I help you?”

               K leaned close, his tone conspiratorial. “You work here.”

               “No,” said Paula, her voice lowering to K’s level. “I do not.”

               “You do,” said K. “You’re a spy. You’re monitoring the behavior of the people in this part of the line so you can tell the guy at the door not to let the people in who aren’t good.”

               “That’s not true,” said Paula, her voice plunging to a whisper. She looked scared. “Please leave me alone.”

               “You saw how those people bullied us into going to the back of the line,” said K. “Good people wouldn’t do that to someone for such a petty reason. Right? We agree on that?”

               “I- it- it doesn’t matter what I think about it,” said Paula. “I just want a nice, new laptop at a good discount.”

               “Cut it out,” said K. “I should have guessed right away by how you were talking earlier, but it didn’t occur to me then that there might be spies. But now that I know there are spies, it’s obvious you’re one of them.”

               “Sir,” said Paula. “If I were a ‘spy’ monitoring people’s behavior on behalf of the store, how do you think your continued harassment of me after I’ve asked you several times to stop would affect your chances of getting access to the discounts?”

               “Whoa, hey,” said K. “Are you threatening me?”

               “I already told you I don’t have the authority to threaten you,” said Paula. “But if I did, I actually think there’s a good chance I would have decided you were beyond hope some time ago.”

               “Because of the incentive versus reward thing?” asked K. “Really? You’re that sensitive?”

               “I was just trying to be nice,” said Paula. “I was just making friendly conversation!” Neither of their voices were low anymore. In fact, they were now edging toward the high end of the scale. The other people standing near them in line watched, but said nothing, worried about how any intrusion on either side might impact their eventual admittance to the store.

               “The fact that you work for Just Pop’s and you think of the Good Friday Sale as an incentive for goodness is even more disturbing,” said K. “That makes me think that this whole venture is fundamentally flawed. Flawed from the ground up. From the beginning.”

               “What would you know about goodness?” asked Paula. “Just go to some Black Friday Sale where you belong!”

               “Excuse me?” said K. “Excuse me? I belong at a Black Friday Sale? That’s what you think?”

               “Yes,” said Paula. “That’s what I think.”

               “You know what?” asked K. “At least Black Friday Sales are honest about what they are. But look how this Good Friday Sale has turned out.”

               “Yes,” said Paula. “Because of people like you.”

               “Oh, no you don’t,” said K. “You advertised this as a sale where good people would get the best discounts in Multioak. And then we show up and it’s first come, first served, just like everywhere else. Except here, you can deny discounts to people you have personal problems with. That’s the only difference. And then you try to use our own goodness against us! You targeted us because you knew we’d be less likely to protest the unfairness of your system! Look at these people! They’re so afraid you or one of your cronies will decide anything they say or do isn’t good that they won’t jump in to defend me when I’m clearly on the correct side!”

               “You sidled up to me two minutes ago trying to get me to disqualify ‘these people’ because of your personal problems with them,” said Paula. “You’re a hypocrite and a cynic.”

               “You made me a cynic,” said K. “You and everyone involved in the conception and execution of the Just Pop’s Electronic Devices Good Friday Sale.”

               “Don’t blame us for your cynicism,” said Paula.

               “Girls!” called K, turning toward the back of the line where his daughters were watching the scene he was making with a surprising lack of embarrassment. “Was I a cynic about the Good Friday Sale before we got here?”

               “No,” said Jordan.

               “Definitely not,” said Joey.

               “See?” said K, turning triumphantly back to Paula, if that was her real name.

               “Why would I believe them?” asked Paula. “They’re your daughters.”

               “Girls!” called K. “Am I a good man?”

               “Not really,” said Jordan.

               “No,” said Joey.

               “See?” said K, even more triumphantly. “See?”


               Hours later, when K, Jordan, and Joey walked into the house, Geri was in the living room watching a movie.

               “I thought you’d be asleep,” said K.

               “Nope,” said Geri. “Looks like a successful trip.” She gestured to the bag in K’s hand, the bag in Jordan’s hand, the bag in Joey’s hand.

               “They each got to pick something,” said K.

               “And I notice those bags don’t say ‘Just Pop’s’ on them,” said Geri. “It actually appears that they say ‘Electro-Nick’s’ on them.”

               “We decided we could actually do more good at Electro-Nick’s Black Friday Sale,” said K. “Right, girls?”

               “Yeah,” said Jordan. “We tried to set a good example.”

               “We tried to be a good influence,” said Joey. “With our words and actions.”

               “And we succeeded,” said K. “Of all the people there, were we the only good ones? Were we the most good of all the people there? Impossible to say. How would you ever determine that? But we easily did the most good of anyone there. That’s beyond doubt.”

               “I saved an old man from being trampled,” said Jordan.

               “I broke up a fight between two women in the bathroom,” said Joey.

               “I let some jerk take the last pair of headphones that I wanted,” said K.

               “Sounds exciting,” said Geri. “Now I kind of wish I had gone.”

               “Next year,” said K. 

Discussion Questions

  • Did I succeed in writing a story about Black Friday that was not yet another boring-but-correct tirade against the obvious obscenity of Black Friday?

  • List all the times when your intentions have been thwarted by spies.

  • What would be a good nickname for you to call your father from now on? What would be a good nickname for you to call your mother from now on?

  • What kind of person from history would you most like to see tap-dance in an online video? What kind of person from history would you most like to see break-dance in an online video? How long would the ideal versions of those two videos be and how many times in a row would you ideally watch them?

  • Should goodness be rewarded, incentivized, both, or neither?

  • What’s the best discount you can conceive of?