"" Writer's Wanderings: Credit Limit - A Short Story

Friday, April 21, 2017

Credit Limit - A Short Story

[This is a fun little story that was inspired by my stint as a florist.]                                                             

Jack Griggs couldn’t believe his good luck. It was a sign, surely a sign. He had finally turned a corner in life. Good fortune smiled on him. It was the shiny red plastic sticking out from the folded paper that caught his eye. He almost passed it by assuming it to be just another piece of litter on the city streets. Red was his favorite color. It piqued his curiosity. Stooping to pick it up, he immediately recognized the litter as a credit card receipt wrapped around the credit card itself. It was just ten in the morning and the day was immediately promising despite the cloudy skies. Here was his silver lining.
It was amazing how a little find like this could lighten your step and put a whistle on your lips. Jack ducked into a Starbuck’s a few doors down to contemplate his good fortune and plan the rest of his day.
“What can I get for you?” the counter girl asked as he perused the menu of specialty coffees.

“I’ll have a latte,” he said. His hand explored the credit card in his pocket. He could feel the raised numbers. “You know, it’s such a great day, I think I’ll treat myself to one of those big cinnamon rolls too,” he added.
Jack found a seat in the corner to examine his found treasure. Normally, he would rummage through trash cans for carbons or slip a wallet out of a pocket or purse to get hold of a little credit to supply him with the necessities of life, but today it had been right there in front of him on the sidewalk.
Jack was always careful not to take any credit from the customers he met at the garage where he parked cars all evening for a living. A living. That was a laugh. The money he made barely allowed for a roof over his head and food in his belly.
There were other necessities of life just as important. Necessities that added to the quality of life such as a new stereo system, a lounge chair, a microwave (an absolute “gotta have” for a bachelor), some great jewelry and a few other wants and desires not affordable on his income. Jack was very conscientious about his credit spending. Each time he used someone’s plastic, he was careful to keep a low limit to his new credit line. Rule number one, he never assumed there would be more than a thousand left on any credit card account. He’d made that mistake once and was sure he’d been caught when the credit card was denied. And, rule number two, he got his shopping done quickly, before the card could be reported stolen or the bank catch on to unusual activity. He didn’t worry about the owners of the cards. After all, he figured, his “gifted” credit was covered by insurance through the bank. Banks and insurance companies had plenty of money to throw around.
This find was such incredible luck. As Jack examined the receipt, he noticed the buyer had filled in his address and phone number. Here was all the information he needed for identification. The receipt showed today’s date so the card was probably not missed yet. The stores had opened less than a half hour ago. If he hustled, he could get that new entertainment center he needed for the stereo system and maybe a new TV to boot. That might stretch his limit a bit, but, hey, this was his lucky day. He’d take a chance. He drained his cup and headed off for an electronics store in a neighboring town.
Jack arrived at his apartment around lunchtime. He unloaded the entertainment center and new TV from his pickup and fixed himself a sandwich. Between bites of bologna and swigs of beer, he set up the speakers, receiver, CD player and the new TV.  With a second beer in his hand, he relaxed in his lounger and snapped on the TV with a push of a button on the remote. Ah, life is beautiful, he thought.
The remote control in his hand gave him a new sense of power. Flipping through the channels, he suddenly came upon a ridiculous looking bee with bunches of flowers in his hand. He pointed the remote, ready to click again, but stopped, intrigued by the message coming from the oversized yellow and black insect. Sunday was Mother’s Day.
Jack thought about his mom who was half way across the country from him. She was the one who had given him his education on credit cards. All through his high school years, she had worked for a credit card company in the department that dealt with stolen cards and card numbers. It was just the two of them at home. She had shared her work stories with him each night at dinner. Ma had always insisted he be home for dinner each night. His friends had razzed him relentlessly about that, but now he was glad he’d been home. Ma didn’t realize what valuable information she had imparted.
Sure, why not send Ma some flowers? Maybe then she’ll believe I’m really doing all right. He picked up the phone book and searched for a florist across town and in a different zip from the one listed on the credit card receipt in his hand. He dialed the number and got a cheerful, “Flowers by Chris. How can I help you?”
“I’d like to order flowers for my mother. It says in the phone book you wire them. Will she get them today?” He had never sent flowers before and felt a little stupid asking.
“We can call a florist in that area and see if they have a truck going out late this afternoon. If not, they will take them tomorrow and she’ll still have them in time for Mother’s Day.”
“O.K. Can we send that special arrangement with the teapot like in the TV ad?”
“Luckily you called early enough. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
Jack gave his mother’s address and phone number. “Just sign the card, ‘your son’.”
“Will you be putting this on a credit card?” the florist asked.
“Yes,” replied Jack reaching for the credit card and receipt. He recited the numbers.
“I also need your zip code and phone number for verification.”
Yessir, it was his lucky day. He had those.
“Excuse me a moment, please.” The voice disappeared for an uncomfortable period of time. Maybe he’d reached the limit on the card. Jack was almost ready to hang up when she returned. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I had to make sure I was right. We have a special contest going on at the shop promoting Mother’s Day and you have won. You are the 25th person to order the teapot arrangement. If you can come in to the shop, we’ll give you certificates to a free dinner for you and your mother at Chez Restaurant. Of course, if your mom’s out of town you can always take someone else. Can you come in today to pick them up?”
Wow, Jack thought, the luck goes on. Chez was a classy place. What could it hurt? If I get there as soon as possible, everything should be O.K. The card is still working. If it wasn’t, they would have refused my order. “I can be there in about an hour. Thanks.”
“What is your name?”
He didn’t like having to give a name. What should he tell her? He looked at the name on the card, “Wilson, Chuck Wilson..”
Jack arrived at the florist shop an hour later. It was a little store in a strip mall. There was only one girl behind the counter and a man looking through a picture book of arrangements. Probably ordering flowers for his mother, Jack thought.
“Can I help you?” the girl said looking up from her order pad.
“Sure. I called in an order this noon and you told me I’d won dinner out.” Jack beamed. No, there was no limit to his luck today. The girl looked at the man who suddenly closed the book in front of him. He turned to Jack smiling as though someone had told a joke. Jack felt like he’d missed the punch line.
“Let me introduce myself,” he said, “I’m Chuck Wilson, Detective Chuck Wilson.” Two men in uniform appeared from a door behind him.

Jack stood, mouth half open, as the florist explained, “Detective Wilson is a good customer of ours and realized his credit card was missing when he came in to order flowers for his mother this morning. When you gave me the zip and phone number, I recognized it as his. I phoned him when you said you’d come in to pick up your Chez certificates.”
“Guess it’s my lucky day. We weren’t certain you’d show up.” Wilson smiled. “I would have hated to call your mother and ask her how she enjoyed her Mother’s Day flowers that were purchased with a stolen credit card.”
“What about the certificates?” Jack asked the florist and realizing what a stupid question that was the moment it was out of his mouth. It didn’t look like he’d be able to use them now.
“I just made that up. There was no contest,” the florist said sweetly.

As they handcuffed him, Detective Wilson noted, “By the way, you maxed the card out with your flower purchase.” Jack grinned sardonically. Not only had his luck run out, he’d reached his credit limit too. He wondered though, would a mother have turned in a son who sent her flowers for Mother’s Day? 

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