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Transparent Little Capsule That Your Homie Doll Lives In When You Put Two Quarters In The Quarter Machine In Front Of The Grocery Store

I put some of the stickers on the desk over some of the other stickers near the register. They had peace signs and words about war (specifically how it’s not good but actually quite bad) and green leaves and colorful flags. The others who worked here (Worked? Did they work here?) encouraged me to not exactly straight-up deface the property, but to maybe just add a little flair here and there on the walls and countertops around the front area of the store if I was inclined to do so. The boss (The boss? Did he even work here?) said that they wanted everyone that put in time here, willing or not, to make sure that they left some kind of imprint on the store, be it tangible, or not. I was told, no, heartened, to try and learn something while I was employed here (Me? Did I even work here?) so long as I leave something similarly behind. I planned to put up some “Save The F*ucking Planet” stickers on the wall that I found in a pile, going the tangible route rather than a lesson learned, and taking with me a signed piece of paper from the boss here to ensure that I completed my mandatory two-hundred hours of work. It was between this and roadside pickup. The latter didn’t sound completely unpleasant, in retrospect. It was a brisk and pretty October. Also, they got to wear bright orange vests. Here, the patrons and (willing) volunteers both seemed to be white with dreadlocks. It seemed unanimous. I’d probably fit in more on the side of the interstate.

An odd little man came into the store. His locks were un-dreaded. He had no locks, actually. He walked by the register and mumbled “Hi” from the side of his straightened lips. I had never seen somebody mumble something monosyllabic.

I asked him, I think I did anyways, if he needed help or if he was looking for anything, and he put his hand up as if to shush me, like, I Know Where I’m Headed, Please Leave Me Be. His head kind of vibrated back and forth, resembling a man who had just put a fork in an outlet while trying to shake his head “No.” Head before legs, he walked to the Buddhist/Spirituality/Cannabis book section, where he rummaged intently through some books.

I continued my sticker placing. There was a stack of “Eat More Kale” stickers. The height of them was equivalent to a stood-up roll of quarters. I tried to make a house of cards with a few of them. They were too flimsy. I gave up after two attempts. I looked over at the man, the only one in the store. He looked up over his glasses towards me while flipping through a book that wasn’t visible to me. He had a stack of several books at his feet. He was turning pages at a speed that was ripping the bottom of the pages. He would look up at me after each tear. He put the book in his stack. We made eye contact, which was incidental to me, maybe intentional to him. He picked up his books and waddled over to me, standing behind the register. He held a book in his right hand titled “Karma: How To Prepare?” And then had a stack of several others under his opposite armpit. He had two of the same book that had something in the title about reincarnation. I couldn’t read what the rest of the title was, but at first glance I thought it said, “Reincarnation: Friend or Foe?” It did not.

He gave me a “Hi” similar to the one when he entered the store, mumbled, somehow, but a little friendlier.

“Can I help you with anything?”

“Hi, I was curious about since you work here and on account of that if you knew anything, or if there was a way you could explain to me about some of this stuff, on account of I had heard about reincarnation and how karma works and I just want to know more about what it is or if you had anything about it you knew in regards to how it works. I’m new to all this stuff but I am curious and just have some questions.” I put the stickers back in it’s neat stack. “Sure, I mean, I can try, I don’t know everything about it but I can try.”

“What do you mean, like do you be Buddhist? I mean, are you Buddhist? You don’t look like one I guess.”

“No, I mean no, not necessarily, I know some stuff from working here. But no, I don’t practice it. But I can try to help if you have any questions.”

“Thank you, well what, hold on, why do you work here?”

“I’m not sure.” I really wasn’t. I could have explained community service and how it works, but even me choosing the LoveCom nonprofit resource center over, say, picking up trash, would lead him to getting the same answer. I was in no way sure why I chose this place over the trash pick-up.

“Well either way, you’re here, so, I just have a question about how it all works.”

“How what works?”

“Karma and reincarnation, but all of it, really.”

“All of what?”

“Forget the all of it part. Just the karma and reincarnation part, that’s what I want to know about, how it works.”

I put both my hands up like I was going to explain how All Of It works using gestures. They orbited around one another in front of my face. “Well, like I said, I’m not a Buddhist guy, or Zen or anything like that, but my understanding about karma is that, well, if you do good, then good will be dealt unto you, yeah? You probably know that, at least. And reincarnation, in my understanding, as well, and maybe yours too, like maybe you know as much as I do about this stuff, so stop me if it’s old news to you, but reincarnation is basically when you do enough good karma-related stuff and then once you die and Buddha is there and tells you that you have a bunch of karma collected through the course of your physical being self, and so now as a reward you’ll be reincarnated as something cooler or better than what you were in your previous life.” He looked me right in the eyes through the duration of this lesson. I could see his sweaty pupils staring at me through the gaps in my fingers swinging around between us. It reminded me of my eye doctor moving her finger back and forth in front of my face like a pendulum, telling me to look straight at her and not follow her finger. I remember being unable to do it. This man would have certainly passed.

“Ah, alright, thanks, well, ah…”

“Sorry, I’m not like super big into stuff, I just work here but I’m not spiritual like that really, I-” My voice faded into silence, not knowing where I was going with my concluding thoughts on karma, or whether reincarnation was friend or foe.

“That’s okay, thanks for trying, I think you helped some.”

“Does that cover it, at all, or can I try harder to help, or-”

“Well, I think it does, I guess I just have more specifics, can you give me a second?” He dropped the books, duplicate included, on the counter, and walked back to the bookshelf. He perused, grabbed a few books, looked up from his glasses towards me a few more times, and walked back to the counter. He placed more books on the stack. I put the kale propaganda stickers back on the counter, which I had subconsciously picked up, flipping through each individual one for no reason, as if I was going to do a head count on them. He drew a breath.

“Okay, so my question is about if I reincarnate, if or when, or how, what will happen to me? Like, where exactly will I go?”

“You mean, what will happen when you get reincarnated? Like, are you asking physically how it works?” I envisioned a large circuit of pipes and tunnels underground, planted under every cemetery in the world, made for the burial of a person or dog, so that when someone was dug into and thrown under the earth, they could be sent through some sort of magic burrowing system, becoming something else as they traveled through, being born again somewhere as a new being entirely, thanks to the magic pipes.

“Yeah, I mean, can I throw a hypothetical your way?”

“Sure,” I motioned towards him with one hand as if to Follow Me, which didn’t make sense in the context, but he seemed to know that I was implying to “Go ahead.”

“Okay, so hear me out, and this is completely hypothetical, again, but hear me out. I think I believe in it, or at least, I really want to believe in it, because here’s the thing, I have found myself in a predicament which has continuously, for years, made me want to take revenge on people. These people, no, no, scratch that, just one person, really, has for many, many years caused me to experience mental torture. I experience mental torture due to this one person. And I have grown so tired letting myself feel tortured by these things. I seek something like vengeance, because I believe it would lead to the cessation of my torture. However, there are two problems I have with seeking this. First, I don’t think I can in good conscience pursue anything of that nature, like getting revenge, due to my moral compass. I am not boasting about having a large or great moral compass, or that I’m someone that should be listened to or followed based on my moral compass, but I do have enough of one to know that I shouldn’t be trying to seek some sort of street justice on somebody who has hurt me in the past, time and time over for many moons, too many moons for me to ever care to see. The second point in why I can’t find myself seeking vengeance is that, of course, I am a small, little man, which you can see in front of your eyeballs. The man, oops, sorry, I spoke too much about it, but fine, I’ll spoil my predicament a bit, it’s a man, the man who did me a disservice, is much taller and greater and larger in size than me. Are you following?”

“Yes.” I laid the stickers out across the counter, individually, making a quilt of Eat More Kales. “Can I ask what this man has done to you, or is that too personal of a question? Or, bare minimum, what is the nature of his wrong-doing unto you?”

“Would you prefer the long or the short?” He stuck one hand out, wiggling it back and forth. I knew what it meant, without knowing exactly what it meant. “Short.”

“Okay, well, it’s not a story I can exactly make short, but I’ll try. Okay, so have you heard of Dippin’ Dots?”

“Of course, yeah, I remember them, it’s been years. I used to eat them a lot of the waterpark south of here.” I pointed my finger towards the front door, implying that the waterpark was out there past the door somewhere. I wasn’t sure if I was pointing south or not.

“Okay, well this is the situation. Hear me out. I invented the formula for Dippin’ Dots years ago, you understand? I invented what we now know as Dippin Dots. My friend, or who I once considered my friend, and his name isn’t important, unless you want to know it, but I haven’t even told you my name, yet, and I don’t want to, so let’s forget names altogether. Anyways, I invented them years and years ago, and the formula was stolen from me by a dear friend, who I will just call friend, but I want to be clear he is in no way my friend.”

“How exactly did he steal it?” I was more curious about the backstory than I was about reincarnation. I pictured a styrofoam cup with millimeter-sized pink and blue little balls of cream. I salivated a little. The store I worked in carried vegan delights. I wondered if Dippin’ Dots did anything like that.

“Friend ran an ice cream parlor, which I worked at, and the process doesn’t matter, but I invented them one late night playing with ingredients in the back, struck gold with a combination of things, realized I had dynamite, and showed the friend what I had created, and he offered to help me produce and distribute them in the store with a commission, which he did for several years, until selling it to a big-name ice cream distribution center, which will also go unnamed, as they are not the perpetrator here. He sold my formula without consulting me and stabbed my back.”

“Wow.”

“Wow is right. So can you answer my question?”

“Can you ask it again? I forget what you’re asking.”

“Of course.”

“Okay.”

He smiled.

“Will you ask it again?”

“Oh! Yes. Well, seeing as how this friend is much larger than me, my question is, seeing as how I am much smaller, I have found solace in the fact that, according to how karma works, my understanding is that if I act good and don’t do anything bad for the rest of my life, I may be presented with a better life in a different body in the future. Can you confirm that this is true, assuming reincarnation is the truth?”

“Sure, why not.”

“Okay, so, let’s say, if this friend continues being bad, and I continue being good, and I just wait it out and never act on any bad feelings towards this man, and we both pass away, is there a chance that I’d be reincarnated as a man much bigger than him in a new life?”

I felt my eyebrows dig a little. “I could see it being potentially a thing, but I still think waiting patiently to be in a bigger body than your enemy to maybe hurt them or make fun of them or something may be counterproductive to how karma works. I think, or at least I figure, that like anything else, it’s all about intention, if that makes sense.”

“Yeah it kind of do. I mean, I don’t plan on hurting him or anything once I transfer into a new physical realm of self, or whatever it says in these books, I just want to make sure that I’ll have a greater life than him when we transfer our souls into new people or whatever the heck.”

“I don’t see why not, really, but I also don’t know if you’d have any memory that this large person who is now much smaller than you was your enemy. I don’t think you’d find closure, considering you wouldn’t remember what you were wanting closure from in the first place.”

“I don’t think I’ll have trouble forgetting him. This is a really really big, fat man we’re talking about here. But also, I planned ahead, and considered writing myself a note about it, and hiding it somewhere, so when I get reincarnated as a great big fat guy like my friend, and him similar to me in my current body, I can find it, and remember what it is I didn’t like about him in the first place.”

“If you have no memory of it, though, which we should be assuming that you won’t, then how will you know how to find the note?”

He put his hand on his chin, thinking, considering. I wondered what he was thinking and considering. I’d hoped that he would say that’d he’d write the note on a small post-it, and thumbtack it to his brain or soul, so it could be transferred to another realm, still having it. He did not though. Instead, he said, “I don’t know.”

“I mean, what do you plan on doing in this next life anyways? If you end up big and huge and obese, and your friend-slash-enemy small and little, and you had within you the memory of him wrongdoing you, would that be enough closure for you? Would that be satisfying enough. to have, or would you have to continue to make his life hell as he has yours?”

“I have had dreams about this for years, and it’s always the same dream. This is what happens. I am great and big and fat like him, who is not only tall, but wide, like a Scion. Him, he is always, well, do you remember those little toys your mom or dad would buy you at the front of the grocery store, those little toys that costed a quarter or two, and you’d put the coins in there, and it would spit out a little guy or something inside of a little plastic transparent capsule, with a green or red top, do you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, like Homies.” I remembered going to the store with mother, and she would give me fifty cents to buy a Homie from the vending machine that he spoke of. They were small, inch-sized plastic figurines, always of Hispanic descent. I had dozens. They didn’t do anything but sit on my dresser. The man was twenty or so years my junior, I surmised, so he may have not known what I was talking about. He replied, “Sure,” hesitantly, and continued, “Well I have this constant dream this friend of mine who stole Dippin’ Dots from me to be two inches in size, trapped in one of those plastic capsules that come from the vending machines at the grocery store, and I am in total ownership of him, I mean, I bought him from the store, fair and square. He is resistant, yelping high-pitched little screams, which I can hear very quietly through the holes that I have poked in the capsule, which he resides in, in my dream. And I use him as a Foosball ball. My dream ends with me tossing him onto my Foosball table, and using his capsule, him still inside, as a ball to kick to and fro on my Foosball table.”

“Who are you playing Foosball with in the dream?”

“Anyways, that’s my question.”

“I’m not even sure you’re asking me anything at this juncture.”

The man, a mouth breather, closed his mouth, a gesture to show disappointment in my response. “Well, do you think there’s a chance?”

I wondered if there was a chance. I breathed through my nose, and replied, “I think that if you just be good in a real way, then I don’t see why good things can’t come your way in the future. But I wouldn’t plan ahead anything regarding your dreams and all that. Just do good and don’t get too worked up about the future. I’m sorry about the Dippin’ Dots, by the way.”

He smiled at me. His eyebrows straightened out above his glasses. He looked less unpleasant. “Thank you, that’s helpful, actually. Okay, fuck the books, can I just leave these here?” Without letting me answer, he turned and waddled back outside.

I think this aligned with something to give and something to take. I learned something from working here, certainly, but I’m not entirely sure what. I found some stickers that said something about recycling and put them on the register.