Greek-American Stories: Paid!

Yiannis had just come to the table, coffee in one hand, wallet in the other. Setting down his coffee, he began to settle the change in his wallet when Dimos noticed papers in between. “Yiannis! What’re all those papers?” Yiannis explained, “Oh, these? They’re coupons – for when I go food shopping with Areti.” Dimos said, “Good as money, right?” Yiannis nodded. “Hey! It’s money saved!” Smiling, Dimos said, “I once read that in ancient China sea shells were used for money.” Kipreos looked up. “You mean people went down to the sea and dug for clams?” Dimos shrugged. “That’s what I read.”  George smiled broadly. “Good thing that’s not done now. Yiannis would be water logged.” Making a face, Yiannis said, “money is money, George! Everybody wants it. Some people inherit it, some steal for it, others gamble for it.”  Agreeing, George said, “and, some people work for it. Ever think of that?” Yiannis, picking up the sprinkled donut before Kipreos got hold of it, said, nonchalantly, “it so happens I got a job!”  The others chorused, “YOU WORK?”  Yiannis’s hands flew out. “Why are you so surprised?” John asked, “When did that happen? And, what do you do?” Yiannis, savoring his coffee and donut, took his time responding. “You know that barber down on 38th Street?” They nodded in unison. “Well, I offered to sweep the store after hours and collect the old magazines.” Kipreos asked, “Is the pay good?” Yiannis shrugged. “I start Monday. I’ll know Saturday evening when the store closes.” Dimos, giving it thought, said, “if I recall right each barber sweeps after each customer.” “That’s true, “Yiannis agreed. “But, the owner wants a thorough sweep after closing. That’s when I come with my own equipment.” John asked, “Your own equipment?” “That’s right! I bring my vacuum cleaner from home and do the whole store. Can’t get cleaner than that! Then, I take all the old magazines home.”  John asked what he did with them. Looking like the experienced businessman, he rubbed his hands and said, “plenty of coupons in those magazines, you know. Like extra pay.” Dimos said, “hoisting a vacuum all the way from your house to 38th Street is tough, I think.”  Kipreos asked, “ do you take the bus?” Yiannis shook his head. “And pay car fare? I can use the exercise. As for wages, he told me he’d pay on Saturday before closing. I start on Monday. Saturday will be my sixth day of work. Hey! I’m sure he’ll pay well for a full week’s work.”

Sunday arrived with everyone at their places in Dixon’s, waiting to hear how Yiannis adventure at working went. Yiannis, coffee in hand, dragged his feet getting to his seat, had a glum expression on his face. And, something about him looked different.  George was first to spot it. “Hey! That’s some hair cut, Yiannis! It’s pretty popular! It’s the top of the line cut, I hear.” Yiannis stirred his coffee in silence. Kipreos said, “it’s an expensive cut, I heard.” ”That’s what I’d been told!” Yiannis responded, still sulking. Dimos decided to change the subject. “So! Gonna treat us to donuts this time around?” Still frowning, Yiannis announced, “can’t! I quit!” Looking concerned, George said, “a whole week’s! How did you do it?” John, deciding to be sympathetic, asked, “He did pay you, didn’t he?” Yiannis, taking in a fortifying breath, said, “he explained that he pays his employees three dollars an hour. I worked six days, my hours weren’t long. Then, he gave me that expensive hair cut.” Dimos began to understand. “Ahh! He deducted the cost of the hair cut from the wages, right?” John waved out his hands. “I know! His figures showed breaking out even so he wouldn’t have to pay you anything, right?” Shaking his head, Yiannis frowned. “Neither! With his figuring, he told me that I owed HIM three dollars.”  They all remained silent; then, John reached out and gave Yiannis’s arm a sympathetic squeeze. “It must have been hard handing him three dollars.” Reaching out for another donut, Yiannis nodded, slowly. “It was! That’s when I told him I quit. Then, I handed him the three dollars.” Taking in a deep breath, he sighed, “in coupons!”


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