Jason plopped onto the bus seat with a sigh, reached into his pocket and examined the heavy silver pen he’d found on the floor at closing time. Each evening he took a careful look around the tables and the reading areas. It was remarkable what the students left behind. People are so careless, he thought, and most never came back for their lost items. He hadn’t put this pen in the lost and found though. He’d never owned one like it and it could probably fetch a pretty penny at the pawn shop. He sometimes sold the better items he found although most of the stuff was junk. One of the perks of the job, he’d always figured. Helped to make up for the poor pay and lousy benefits.
He got off the bus and headed for the pub across from his apartment building. He waved hello at a group of neighbours sitting in a booth and took a stool at the bar, ready for a couple of cold ones. Paul was talking to a young guy who looked about as miserable as could be.
“I don’t know what I’ve done with it.” the kid said, “It’s solid silver, a gift from my uncle just before he died. He brought it back from Germany. I should have left it at home but it writes so nice. I use it all the time.“
The bartender shook his head in sympathy. “Where were you today? Did you retrace your steps?”
“Yeah, I did. I spent most of the day in the library but when I went back it was gone. I’m sure I didn’t drop it outside. My backpack is always buckled up tight.”
“Well, Its a damned shame,” said Paul, “hold on a second while I get this man a drink”
He moved over to Jason, said hi and asked what he wanted.
“A beer’s fine, thanks. What’s going on there?” He flicked a thumb in the young man’s direction.
“Poor guy lost a keepsake pen today. A momento from a dead Uncle.”
“Huh, too bad.” Jason’s mind raced as he sipped the foam from his pint. What were the odds that he’d run into the guy? A city this size, it’s ridiculous. He wasn’t giving the pen back. Tough luck for the guy but that’s life in the big city. He finished his beer and stayed out of the conversation. He changed his mind about staying for another drink and dropped a bill on the bar, reaching down to grab his bag as he stuffed his wallet into his pocket.
As he headed for the door, someone called out, “ Hey, buddy!”
He turned and saw that it was the young man. He was marching toward Jason, his hand out and Jason thought, how did he know? Then he saw that the hand wasn’t empty. “You dropped your wallet,” the kid said. Jason stood staring at him until the guy began to get uncomfortable.
“Isn’t it yours? It was laying right there by your bar stool.” As if from a trance, Jason shook his head, then nodded, grunted thanks and carefully tucked the wallet away.
He nodded again at the kid, turned and walked through the door. Doesn’t change a thing, he thought. He’s a sucker. There’s three hundred bucks in the wallet. It doesn’t pay to be a good citizen.
“What’s that? “Asked Paul, his face bathed in flashing reds and blues.
“My pen.” the young man whispered, “It must have been in his pocket. I wonder how he had it.”
“I know he works at he library. He’s one of my regulars.” Paul replied, “Lives across the street. He must have been trying to beat the light. ”
“You know, I don’t think he even looked. He just muttered something and stepped off the curb.” ©