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In English class this week the kids have been tough to engage. They politely but temporarily put away their cellphone games or tentatively take out just one earphone of their iPods when I seem to want to talk to them, or directly ask if they’d be up for working with me undistracted, but really that is a lot to expect of me since I need to know English, too, not just child psychology. One young man barely speaks when I meet with him, and he keeps his Goth persona, grunting and avoiding eye contact consistently. He’s always tired because of the job he works late at night, but I can’t make exceptions, we have to do the work.

Not too long ago I sent my daughter into the QuickShop to pick up two gallons of milk for our household. She came back with the milk and exactly two dollars which I knew wasn’t the correct change. I’d nearly missed it myself recently when one of those change contraptions that has a chute directly off of the cash register delivered precisely the correct coinage while the cashier handed over the bills after my purchase. I told my girl that the only reason I knew about all this was because I’d heard the clinking of coins cleverly hidden between the gum displays and the latest candy trends on the counter top and realized it was for me. Cool, but so easily overlooked.

So today just after buying my two gallons of milk I looked over and was surprised to see my Goth friend standing at the counter making his own purchase. I heard his coins clattering down the chute to the cup. “Don’t forget your change,” I called pointing at the coins as I headed out the door.

I guess I caught him off guard or was out of context or something because he broke character, looked right at me and smiled, and seemed surprised and glad about finding his money.