Pinheads / by Courtney Mehlhaff

I worked at a drugstore in my hometown for about 10 years -- after school and on the weekends while I was a teenager, and every summer during college. I did everything from cleaning and restocking to delivering prescription medications, but mainly I worked the till.

This could get slightly boring on your average Thursday night, and we invented myriad ways to keep ourselves entertained. I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say I lost several "who has the lowest blood pressure" competitions and know exactly how much my arm weighs according to the Russell Stover bulk candy scale.

One day, when I "had time to lean, so I had time to clean," I found a small action figure, maybe three inches tall, on the floor. It was a little plastic man wearing a shirt, jeans, and a turban. Since we didn't have an official lost and found, I set him on a shelf behind the front counter. Weeks passed with no claim. I named him Raoul.

At some point, on a particularly dead evening, one of my coworkers and I decided to have some fun with Raoul and the key-making machine. I think we sawed his arm off. I'm not proud of it, but that's what happened. Then my coworker suggested we glue a pin back on him. That also happened. I wore him to the company Christmas party that year on my lapel as my date.

Several more weeks passed, and Raoul became a fixture of sorts at the service counter. Until a little boy pointed up and cried, "Hey! That's mine!"

No kidding. After verifying that it was, indeed, his long-lost toy, I reluctantly handed it over.

"Here you go. His name's Raoul now," I said, awkwardly. "He's missing an arm. Sorry about that."

The kid frowned but took him anyway. As he exited the store, I remembered something critical.

"Oh! He's a . . . pin now!" I yelled after him. "So . . . be careful with that, I guess!"

And that's the story of Raoul, who came into my life for a brief but meaningful time, suffered some indignities due to teenage boredom, and then likely went on to injure an innocent child. So it goes.