Many happy returns

Melissa Ann Howell Schier
9 min readJun 14, 2024

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Filly opened the truck door to feel the full blast of the summer heat radiating off the concrete pavement of the shopping center. There were budget stores, discount stores and dollar stores. Filly had parked directly in front of a store with big pink rounded letters and lots of pink and blue and yellow in the store front facing her.

She walked in, admiring how, for a discount store in a discount area, it was beautifully maintained and had useful items of soft colors. There were individual stationary packages, woven picnic mats, soft plushies, foam outdoor shoes, pots and pans, planting tools and much more.

Without much effort Filly and little mister had accumulated a basket full. The baskets, were red plastic like the kind made for being a laundry hamper, only they had wheels on the bottom and a long black handle for pulling along.

At the checkout, the girl was smiling and helpful and no one else was in line because it was first thing in the morning after opening.

Filly said “I love how clean and well maintained this store is.” “I am grateful to have a store with useful items all at really good prices.”

“I know” the girl responded. “I moved here from Maryland only a few weeks ago. In Maryland, the people at these kinds of stores just let anyone come in and take what they want. They do not try to stop the people from taking things without paying for them. They say “its not hurting me” but what they do not seem to realize is that it might not be hurting them YET but when that store closes because of losses from theft, and they do not have a job any more, then they will realize that it does hurt everyone when people steal.”

Filly agreed with the lady. The basket full of items only cost less than eighty five dollars. Filly thought it was all a good deal.
But what was even better, she thought, was that the lady at the store was there because she cared about what had happened in other stores that was bad, and wanted to make a positive difference and have good will towards men.

Filly thought that there was a difference between human will and good will or “God’s will” when it came to making a decision. When a person had to use human might or will power to try to do something that was not self serving, it was often difficult or unsatisfying and failed.

But when the person was relying on “God’s will”, or good will, decisions made felt seamless and supported in the framework of that which was natural and meaningful and good.

For Filly, it was like stopping coffee. To make that choice using human will had failed many times for her. But when that choice was made from a moral standpoint, relying on God for help, it had no chance of failure. She had not touched coffee, and the other temptations that seemed to accompany the cessation of coffee, like increased sugar, soda and tea consumption, were also defeated.

As Filly pondered this, she drove to her next stop, the home improvement hardware store, because the mosquito spraying machine that they had purchased less than a year ago leaked very badly. Filly was going to purchase a new one. She got to the store, stopped and parked, and again had to brace the oven hot air as it hit her in the face the moment she opened the truck door.

It took some mental fortitude she thought, to brave the heat of the day to do mundane errands that required a lot of walking over hot parking lots and search for items in a mile long store.

Gratefully, the store felt cool upon entering, but then she was not able to find the same mosquito sprayer as the store did not carry that brand any more.
Filly also was supposed to be buying some wire off the giant spools that the store carried in the back of the building but the man who was operating the machine that held the spools and rotated them so the type of wire labels could be read, had only just started working in that area and knew nothing about wire.
So Filly did not buy the wire. She went back to the yard and garden section and found a different type of sprayer and got it, putting it in her orange cart, along with a cardboard box that sat beside the sprayer and presumably had the spray needed to put in the machine.

Filly tried to pry open the tightly glued box to check the contents but it held fast. She picked the box up and it was about fourteen inches square so she figured there must be just one container inside that went with the sprayer.

There were several boxes, all unopened, so she took just one.

Then she hiked through the air conditioned store all the way back to the front self checkout. She picked up the red and black hand held scanner and used the red light to scan the sprayer. She scanned the cans of deep woods mosquito spray and the large yard sized cans of insect repellent that she had collected in her cart. Then she tried to scan the box and it would not scan.

Filly waited. She was a patient person..but she was hot and after not getting the wire and not finding the original sprayer, she was feeling a bit impatient. The clerk eventually came about and typed in some numbers using what looked like her name tag key, and then asked Filly how much the product was and Filly said she did not know.

She asked Filly how many were in the box and Filly said again she did not know but she had tried to open the box and was unable to. Filly told the lady that she had found the box was on the ground right beside the sprayer in the aisle.

The girl then tried unsuccessfully herself, to open the cardboard box with her long blue fingernails and could not manage it. She typed in a number that appeared to be the price (around ten bucks) and then hit enter and walked away. Filly was then able to complete her purchase and put in her bank card to see that the total was around a hundred and a quarter.

Filly had not brought any bags for carrying items out to the truck so she just pushed the cart back into the heat through the automatic doors and all the way out. She had asked her husband via text if she should get the box because it was impossible to tell if it was the right formula for the sprayer. They had jointly decided that she should get it so she felt like she had made the right choice.

When Filly got home she got a knife and pried open the cardboard box. To her surprise, the box had not one but six containers of spray, and since each one was around ten dollars, the whole box should have cost close to seventy dollars, not ten.

Filly was too hot to get back into the truck and drive the twenty minutes back to the store so she put it off until early morning the next day when she would be driving in a different direction anyway but would pass nearby a store from the same chain.

Filly knew she could return the extra bottles at that store. Like the decision to stop drinking coffee, (except the coffee was not poison liquid like the mosquito spray liquid). The decision to “not keep” something was not difficult and did not require animal determination or will power as she was listening to good will not human will. She did not even consider keeping the bottles of liquid that were in the box the same way she did not need to keep drinking coffee.

The next morning feeling less tired and less hot, Filly gathered the box, less two bottles (deciding she would buy one more bottle when she got to the store to return them). She drove twenty minutes in a different direction because she and tater were trying to find plastic wolves to give to Tater for her birthday party.

Tater and her friends called themselves the Wolfpack. Filly thought it was funny. But Tater was all seriousness in her concern for “wolf preservation” when she told Filly that “people needed to stop building out and needed to build up because people were hurting wolves”.

Filly explained to Tater, “wait a minutes” “I like wolves too. Did you know my last name was HOWL” Filly said. “Before I got married that was my last name” “You cannot have a name like Howl and not like wolves” Filly laughed.

“But some people think that wolves are MORE important than people” Filly said. If someone told me that they were going to take the little girl named Tater and make her move out of her house because wolves needed to live there, I would say OH HELL NO…and I would defend you tater” Filly said.
You can like wolves and still care about human beings first” Filly said. That is something a lot of people forget. “

“Did you know my college was also called “the Wolfpack” said Filly. There are many reasons for me to like wolves and the Wolfpack. I just want you to remember that no matter what, people matter and wolves should not take priority over people and their needs.

With that conversation done, Filly got the little fur wolves that Tater had found for the goodie bags for the party. They also found three plastic wolves to put on the cake. But wolves were in short supply as far as shopping was concerned. Filly was glad to find even a few of the little wolves.

She had not been able to use Amazon to order anything, including little plastic wolves, for months ever since Amazon was triple charging her for one amazon account. When Filly had put a stop to that, Amazon responded in Spanish and then stopped working completely. Filly would order something from Amazon, and it would be confirmed, but then nothing would happen. So from that time on, Filly just bought things she could see with her own two eyes.

After visiting the two stores in the baking heat to get the wolves they stopped at the distant hardware store in the other location. Filly hauled the box to the customer service desk and explained why she had the box and how she wanted to return it. To her great surprise, not only did they not want the merchandise, but the sales clerk said that she could not take the box because it would mess up their inventory.

“Did they give the whole box to you” the sales clerk asked? “ Well they only charged me for one Filly said but there were six in there”.
“Just keep them” the lady said. “They should have opened the box but since they did not its not your fault”. “We cannot take them here, if you insist on returning them, you will have to take them all the way back to the store you got them from” She added.

Filly shook her head and hit her hand on her ears. She was not sure she was hearing right. She had made a twenty minute trip to return something that should be returned and it was being refused “because of inventory”?

“Thanks” Filly said. “Wait are you stealing these” tater asked.
“No” Filly said. “Now we have to drive all the way back to the first store in order to return them”. “Oh” said Tater. “That is good.”
“We care about people” said Filly. “It is called goodwill and having goodwill makes it easy to do the right thing.”
Then they made their last stop at the party store to buy their yearly giant pink balloon to document Tater’s 8th birthday. Happy Birthday Tater.

The next day they went back to the original store to return the merchandise that was not hers. She and Tater spoke to the assistant manager so that he would know that merchandise was not being charged for accurately and that the sister stores had not been willing to accept a return. The assistant manager thanked her, and said he would not charge her for the extra bottle of mosquito spray she needed. Filly said thank you too. Filly was glad she did the right thing. It was easy.

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Melissa Ann Howell Schier

HoustonWorkout on YouTube, mom of five, journalist and artist and conservative who values life.