I went to a store recently, and the sign on the door read, “Closed for inventory.”

Well do I remember working in a grocery store and having it shut down early one evening so we could do end-of-year inventory. We worked all through the night and far into the next morning before we were finished.

I was put in charge of the candy aisle. I had to count every last package of anything whose main ingredient was sugar. To make matters worse, the manager walked around the store, acting all important, trying to be encouraging. All he really did was annoy the sleep deprived employees who were already in a bad mood.

When he made it to my aisle, I was just counting to the end of the boxes of smarties, “… twelve-hundred-fifty-two, twelve-hundred-fifty-three…”

That was when I felt a slap on the back. “So, how’s it going?”

 “Uh, fine,” I grumbled.

 “Did you know I had to count the candy aisle once?”

 “Really?”

“Yeah,” he said with a grin. “A person can fit about 1550 Jolly Ranchers in a single medium size box.”

“I didn’t know that,” I replied.

“Well, you can. And did you know that in the same size box you can only fit about 900 Tootsie Rolls?”

“No, I didn’t,” I responded.

“Well, keep up the good work,” he said, as he wandered off to annoy someone else.

I turned back to my work. “Nine-hundred and one. Nine-hundred and two.”

Suddenly it hit me that I hadn’t been at nine-hundred. That was the number the manager had just said. But I couldn’t for the life of me remember what number I had been at, so I had no alternative but to start over.

The shelves were deep and the candy went back a long ways. As the night wore on my eyes became blurry, and I knew when I finally went to bed I would have sugar plums, or chocolate bars, or something with fructose, dancing in my head, and it wouldn’t be a pleasant dream either.

All pleasant things have an end, while nightmares seem to go on forever, but eventually even this dark night of counting was finally approaching a conclusion – I was at last on the candy bars.

I counted enough Hershey bars to have covered the city in Pennsylvania by that name a good six feet deep. If they had been laid end to end they could have made a path across the country and back. As I got on my knees for a final scan of the shelves, I noticed one box far in the back. I pulled it out and dusted it off. It was a box of nut rolls, unopened, and grayed from time.

I looked at my inventory sheet, but I didn’t see nut rolls listed. I scanned it a couple more times, but still couldn’t find anything. As we were instructed to do, I called out to the assistant manager who was at the front of the store. “How much do I put for nut roll candy bars?”

He looked at his computer then yelled back. “We don’t carry nut roll candy bars, and haven’t for years.”

“Well,” I said, holding the box up high above my head where he could see it, “you have a whole box of them.”

“Open them up, mark them at a nickel, and put them on the front of the shelf,” he called back.

I did as he told me, then, out of curiosity, I pulled one from the box and smacked it against the shelf. The shelf gave off a resounding reverberation as if had been hit with a chunk of wood. I quickly put the candy bar back in the box as other employees turned to stare at me.

When I finally crawled into bed at about 5:00 in the morning, my wife drowsily asked how it all went. “Okay, I guess,” I answered. And then, as I yawned my way off to sleep, I added, “But, Honey, whatever you do, don’t buy any nut roll candy bars from that store no matter how cheap they are.”

 (Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at [email protected]; or visit his website )