Listen to Chaplain Norris tell the story

By Norris Burkes, Jan 10, 2021

If you’re wondering why the stores are out of toilet paper again, it may be because a certain chaplain you know stole at least one package last week.

My story starts at the Bank of America, just across the street from Safeway. That’s where Becky sent me in wearing a mask to ask for money in small bills. Crazy times, right?

With newly minted cash, we crossed to Safeway in search of half-priced after-Christmas goodies. Inside the store, Becky grabbed the Christmas-tree Reese’s, and I snagged some green-and-red mint M&Ms. We haven’t quite gained our COVID “19,” but we haven’t given up. 

“Just a few more things.” Becky said as she picked up some broccoli to garnish the show. 

Soon, the cart was overflowing. Fortunately, she found more room on the bottom rack to add a much-needed Mega Roll of Unscented 3-Ply Quilted Northern Bathroom Tissue.

At the checkout stand, we stopped at our six-foot-distance marker. When it was our turn, I placed the broccoli on the conveyor belt first so as to make a good first impression.

Nearly halfway through the process, Becky pivoted to race back through the aisles looking for sauerkraut to stuff in our New Year’s Eve Rubens. 

Good move. She left me to bag the groceries and make small talk with the checker. She returned just in time to make that last scanner pass.

“Do you need any help to the car?” asked our friendly checker.  

“No, we got this,” is my standard manly answer. 

In fact, as we loaded the car, Becky discovered that I “got” more than we paid for.

Pulling the Mega Roll from the bottom rack, Becky asked, “Did you scan this?”

“Uh, yeah. No. I don’t know,” I mumbled.

Becky snatched the receipt, scrutinizing it with her schoolteacher eye as if checking exam answers. 

I took the moment to scan the parking lot for store security. I was planning to rat Becky out faster than Adam did Eve. “She’s the one that hid the rolls.”

“Not here,” she concluded. “I should’ve been watching you. We have to go back and pay for this!”

“That’ll take too long,” I protested. “The ice cream will melt. Why don’t we just pay the next time we come back?” 

I made furtive glances for approaching security. No one. 

“We’re clear. Let’s make a break for it,” I said.

She shot me a crushing look that told me she’s no Ma Barker. She wasn’t going to risk having a record.

“OK, OK.” I said, “Let’s go to customer service and let the manager fix it.” 

As Becky dropped her head, checking the ground for I don’t know what, a scenario was developing in my mind. 

I could just hear the accolades from the manager: “Oh, Mr. Chaplain, you’re so honest. We need more customers like you! 

“The toilet paper is gratis today. Enjoy that quilted cushy on your tooshie.”

I pictured leaving the service counter as the next customer asked, “Who was that masked man?”  

“That was the local chaplain. He’s our hero.”

That’s when Becky interrupted my Walter-Mitty-daydreamer moment. “Hey, if we go through the self-checkout, we are the only ones who need know.”

“But what about our accolades for honesty?”

“What about that thing Jesus said? Matthew 6, if I’m not mistaken.”

Neither of us could quote it right off, but her remark hit its target when I later found the passage in The Message version: 

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.”

A few moments later, we found an open self-checkout and paid the extra . . . WHAT?  $20! The toilet paper accolades I was expecting were wiped clean.

“Honesty has its price,” noted Mrs. Chaplain. “Besides, now no has to know about this.”

The woman forgets she’s married to a syndicated columnist. 

Happy 41st Anniversary, Sweetheart! You continue to make an honest man of me.


Visit or Send comments to or 10566 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or via voicemail (843) 608-9715. Twitter @chaplain.