Sunday, July 29, 2012

Years of Our Lives

Fernando posts a sign and makes a small change to his ad in the local advertiser. It reads that the Dominion will be closed one Saturday in July. Because people cannot be arsed to read things, he also mentions this fact to all the people who enter the store the Friday before and lets them know they don't have to bring the movies they rent back until Sunday.
One of them, a younger lady around the age of twenty, asks Fernando, “Why are you closing up?”
I have a social obligation I must attend.”
Oh, got a hot date?”
Kind of. Class reunion.”
Oh, cool! I can't believe it's been twenty years already for you!”
Fernando looks at the young lady. His mouth may have hung open a tad from the shock. “Actually, it's my tenth. I'm not that old.”
Well, you own your own business.”
Everybody else around here who does that is old!”
The young lady speaks the absolute truth, but Fernando snaps back, “That's about the finest example of a fallacy of induction that I've ever encountered.”
The next day arrived as is usually the case and Fernando enjoyed his fourth day off of the year. Less than half his class showed up at the reunion but the ones who did proved rollicking, and it was nice speaking with some of the people whom Fernando had not seen since they huddled in a sweaty, impatient mass at their graduation ceremony held in a gymnasium that had not ever considered adhering to the rules governing convection of gases. Fernando may or may not have imbibed an assortment of alcoholic drinks of varying natures and qualities.
About eight hours after the gathering started it petered out. By ones and twos the attendees vanished to parts unknown, fissioning off to pursue their own lives and accomplishing what they deemed necessary, much as had happened a decade prior when everyone made some of the choices which led them to where they are now. Fernando was, of course, among them, for the Dominion does not police itself. It is like a newborn infant in that sense, except instead of having to clean up meconium he deals with the general public.
For instance, when he meandered back inside the Dominion's loving embrace, he saw someone had deposited a movie from Family Video in the drop box. Ah, life.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Chain Lengthens

Once upon a time, a pretty young lady came to the Dominion and Fernando visited a morally repugnant thing upon her, not paying attention in the slightest to her overall well-being. Fernando is certain that she does not look at Fernando, or the world, the same way as she did before the vile happening transpired. All semblance of trust and joy was leeched from her life on that fateful night.
This refers, of course, to the time Fernando convinced this innocent soul into renting the soul-crushing horror which is The Human Centipede.
She enters the Dominion one afternoon with a companion, another young lady who is a fairly regular customer. They approach the counter.
Hey, do you have Batman and Robin?” the second girl asks.
Oh god,” says Fernando, somewhat taken aback by the highly unorthodox request. “I think we once had it on VHS but it--”
Got sold?” she interjects.
Fernando nods. “That, or it just up and died.”
You never picked it up on DVD?”
Well, this would've happened long before I ever set foot in this place, since I don't recall a copy of that movie being here even then,” Fernando says. “And it never really struck me as a high priority considering how, um, negative popular perception of it is.”
I love that movie!” says the second girl. “She's never seen it and we've looked everywhere for it but can't find it.”
I'm not surprised.”
She tells me it's pretty awesome,” says the first girl.
For various definitions of 'awesome,' sure. You could definitely do worse.”
The first girl chuckles. “Yeah, like that centipede movie.”
The other girl turns to face the first. “What centipede movie?”
Human Centipede. It's pretty horrible,” says Fernando. He addresses the first girl again. “Did you know they made a sequel and there are rumbles of a third one?”
Her face grows pale. “Oh god.”
Yeah, the sequel came out in like February. I did not deign to pick it up. I only got the first one for the 'so-bad-it's-good' crowd, but that one was enough. I'm not giving any more money directly to the people making it because I like to think I have integrity.”
You say that, but you don't have Batman and Robin!” the second girl says, seizing upon the conversational opening to shame Fernando.
I said I like to think I have it, not that I necessarily do. But tell you what. I have to search about for a new copy of The Dark Knight anyway, since my copy now looks and plays like someone took a dump on it. If I come across a bundle-deal-thing for that and maybe some of the other older Batman movies, and it's not unreasonably priced, I'll see about picking it up.”
Well, I don't care about the other ones. I just want that one!”
Fernando dips his head downward in a quick nod. “Fair enough.”
If I leave you my number, will you call me if you pick it up?”
Absolutely I can.” Fernando fetches pen and paper and scribbles down the number she offered him. He is a smooth operator.
Then, because Fernando is ever one to test the boundaries of the relationships he forges with others, he asks the girl, “So, you want to rent Human Centipede then?”
She wisely declines.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


A pair of high school girls enter the Dominion one afternoon. Fernando recognizes the one of them as the daughter of a regular but he has never seen the other before. They browse the store and select a couple of movies, the tags of which they bring up to the counter.
Fernando begins filling out the rental slip in the name of the father of the girl he recognizes. She sees him doing this and snaps out her arm, grasping Fernando's writing hand in her own. “Stop!” she shouts.
Naturally, he ceases his writing, though it is more from recoiling at the unsolicited touch than a desire to obey her command. “Yes?” he asks.
Don't put it under my name. Put it under hers.”
Okay. Could I get your name?”
Yemen Abstinence.”
Do you have an account here?”
Then you'll need to set one up.”
Why does she need to do that?” asks the familiar girl.
Well, if she wants to rent it under her name, then her name needs to be in the system.”
Can't we just put it under her name but use my dad's account?”
Asking me questions like that is the prelude to something horrible happening.”
What?” says the second girl.
Fernando elaborates. “Usually when people arrange things like this it results in me losing some of my property. I just don't see why this needs to be so complicated as to not have it just be under your name.”
I don't want it to be under my name,” says the first girl.
Or your dad's name.”
She's the one that wanted to rent!” Now the first girl's voice takes on the wheedling whine held in common by all teenagers.
Then she can set up the account. This shouldn't be that hard.”
The second girl speaks again. “What if I put it under my mom's name?”
Does she have an account?”
She should. Somalia Lentils.”
At this juncture, Fernando openly facepalms. This name is that of one of his regular customers. A shuffling of that woman's social bonds deck must have occurred in the past. “Why...didn't you just tell me that to begin with?”
The second girl blinks at Fernando in confusion. “You didn't ask.”
Fernando gave up and let them rent.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Foamy Memory

Some people come into the store to rent a couple of movies. “Can you get us a new card?” says one of them to Fernando. “I forgot mine at home.”
This is not the first time this has happened. In fact, it is a not insignificant event for them to accrue four or more stamps on a given card in their quest for a free movie. When they finally reach the much-vaunted free rental, they bring in a cache of paper rectangles that could wallpaper a small room.
Fernando has asked them in the past if they would prefer to keep their card here at the store like most people choose. They have always declined, but Fernando is stubborn and optimistic in life. These qualities prompt him to say, “You know, I can keep the card here, and we can consolidate the ones you have at home no problem next time you're in or whatever.”
Oh, no, you don't need to do that. I'll remember them.”
Fernando dies a little bit inside, but acquiesces. He throws a couple of stamps onto the card and hands it over.
They come in the very next day to return the movies from the day before and to rent again.
Hey, I forgot my card at home.”
So it goes.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gaelic Is at Me

Fernando is wed to the responsibility of maintaining his store, which leaves little time for him to do the things which normal people do in their spare time, like traveling and socializing. It would be a boring existence if not for the fact that Fernando can challenge, entertain, and amuse himself through the marvel that is the internet.
One day Fernando was browsing Wikipedia and meandered on a wikiwalk to the page on Celtic languages. He noticed a link at the bottom to a BBC Alba-sponsored website at which one can learn the rudiments of Scottish Gaelic. Having little better to do with his time and being a great big fan of all sorts of language, Fernando accepted the challenge. Language is, after all, a reflection of cultural worldview and comprehending the language of a group of people means that one has a better grasp of which things that group emphasizes in the world.
He was listening to one of the conversations (and parroting the words which were said with a no-doubt barbarous accent) when a customer snuck into the store. Fernando was so engrossed in his labors that he failed to hear the tinkling of chimes above the door.
What are you doing?” the man asked.
Fernando jumped a little, since he was taken completely by surprise. “I'm teaching myself Scottish Gaelic,” he answered, pausing the audio.
Why not?” Fernando retorted.
Well, you're not even Scottish, are you?”
Not in the slightest.”
So why bother?”
According to that logic, why would anybody learn any language with which he or she does not share a cultural heritage?”
Well, nobody speaks it around here.”
Nobody speaks Spanish or German around here either. Hell, English sometimes has a rough go at it.”
That's different though. You could use those languages.”
Should I ever find myself traveling to Scotland, it'll be nice to have a basic understanding of the language.”
They speak English there, though.”
And people also speak Gaelic.”
The guy leaves without renting anything. Fernando returns to his studies, and they are good.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spin Cycle

A customer enters the store one afternoon. “Do you have the movie where the kid collects the spinning things?”
Strangely enough, the contents of this vague and rather opaque request make perfect sense to Fernando and he promptly answers, “Scott Pilgrim? Yeah, that's right over here.”
I scare me by how good I am sometimes.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Parade of Iniquity

The Fourth of July parade meandered past the Dominion again this year, and Fernando had a third-row seat. Much like in previous years, the parking lot before the Dominion filled with cars aligned in as many different directions as Steve Buscemi's teeth. Children frolicked about outside and one enterprising soul, given the uncomfortable heat outside, decided to make use of the Dominion's air conditioning while he waited for the parade to start.
Hello,” Fernando greeted him.
Hey. I'm not rentin' nothing, just want to get out of the heat for a while.”
Fernando had slept for shit the night before, unable to attain even a full REM cycle given the oppressive temperature and humidity. It was 4:30 PM, he'd been up since 5:30 AM, and he was running on less than four hours of sleep. His mood was understandably foul, given a convention was not around to temper his crabbiness. “Oh. I see. Tell you what, buy a soda and you can hang out in here and enjoy it.”
I'm not thirsty.”
Alrighty then. Fernando heads to the rear of the store to turn off the AC. When the blower stops, the man leaves.
Once the parade got rolling such mooching ceased. People had set up chairs on sidewalks and truck beds and many cold ones were sipped as the procession meandered past. Fernando, being on the clock, was unable to vicariously join in their alcoholic revelry and instead procured a sodey pop from his fridge.
It was overall a nice parade, a small-town celebration of one particular nation-state's assertion of self-determination on an otherwise arbitrary day. People in the parade threw candy out to the kids, a local marching band played, horses the size of small buildings pulled floats of varying sizes and shapes. The local beauty queen sat among flowers and waved to the crowd with a not-quite-plastic smile on her face.
There were also, of course, the wretched politician vehicles sandwiched in. The local businesses and other organizations, like the Child Scout chapters, in the parade at least put effort into their advertising by creating floats of various qualities. The ten (Fernando counted) politician-whore vehicles were trucks or sedans with a VOTE FOR DIPSHIT sticker slapped on the side and an American flag decal on the window. Though Fernando believes that political organizations have as much a right to pimp their wares as the local propane dealership, Fernando reserves the right to affix labels of his choice to their activities.
Once the county police vehicle at the posterior end of the snaking procession passed by, everybody packed up and the parking lot transitioned into a churning morass of simultaneous departure. Compared to previous years, though, the emptying of the lot was fairly orderly and people were able to make it out without the honking of horns or the bending of fenders.
Once the crowds fully dispersed, Fernando was left alone in his Dominion, ever vigilant.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ghost Riding the Ghost Rider

One week in June when Fernando's movies failed to arrive on time, a customer came down to the store seeking Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
I'm sorry, but my movies didn't get in today,” says Fernando. “I'm expecting them in tomorrow, however.”
The guy looks at Fernando askance. “Are you sure you're not holding out on me?”
Fairly positive. I can comprehend the downsides of not letting you rent the movie you want to rent.”
Will you hold one for me tomorrow, then?”
Absolutely I can. Do you want to give me your number so I can call to remind you?”
Nah, you won't need to do that.”
Sigh. “Okay then. I'll have one set aside for you when I open.”
The morrow comes, the movies arrive, and Fernando upholds his end of the bargain. While all the other new releases are snatched up, Ghost Rider sits, despondent, on the desk. Never could've seen that coming.
At around 6 PM Fernando decides enough is enough. He digs through his records for the gent's cell number, finds it, dials it. It's been disconnected.
Alrighty. However much it pains him, he keeps the copy of Ghost Rider set aside on the increasingly improbable chance that the guy will appear before closing time. Meanwhile, other customers come asking about the movie and Fernando must turn them away. Some of them place reservations on it for the following day. At closing time, the movie is still here. The lucky soul at the top of tomorrow's Ghost Rider reservation list has a copy waiting for him when Fernando opens the next day.
About a week later, the same guy asks for the movie to held for him again and informs Fernando that something important came up and that's why he couldn't come pick it up. He does not offer further explanation or apology for not calling Fernando to keep him in the loop.
I'm sorry that had to happen,” says Fernando. He empathizes with people who have familial hardships or other emergencies that require immediate attention.
Nah, my friend asked me to come to his barb--” Here the man catches himself, perhaps realizing a bit too late that he is saying things to Fernando which are not smart.
Unfortunately, what's done is done, and Fernando will not hold movies for this man any longer.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


A quasi-regular enters the store. She selects four movies and brings the tags up to the counter. As Fernando fills out the rental slip, she tells him, “I think I have one of them free.”
Fernando pauses in his tallying. “Could very well be. Let me check for you.” He sifts through the full cards in his possession while she waits. “Actually it doesn't look like you do.”
Are you sure?” she asks.
Pretty sure,” says Fernando, “But let me double-check.” He goes through the stack again, this time a bit more slowly. Nothing with her name on it materializes. “Nope, sorry.”
Let me see that,” she says. Fernando shrugs and hands over the clump of cards. She begins rifling through them but stops after the first five or six. “How do you know whose are whose?”
The name is written at the bottom.”
Yeah, but how can you tell whose it is?”
The name at the bottom.”
She squints down at the name written upon the card on the top of the stack and then glares at Fernando suspiciously. “You can't read that!” This is a fair statement, as Fernando's penmanship underwent linear degradation between the time he started learning how to write and today. Notetaking in university courses in the days before everyone and his cousin used a laptop necessitated a quick but accurate scrawl, and once Fernando attained the mantle of Keeper and no longer had to pretend to make things written on rental slips legible to others, all pretense of readability went straight out the window.
I can. But look, you probably just used it last time you were in. You've got a new one started in the box and things will progress from there.” Fernando retrieves her new card from the box and shows that she has a paltry two stamps upon it.
Though she does not look entirely satisfied, Fernando's words and actions soothe her worries enough that no more is spoken of the matter.