Sunday, September 30, 2012

Doth Protest Too Much

A quasi-regular customer browses the shelves and asks Fernando, “Hey, you got any Battleship back there?”
No, sorry,” Fernando answers. “But I've got one copy coming back yet tonight, if you wanted me to hold it for you, then give you a call.”
Yeah, do that.” The man leaves.
Turns out the one copy that was supposed to have come back that night did not come back, though it returns the following day. The extra day's charge is paid off and Fernando calls the gent who'd wanted the movie reserved for the previous night on the off chance he might still desire it.
-Ring ring ring-
Hey, this is Fernando at the Dominion of Movies. I got back Battleship and was wondering if you still wanted me to hold that for you.”
You never got it in yesterday?”
No, the person who had it kept it out an extra night. No biggie. Like I said, I've got it here for you.”
Okay. Hang onto it for me. I'll be right down.”
The man arrives at the store about an hour later, pays, and leaves quite content.
The movie goes unreturned the following day. On the next day, the man pulls up and comes inside the store. He sets the case on the counter. “I don't owe anything on this, right?”
Actually, it's a buck-fifty, if you wanted to kill that off now.”
What? Why?”
Well, you had it out for an extra night.”
Yeah, but I had to wait to get it.”
If that other guy had it out longer, why can't I?”
That other guy paid for the extra night.”
The guy's shoulders slump as the realization sets in that his argument is not working. “I don't have any money on me right now,” he mutters, perhaps contrite and perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to avoid paying what he owes.
That's fine. You can take care of it next time you're in. I'm not going to break anybody's kneecaps over six quarters.”
In this way did Sanity remain in the Dominion.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yellow Exclamation Mark

Three travelers enter the Dominion one afternoon. Fernando recognizes the two ladies, for they have showered him with wealth and in exchange Fernando serviced them with mystic discs. They descend not far into the Dominion's depths, for they quickly find what they seek and approach Fernando on his throne, hoping to strike a bargain.
As Fernando rises and drafts a pact binding their eternal souls to him, one of the women asks, “Can you tell us where to find Portugal Falls?”
Fernando closes his eyes, mentally going through his available wares in search of this particular incantation. “I don't think I have that one here. I've actually never heard of it.”
Yeah, neither have we.”
What sort of man or woman seeks knowledge without awareness of which knowledge they seek? “Then...?”
We're trying to find it,” the second woman says. “We thought you might know since you know like everything.”
Fernando has never heard of this spell, and informs them of this fact. However, he returns to the area near his throne and prepares a scrying pane, to uncover the truth of the matter. “How is it spelled? Like it sounds?” Proper lettering is indeed helpful in plumbing the depths of the Otherworld for those kernels of knowledge which lingered in places even gods did not tread.
Oh, it's not a movie,” says the first woman.
Fernando pauses. “It's not?”
No. It's an actual waterfall.”
Fernando shrugs. That it is a part of the realm over which the Dominion exerts no control is of no consequence to him! “Alright. That makes this even easier.”
Well, you came seeking guidance and far be it for me to deny such guidance to those who visit the Oracle of the Dominion of Movies. Just allow me to consult with the mystic spirits and provide the answers you seek.” Fernando's hands trace subtle gestures as he makes his epic pronouncement, binding Goo-Gol as his servant, but this is not enough. No, he coerces this daemon of knowledge to imprint specific directions upon a scroll, so that his visitors might have a permanent record to follow.
His visitors chuckle at Fernando's words, but they remain blissfully unaware of the power he effortlessly wields.
Once Goo-Gol has given Fernando what he needs, he dismisses it and gives the scroll graven with eldritch instructions over to his guests. “It is dangerous to go alone. Take this.”
Oh, cool!” the first woman says. She takes the yellowed paper and looks it over. “This helps a lot. Thanks!”
It was a small matter. The strictures of my alignment are such that I am encouraged to assist all who enter this place in search of knowledge.”
Wait what?” asks the second woman.
Don't worry. Go, now! Complete this journey that you might grow in experience! Return at a later date and inform me how it went!”
Okay, we will. Thanks again!”
They depart on their quest, and Fernando returns to brood upon his throne until the next visitor comes calling.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Store Policy

A young man in his late teens pulls into the parking lot and enters the store one afternoon in late June. Fernando has never seen him before. The gent browses the older releases for a while before grabbing a pair of cases and approaching the counter.
Yeah, I want to rent these?” he says with a strange interrogative inflection, placing the cases down on the glass.
Firstly, I'll need you to fill out an application.” Fernando rises and retrieves said paperwork, then crosses the office to lay it upon the countertop.
Um...that wasn't what I meant. I meant how do you rent a movie here.”
Like I said, first you need to have an account here.”
How do you know I don't have an account?”
It is somewhat evident this is your first time here based on the questions you are asking of me. Added to this is the fact that you're a new face and I actually only need the tags from the cases. But worry not, the application process is painless both physically and emotionally, and in a short while you'll be ready to go.”
Fernando's jovial verbosity spread much confusion across the young man's face. “Huh?” 
Time to dumb it down, then. “I need you to fill this out.” Fernando gestures towards the application.
The young man picks up a pen and sets to work. He writes down that he is from Happyrock, a municipality which lies about thirty-five minutes away. Why he came all the way out to the Dominion is a question for the ages, but whatever. People from Jobsdaughter, thirty minutes in the other direction; or from Hephaestus, twenty minutes in the other other direction, swing by as well. “Do you really need my driver's license number?” he asks after a short while.
Afraid so.” Though Fernando is willing to rent to people who reside well outside the Dominion's sphere of influence, he did not fall off the back of the delivery truck yesterday.
Store policy. It's just the way it is.” That's an excuse Fernando hasn't been able to use in a while. Might as well dust it off.
That sucks,” the teen says. “Your boss sounds strict.”
Oh, my. “You have no idea,” Fernando says, doing his best to emulate Jeremy Irons' Scar. However, the documentation is presented and Fernando verifies that the lad's responses were not made up whole cloth. The application is filled out to Fernando's satisfaction and the pair of older releases head out the door in the hands of a new customer. Things looked bright.
This being a Chronicle, the astute reader will no doubt already have arrived at the conclusion that things did not work out in any way which approaches the ideal.
The movies wound up late, Fernando had to leave a series of voice messages at the young man's number, and the guy who had rented a pair of older movies on a rent-one-get-one-free day managed to accrue $15 in late fees. The DVDs were in Fernando's drop box one morning in early July and Fernando figured that the irresponsible young man would never return to the Dominion out of shame or good sense, and his name would join dozens of others on Fernando's super-scary late fee list.
This being a Chronicle, the astute reader will no doubt already have arrived at the conclusion that a tale which opens with the story of a new customer has more to it than just “Ha-ha, Fernando got burned.”
In mid-September the guy returns. He heads to the new release rack and selects a pair of cases to bring up to the counter.
Hey man,” he says to Fernando, no doubt recognizing him from his previous visit. He puts the cases down on the counter.
Hello. Did you want to put something on your late fee?” late fee?”
Yeah. From when you were here in June and rented Who's Your Daddy and Knocked Up.”
After a few moments' silence, Fernando says, “So, did you want to put something on it?”
Do I have to?”
Fernando checks his late list for the precise amount owed. “It's at fifteen bucks.”
Oh. Well, can I pay it next time I'm in?”
Sorry, but I can't rent to you until some sort of good faith payment has been made.”
Fine.” The teen digs in his pockets and pulls out a handful of change, which he dumps on the countertop with a clatter.
Fernando squints at the small pile of dimes, nickels, pennies, and pocket lint. It sums to maybe sixty or seventy cents. “I was hoping something a little more substantial, actually. Five bucks or something.”
Come on, man.”
Sorry, store policy,” Fernando says, remembering what he had invoked at the boy nearly three months prior.
The kid digs through his wallet and pulls out a crumpled five dollar bill, muttering, “Your boss is kind of an asshole.”
Yeah, I know. On the bright side, I believe in giving people second chances. Optimism at work.” The guy looks at Fernando oddly but it doesn't seem as though he has registered that the asshole boss is the bloke standing before him.
Maybe next time it will sink in.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


A guy and his girlfriend come into the store one afternoon. Fernando greets them but they ignore him, as the dude is talking on his cell phone and the girl did not seem to want to engage in social niceties with anybody.
Fernando turns back to his computer as the guy continues his conversation. He speaks quite loudly and the volume on his cell phone is also cranked up, to the point that Fernando can hear the noises coming out of it from about twenty feet away. He tunes the conversation out, as he has no interest in prying.
Fernando snaps back to attention when he hears the gent say the words, “I'm telling you, they ain't got nothing here.” He half-swivels his chair about to make sure no one is in need of his inestimable services, but the man is intent upon his cell. Fernando can hear the conversational partner saying words and there is the sound of a crying baby in the background.
No, I'm serious,” the guy says. “They ain't got nothing new.” A pause, some word-exchange happens. “No, I don't see it.” Another pause. “Hang on, I'll ask.”
The guy turns to Fernando. “Hey, you got Cowgirls and Angels here?”
Do you mean Cowboys and Aliens?”
No, I mean Cowgirls and Angels.”
No, then I'm afraid I do not.”
The man focuses his attention on the cell phone as Fernando is about to continue, so Fernando stops. “No, he doesn't have it.” Pause. “I'm not going to Family Video.” Pause. “I don't care if your daughter got it from there! This place don't have it!”
The pair leaves. Fernando watches them go in bemusement.
As Fernando was about to tell the gent before he was cut off, Cowgirls and Angels was not due for release until October 2nd, so it would have been a great feat of prowess indeed had Fernando broken the rules of time, space, and product release dates.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Solace in a Bottle

Fernando fancies himself something of an amateur culinary artist. He prepares his own meals and, when the mood strikes him, prepares his own beverages. These are usually not too terribly complicated because Fernando lacks the time or interest to craft intricate comestibles, but the ones he can make have gotten rave reviews.
Fernando decided to make some ginger ale from scratch one day and was about to sample the fruits of his labors at the Dominion. Fernando has little personal need for a wide variety of kitchenware and so his drinkware consists of a plastic water bottle and a mug for tea and coffee. Since he did not want yeasty sediment taking up residence in his water bottle nor the ginger ale to taste like the inside of his well-used mug, he filled one of the red, disposable plastic cups which were used to divide up drinks at gatherings in his back room. You know, the ones that are stereotypical frat party booze holders.
As he does this important work, he hears the chimes above the door jingle. Fernando exits out of the back room. “Hello,” he greets the customer, a young lady who is slightly taller than he is. She has already made her selection and waits patiently at the counter.
Hi!” she answers. Fernando returns to his customary place behind the counter and sets his drink down atop it, where he hopes it cannot easily be spilled. “What do you have there?” she asks as he grabs a rental slip and starts filling it out.
This?” Fernando taps the butt of his pen against the cup. “Ginger ale.”
She leans forward and peers at the cup's contents. “It doesn't look like any ginger ale I've ever seen.”
Yeah, it's unfiltered.” Fernando picks up and swirls the cup. All the yeast and ginger bits swim about in their liquid home. “Though I should probably call it ginger beer since I fermented it for a couple of days, and I guess ginger ale is just carbonated water with ginger flavor added to it.”
The young lady smirks at Fernando. “So you're drinking on the job?”
Technically. I'd have to drink gallons of this stuff before I felt anything resembling a buzz, though.”
Ooooh, that's probably against the rules.”
Actually, the boss is pretty okay with it. I bribe him with nice things and he usually lets me get away with all kinds of stuff here.”
The lady laughs and collects her movies. “Well, enjoy your drink!”
Fernando sketches a quick bow. “Enjoy your movies!”
Ah, the refreshing taste of success.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Phone Tag, I'm It

The phone rings one Monday morning at around ten-thirty. Fernando checks out the caller ID, but it's not his distributor nor the government, but rather “Wireless Caller.” As this is well before opening, Fernando does not answer. The secondary reason is he is just about to head out the door to walk the half-mile or so to his credit union in order to make a deposit in his business account so his payments to various organizations are assured to go through and the Dominion is not denied minor, unimportant things like running water or electricity. As he steps out, the phone is on its sixth or seventh ring.
As this also happens to be Labor Day, you can guess how well that plan worked out for our intrepid hero. He doesn't really pay attention to most holidays, since what's a holiday to a Keeper of a Dominion? Generally a day on which he makes more money. But he is not perturbed, since it is a rather nice day and a little bit of exercise never hurt anybody (unless they are one of those terminally obese people who need the lifter-machines to get into their magic wheelchairs, I suppose).
Fernando takes his time coming back to the store, swinging by the post office to throw a couple of bills into the exterior mailbox. He sees three or four of his customers drive by along the highway as he ambles down the sidewalk. They wave and he waves back.
When he gets back to the store about twenty minutes later, the phone is ringing. Again or still, Fernando has no clue, but the caller ID still reads Wireless Caller. Fernando settles into his chair and fires up Dungeons of Dredmor as the phone jangles on in the background. After the eighteenth ring (of which Fernando was aware) it finally ceases.
Persistent bugger, aren't you?” Fernando remarks to himself and the Guardian Spiders in his office's hidden places.
Opening time eventually comes around and Fernando does that. In true Saladolsa fashion, the weather had transitioned from “pretty dang nice” to “overcast rainstorm” in the intervening hours, and Fernando made amazing amounts of money because people could not enjoy their day off outdoors. Oh, if only it had not been rent-one-get-one-free.
Around 5 PM, as Fernando is in the middle of helping a customer, the phone rings again. This is not the first call Fernando had received since opening, as people wanted to find out what he still had in stock and to place reservations on the things which would otherwise be snapped up.
Excuse me for one second,” Fernando tells the nice lady, one of Fernando's regulars. He scoops the phone up. “Hello, Dominion of Movies.”
Finally!” Fernando does not recognize this male voice at all.
Fernando blinks. “Er. How can I help you?”
I've been trying to call you all day and you finally pick up now?”
Um...I guess so. What can I do for you?”
I need you to tell me if you have some movies.”
Sure thing.”
Awkward silence blooms. Fernando assumed that the implicit invitation to begin rattling off titles was apparent, but this was not the case. Both Fernando and the strange man begin speaking at the same time after a short while.
Hey! Are you there?”
What were you looking for?”
More silence. The nice customer lady places money on the countertop and mouths, “Thanks, see you later,” before taking her movies and departing.
Hello?” Fernando says at last.
There's no answer. There's no “call disconnected” deep-deep-deep so he tries again.
Still nothing. Fernando waits for ten or fifteen more seconds before hanging up.
The guy never called back, nor did anyone indignant end up stopping by to firebomb the store.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Damage Control

Cortez visits the Dominion one evening to shoot the breeze as closing time draws near. As he and Fernando discuss matters of great importance in life, a vehicle pulls up and deposits a movie in the drop box. Fernando heads over to take it out and replace it on the shelf, but when he lifts the case he hears rattling.
Ah, thinks Fernando, they've left money in there. Some of Fernando's savvier customers leave their money for late fees in the cases when they drop them off to save everyone the trouble of remembering that they exist down the road. This also allows Fernando's customers to get rid of some of their small change without being too obviously dickish about it.
But when Fernando opens the immortal plastic outer case to remove the inner jewel case and disc, two things were awry. The first was that Fernando had been mistaken about the presence of money in the case.
The second is that the jewel case came apart in Fernando's hands, spilling the movie to the countertop:

Cortez sees this horrible series of realizations unfold. “Wow,” he says after Fernando arranges the bits of the jewel case on the counter.
Fernando, meanwhile, is peering at the store sticker on the disc. “I know exactly who rented this.”
Yeah. This one's six days late. My question is why bother even including the case when it is clearly ruined beyond any hope of use.”
I couldn't tell you.”
Fernando sighs and adds another fifty cents to the tally.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Parenting Trap

The day on which Fernando rebuked the cultist seemed to be going fairly well. After all, he had salvaged his sanity and it had cost him relatively little. The day could only snowball to the better.
All momentum the joy-ball had gained was lost come around 6 PM.
A lady came into the store. She bore a toddler in her arms. After a short while, the toddler began to cry. Rather than try to soothe it or perhaps to remove it from the store because it might irk the other customers present (to say nothing of the Keeper of the Dominion), she did the super-smart and super-responsible thing: she let it run loose.
Oh, good.
Rather than quieting the child down, the new-found freedom goaded it to new and ever more annoying heights. It thought the areas under Fernando's rental racks were fine places to explore. They are, in truth, the opposite. Gazing beneath one of them is akin to visiting the murky jungles of Borneo. One second you're safe and secure and the next an arthropod the size of your forearm has injected its descendants beneath your epidermis while you've just contracted no fewer than three incredibly uncomfortable tropical diseases.
Please get your child out from under there,” Fernando says once he hears the unmistakable ker-thump-tump-tump of a toddler bounding off the inside surfaces of the racks like it's the ball in an Arkanoid game.
Oh, he's fine,” says Mother of the Year.
I would prefer that he remain that way, actually. I'd rather not have my racks fall in on him.”
As if on cue, Satan chooses this moment to channel the ambient noise filling the deepest bowels of Hell through the young child's vocal tract. Fernando had never in all his years experienced an unearthly, ear-shattering wail. The other patrons in the store stopped what they were doing to stare in mixed awe and despair at the source of the noise, for they realized just as Fernando did that the foul denizens of the underworld had left the imprint of a goat's hoof on their awareness that would never, ever fade.
The newly formed gateway to Hell crawls out from under the rack in a shrieking, gibbering frenzy. Tears stream down its face and it paws frantically at the hair on its head as it spins in place, a gyrating puppet possessed by the lords of the deep. It gives another scream which portends nothing but eternal suffering and collapses. The mother rushes over, picks it up, and murmurs soothing words in its ear.
It seems the lad had trespassed in the domain of one of Fernando's Guardian Spiders. Even Fernando is careful in dealing with them.
Now that the fit has passed, awkward silence blooms. Fernando shifts in his chair and the other customers cautiously go back to perusing Fernando's wares. They find movies in suspiciously short order, pay, and leave. The transactions are carried out with a minimum of banter. This leaves Fernando alone with the mother and her offspring.
You shouldn't allow kids down there,” she says to Fernando once the store is empty.
I don't, actually.”
You have it so they can get down there.”
Fernando looks up at the “THIS IS NOT A DAYCARE. KEEP YOUR CHILDREN UNDER CONTROL” sign that the woman cannot see from her current position. “Auto repair places have lifts and stuff that kids are able to get under, too.”
Well, if your kid runs out underneath one of them, is that the store's fault?”
That's not what I'm saying.”
Fernando flicks his eyes back up to his sign. “But it's what I'm saying. If I had put a leash on your kid to keep him from going under those racks you would have rightfully raised holy hell because, last I checked, I can't decide to raise other people's kids on a whim. Besides, you're the one who told me he was fine under there.”
The woman's mouth gapes and she stares at Fernando. Then she closes it and says, “Okay, we're leaving.”
Fernando shrugs, inwardly relieved. “Have a nice evening.”
Parenting licenses. They need to happen.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Season of the Bitch

A lady rents Season of the Witch one evening. The next day Fernando finds the movie in his dropbox, but with a folded piece of paper inside. Curious, Fernando reads what is written thereon:
Scratched badly. Would not play. You owe me a rental.”
Fernando scowls at the paper, then at the disc. He lifts the DVD out of its holder and inspects the bottom. Minor marring does exist on the disc's underside, but that's to be expected of a movie that came out over a year prior. Certainly that small bit of wear should not render the disc unplayable.
More to the point, Fernando does not react well to people who order him around as though they are his betters.
Seeing as it was not even eleven in the morning, Fernando pops the movie in, prepares some coffee, and settles down to watch it through. Tangentially, Fernando shares reviewers' opinions that it is a plodding mess without any real tension or reason for viewers to invest in the characters. It could have been something much better than it was, perhaps some sort of guilty pleasure dark fantasy adventure romp like Van Helsing (though that movie is helped out a great deal by the presence of the charming Kate Beckinsale), but instead the creators squandered Ron Perlman's potential for cinematic gravitas.
As a result, after twenty-odd minutes Fernando is playing a game of League of Legends while the movie continues in the background.
Once the not-so-scary demon is slain and all the characters who aren't Nicolas Cage are inured, Fernando shuts off the DVD player and television and gives the lady a call.
-Ring ring ring ring ring-
Yes, this is Fernando calling from the Dominion of Movies. I received your note.”
Oh, good.”
Yeah, I just gave the movie a playthrough. It played just fine for me and there's no evidence at all of 'bad scratching.'”
You can't have done it already. You only opened half an hour ago.”
Contrary to popular belief, I must give up on my busy social schedule to arrive at the store early. I've been here all morning. That being said, if you would like to rerent Season of the Witch today or some other time you are more than welcome.”
It won't work on my player.”
Perhaps the DVD player on which it was played is in need of cleaning. Like I said, you are welcome to have it gratis some other time.”
I don't want that one. I want a different one.”
How far in did you get before it skipped?”
How far in did you get before it skipped? When did it start acting up?”
In the middle.”
What scene was it? What was happening?”
Silence. Fernando waits a few moments before continuing.
I'm sorry. You can have Season of the Witch or you can have nothing.”
I don't want that one!” the woman shouts.
I'm sorry. I won't be held responsible for people choosing a crappy movie and regretting it afterwards, then trying to leverage it into something better. Have a good day.”
He hangs up.
The woman in question is a white lady in her 50s. Being an asshole grifter really does cross all demographic boundaries.