Thursday, November 29, 2012

End of an Era

Fernando made the mistake of ordering Bloodlust Zombies from his distributor about a year ago. He is not an infallible man in selecting which DVDs may populate the Dominion, despite what everyone seems to believe, but this seeming error worked out most splendidly in the end, for that movie had one of the highest returns on investment out of anything he's ever picked up. A sizable number of the people who rented it reported misgivings to Fernando when they returned, but none of them blamed Fernando for their choice. Deep down, they knew the fault was theirs. Bloodlust Zombies just wasn't the film for them. It is the metaphorical crooked pot forever in search of its matching lid.
One day Fernando is combing through his inventory in search of things to stick in the Adopt-a-Movie Box, for the Great Film Migration will soon be underway and he needs to find space for all the movies about to be shunted to the far corners of the store. As Fernando sifts through his cases, he stumbles across his old friend, the worst zombie movie anyone's ever seen.
He picks up the case and studies it. Alexis Texas is there on the cover holding an ax, spatters of fake blood strategically obscuring any naughty bits that might otherwise have been visible through her so-white-it’s-translucent shirt. While Bloodlust Zombies had done its part in fattening Fernando's pocketbook, the sad fact is that no one had rented it for the past four months or so, and it was not exactly a paragon of film history that needed to be kept at the store for posterity.
People misunderstood it. Fernando himself was guilty of this prejudice, he realized after it was far too late to change things.
A metaphysical tear trickles from the corner of Fernando's eye as he contemplates the difficult choice he faces. Finally he says the dreaded words he knew must be said: “Yeah, it's time.” Maybe they provided some small measure of comfort to this poor, unfortunate victim of his ruthless culling. He tucks it under his arm alongside Conviction, Rabbit Hole, and a few others. They're all placed into the Adopt-a-Movie Box with superlative reverence.
One of Fernando's regular customers comes in a couple weeks later. “Hey, I see you've restocked the box here,” he says while Fernando processes the rental tags he'd brought up to the counter.
Indeed so. It's a pretty broad variety this time around. I pulled a lot of them from the ass end of the new release racks.”
Hey, I don't think I ever saw this one,” the man says, pulling one of the cases out. Fernando is around the corner in the depths of the office retrieving movies, so he does not immediately see which movie the man has retrieved. “How much for these again?”
Four bucks,” Fernando answers as he returns to the realms of light and happiness.
Cool. Add this one on for me then. Four bucks isn't that big a loss if it happens to be astinker, right?”
Fernando now sees which item his customer is considering for purchase, and it is indeed the world's most not-zombie zombie movie. “No, no it is not,” says Fernando, who takes the case, places the disc inside, and relinquishes his ownership over one of the Dominion's most infamous fixtures.
If you truly love something, you need to be willing to let it go. Sometimes things need to move on, to spread their wings and travel to lands unknown and to see sights as-yet unseen. Fly on, Bloodlust Zombies. Share your special brand of happiness with everyone across the land. Give others the blessing of your inestimable company. Find your crooked lid videophile soulmate.
I will always treasure the time we spent together.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Consolation Prize

The phone rings one evening, an evening which coincides with the opening day of hunting season. The caller ID reads “Out of State.”
Fernando picks up. “Hello, Dominion of Movies.”
A male voice on the other end says to Fernando, “Yeah, do you have any Playbox 64s?” Off in the background, Fernando can hear someone else trying and failing to stifle giggles.
Oh, alright. A prank call, is it? Fernando can deal with that and up the ante besides. “No, I'm sorry. I did just get a new shipment of Coleco-Dore Odysseys, though.” Fernando lowers his voice conspiratorially. “We're talking some serious hardware here. I mean serious.”
Wh-what are you talking about?” It doesn't sound like the young man wants to play any more, now that he has awoken the slumbering dragon of improvisation, grown over countless sessions of D&D.
Fernando has, however, found his stride. “This is the shit used to run ballistic missile simulations, man. This is the shit used to guide ballistic missiles! Top of the line stuff I managed to get smuggled in from Best Korea, yaknowhatI'msayin?”
Dude, we just want to rent some games.”
Yeah, but I'm offering you something better than games. It's fucking immersion.”
The young man finally finds some improvisational fortitude and challenges Fernando's fictional assertions. “What kind of games you got for it then?”
Oh, you know. Nuclear ballistic missile stuff and first-person shooters. You like Red Dawn? With this you can play Red Year! It also comes with Tetris.”
The hell...?” Fernando hears the background voice say.
Now, I can't let this go for a mere pittance, no, but I like the cut of your jib. You seem like an upstanding and trustworthy kind of guy. Come down and put down a two hundred dollar, non-refundable deposit, and I'll get you one of these state-of-the-art systems as soon as possible.”
We could just come down and get it right there,” says the first voice, thinking he has caught Fernando in a tapestry of untruths.
This is not so. “What do you think I am, stupid? I'm not giving myself radiation poisoning by keeping the systems on-site. What do you think they run on, C batteries? Please. You come down, put in your deposit, and we will continue negotiations at that juncture. Remember, the code-phrase is, 'Uncle Rufus loves sudoku.'”
Fernando hangs up, his mission accomplished to his great satisfaction.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finger Play

The lady who rented Season of the Witch a while back returns to the store. Perhaps she is a masochist on the level of Fernando, who knows? She carries with her a full stamp card retrieved from who-knows-where, but since Fernando is not aware that anyone is forging stamp cards it must be legit. She selects a movie, FDR: American Badass and brings the tag to the counter. This woman has not learned anything about selecting movies with an iota of quality, because this movie is pretty close to Bloodlust Zombies-level horrible.
It still inexplicably rents. Fernando imagines that beer consumption helps out in that respect.
Yes, I've got a free rental,” she tells him.
Fernando counts the stamps on the card to ensure all is in order. “Indeed so.” He writes up the rental slip and retrieves the disc. Once he passes it over to the woman, she opens up the case and takes it out. She immediately starts rubbing her fingertips over the disc's underside, leaving smudges of finger-detritus everywhere. As she does this, she addresses Fernando in the haughty manner of which only the irrepressibly self-entitled are capable.
I want to make sure this isn't scratched or damaged, like the last one. I would prefer that this one plays right.”
Well, a good way to do the opposite of that is to smear up the underside of the disc with your fingers.” Fernando takes the DVD from her and fetches a cloth and his disc cleaner to undo the damage she has wrought.
Hmph,” she sniffs as Fernando wipes away the filth.
When he finishes he replaces the disc in its case. “There should be no problems with this one.” He passes the disc and case back over to her.
We'll see,” she tells Fernando, then leaves.
Since Fernando did not receive a passive-aggressive note with the disc the next day, he assumes that his prediction carried through.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Ah, November! Two-fifths of trees are dead, one's feet are frozen upon waking up in the morning, and everybody's favorites, the hunters, return after a year of absence!
A strange gentleman clad in camo jacket, camo pants, and a bright orange hat comes into the store one afternoon. His beard is scraggly and ill-kept, a sure sign of somebody who doesn't do facial hair except when that queer hunting season custom dictates it. “Hey, what's it take to rent from here?” he asks.
I need you to fill out one of these-here applications. I'll need to see your driver's license.”
Sure thing, no problem.” Huh. Normally they put up a bit more fight.
The application is completed and the guy meanders out into the store. He comes back with four tags. “How much would these cost?”
Considering it's rent-one-get-one-free today, only seven dollars.”
That's for one night?”
Yes. Did you want them for two?”
No, I think I can manage. When are they due back by?”
Tomorrow, seven PM.”
Yeah, I can do that.” The rentals are leased for one evening and life goes on. Fernando is not too optimistic he'll be getting any of them back, though. He felt that tingly aura of incompetence coming off the guy while speaking with him. The movies being rented were not that impressive, however. The best of the bunch was by far The Muppets, but the other three were forgettable and derivative R-rated comedies that could be substituted for just about any other R-rated comedy without any noticeable change in quality or content.
The movies go unreturned, and when Fernando calls the cell number the man provided on his rental slip (one which Fernando had no reason to believe would not work considering it was within the same area code), he hears the cheery sing-song lady announce, “This number has been discontinued.” Fernando does so love when he is right, even if the victory is as Phyrric as anything in life.
We fast-forward a week. A strange young woman comes into the store. “Hi, I'd like to set up an account here.”
Sure thing. I just need you to fill out an application, and I'll need to see your driver's license.”
She sets to work and hands over the completed application in due course. Fernando gives it a look-over.
The address seems rather familiar to him.
Hold on a second,” he tells her. He retreats into the depths of the office and digs through his records. Well well well. What a coincidence.
She looks somewhat apprehensive when Fernando returns to the counter. “You know Albania?” She does not immediately answer. “I see,” Fernando continues, “The good news is that you are not him, but if you should happen to see him, let him know it would be appreciated if he were to come down and chip away at his late fees and perhaps return the movies he's got out.”
Um...which ones were those?”
Fernando produces Albania's rental slip from his ban-list pile and copies the fraction of his inventory described thereon to a sheet of paper using his absolute best penmanship. “If they should happen to turn up, it would be nice to get them back. Now, these come to four dollars altogether.”
Fernando's missing movies were in the drop box the next day. The amount of the attached late fee remains unaltered.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Web of Lies

The phone rings one Friday evening around six. Fernando picks up. “Hello, Dominion of Movies?”
Yeah, do you have that new Spiderman movie in?”
The Amazing Spiderman, ah. The copies of the film in question are in Fernando's keeping, just not in. “No, actually that comes out tomorrow.”
You don't have any there now?”
Even if I did, I couldn't let you have it. But tomorrow is not far off. Did you want me to hold one for you for then?”
Nah, don't bother. I just wanted to see if you had it there tonight for me.”
Oh. Alright. Yeah, tomorrow's when it comes out.”
Yeah. Bye.”
Good-bye.” And that should have been the end of that.
Saturday followed Friday as is often the case and Fernando's copies of The Amazing Spiderman vanished in short order. Around four in the afternoon a young man enters the Dominion. He heads over to the new release rack, investigates it for a few seconds, and then comes up to the counter.
Yeah, you got any copies of Spiderman in?”
No, sorry. Those all went out today. I'm expecting them back tomorrow, if you'd like me to hang onto one for you.”
No, I wanted to come down today and pick one up.”
Sorry. I can't help you with that.”
What the hell, man? You said you'd have it in tomorrow yesterday.”
Oh, this was that guy. “Rrrrright? I also asked if you would like for me to hold a copy for you for today, and I was told not to.”
I didn't know you did that.”
What in fucking fuck? Do the words that Fernando says no longer have meanings comprehensible to the bulk of humanity? “Yeah...that's why I made the offer yesterday. Would've been pointless and silly otherwise.”
Oh.” The guy looks down at the glass of Fernando's counter for a short while. “I'll be back later, then.”
Alrighty. Have a good evening.”
Fernando remembers having to take listening comprehension sections on standardized tests back in his elementary and high school days. Do they not do that anymore or something?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Repo Man

A guy who has rented at a store numerous times in the past comes in one day and takes out two movies, The Avengers and Five Year Reunion. This happens in the beginning of October.
Responsibility left the building for a good long while and Fernando eventually wrote the movies off as stolen. He appended them to the Annual Abscondments for the year and everything.
Then, amazingly, they come back in early November. The young man brings them up to the counter. “Hey. What's my late fee on these?”
Fernando rises and takes the movies into his custody, ensuring that they are in their cases and undamaged. Then he answers, “Eighty-eight dollars.”
This flummoxes the man. “What? I thought you stopped late fees at twenty bucks!”
No. I stop them after two weeks. These were out for about a month, but I stop the late fees after two weeks.”
Yeah, but I brought them back. That's gotta count for something.”
It does. Now the late fee is only eighty-eight dollars instead of one hundred and thirty-eight.”
I can't believe—I should have just fucking bought them outright!”
Fernando makes a noncommittal sound. No words he could say would change the facts of the situation.
The man clenches his fists and raises one arm. “You...fuck.” He lowers the fist and storms out.
Have a good evening!”

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Biological Warfare

A young woman and her offspring enter the store one evening. She is a couple of years Fernando's junior and possesses a male child aged three or four, certainly old enough to put together coherent sentences. Said boy escapes his mother's grasp and heads up the aisle which opens on a direct course towards the office and just comes on in. The kid runs up next to Fernando's file cabinet, looks him square in the eyes, and proudly announces, “I just farted!”
His weaponized methane payload delivered, the boy gambols out of the Dominion's office and rejoins his mother. Fernando thinks nothing of it, then a short while later thinks everything of it.
Small things like cats, dogs, and children do not seem like they should have the physical capability to create such otherworldly stenches, but they nevertheless issue violations of all that is good and just in the world from their anuses.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Hello. I am Nicolai Dobokov, taking over for Fernando Stevens. He is tied up at moment, secured in chair for own safety. Suffered nasty head blow. Am here as spokesman from Domain of Films to talk about recent restructuring done on thirty-first October.
Night before, on thirtieth, Nicolai, Vladimir, and Boris come into store late at night to rearrange aisles, create caves for children's movies and horror to better corral any capitalists if time comes to remove them. Other aisles rotated and spaced apart to make hourglass floorplan instead of previous aisles. Labor takes maybe forty minutes. Many husks of Defense Arachnids fall from between old shelves where could not be reached by Fernando.
Sleep happens, morning comes. Nicolai puts on fancy three-piece suit, adjusts tie, goes out into world to set things up. Heads on social media outlets to announce changes at Domain of Films but not too many changes. Also makes note that trick treats can be had for boy and girl American children and big pot of beef stroganoff has been prepared for adults.
Resnov arrives not long before opening, helps Nicolai put on finishing touches to grand reopening. Has stroganoff, says it is delicious. Of course it is delicious. Nicolai made it.
First customer of day is man returning movies rented night before. He enters Domain and Nicolai says, “Привет!”
Man looks at improved layout of store, looks at Nicolai, places movies on countertop and leaves. Does not even make chance for offer to eat stroganoff.
Little while later, phone rings. Nicolai looks at call identification, sees is woman customer in Fernando's logs. He picks up phone. “Hello?”
Woman hangs up. Okay.
Next person does not come in until after Resnov must leave for other obligation. Is affable older gentleman which Fernando reveals during question has told him stories of time in Korean Peninsula. Nicolai greets him same way as first man.
Second gentleman looks at Nicolai with surprise, then says, “Well howdy howdy. You're looking sharp today!”
Am always sharp. Is job to look sharp. I am Nicolai Dobokov, managing supervisor of Domain of Films.” Nicolai extends hand and the two men shake.
Managing supervisor, huh? Who are you managing for?”
Elite organization. You are here for renting of movies?”
Oh, you bet! Do you still have two-for-one today?”
Is good plan from old owner, no need to terminate. Good way to retain custom.”
Well, alright!” The old man goes out onto floor, searches through new labyrinth of shelves. Finds movie SuckerPunch. “This one looks racy.”
Is not what cover shows. Not really, anyway. Actually has plot deeper than shallow pool.”
The cover makes me think it's a bunch of fourteen year old girls bouncing around in schoolgirl outfits.”
нет, is not so. You are thinking of different sort of films produced by Motherland. Are trying to crack down on distribution of those. Have standards in our work.”
Man rents that movie and three others. As Nicolai fills out rental slip, man lifts lid of crock pot full of stroganoff. “This smells delicious.”
Is beef stroganoff. Help yourself if you like. Is what's there for.”
Don't mind if I do!” The man fills small styrofoam bowl and takes bite with plastic fork. His face twists in ecstasy. “Oh my!”
Is good?”
Can I take a bowl of this home to my wife? She has to try this.”
Absolutely. Can provide bags for you to try keep from spilling. Here, I tape second bowl over first too.”
Man leaves and things are happy. Then trick treat time starts and group of four adolescent American children come into store.
Trick or treat!” they say all as one. They make double-take when they see Nicolai standing behind the counter, looking resplendent.
I see good costumes. You are having candies? Take two, if like!”
Wow, thanks!” They scrabble through Skittles and Milky Ways and Paydays. One young man notices pot of stroganoff. “What's that?”
Beef stroganoff. Is delicious. You want some?”
He looks at pot longingly. “I'd like to, but my mom would kill me if she found out I ate strange food.” Boy in question is fourteen or fifteen years old. When interrogated in back room later, Fernando says he totally forgot that children in America are discouraged from eating unpackaged food during Halloween. In Russia, trick treats are bottles of vodka and if child dies from mercury poison, is God's work. Nicolai does not know this cultural difference. Fernando allowed to keep toenails as result of cooperation.
Is sad times. How sneak razor blades into stroganoff? Would be obvious! Poison also bad idea because do not get return customers that way!”
Four young Americans laugh and leave. As they go, one girl in group says to other girl, “That guy is awesome!”
Да. Is truth.
More trick treaters come into store as time passes. Most of them look upon Nicolai with mixed awe and happiness, for they find accent endearing and stroganoff delicious. Group of three boys come in for trick treats dressed as Batmen and Jokers. One says to Nicolai, “Hey, can we rent all the Batman movies for free?”
Hmm. Is worth considering. Let me think for moment on this. Meanwhile, have candy or stroganoff.” They do and more culinary joy is spread through Nicolai's cooking.
This shit is amazing,” says Joker-boy.
Thank you. Is nothing much.”
How did you get it to taste so good?”
Practice and skill. Nicolai has many talents. You need man killed? Am not so good at this, but can send word to Vladimir or Resnov. Payment is reasonable, satisfaction guaranteed.”
The three share uneasy look. “Um...we'll think about it.”
Good. Should still be here when you decide.”
While this happens, Nicolai goes on social networking site now and again to post updates on glorious revolution at Domain of Film. Woman comments on one update with words of surprise: “What???? Who owns them now!?”
Nicolai responds in similar way as with older man from before. Other people who are fans of old Dominion comment as well. One girl by name of Luisa asks questions of Nicolai which are awkward for him to answer. He cannot say too much, else will experience question and answer session like Fernando in back room.
Other girl named Adonia expresses concern that customer base will find Domain of Films hard to remember if place called Dominion of Movies so long. Nicolai responds that conversion is simple, like sensible metric system instead of capitalist Imperial clusterfuck. Dominion of Movies becomes Domain of Films. If other group like Italian mafia or yakuza come in sometime, will probably rename place Realm of Videos.
Short while later, first woman from before responds again. Nicolai is not sure if serious because she claims to have known back-room Fernando “very well” and threatens Nicolai with “ppl” that she knows, then says Nicolai is unwelcome in town. Is very bad spelling and grammar. English Nicolai's second language, but what is woman's excuse? Nicolai does not understand this hostility! And why cannot civility happen? Civility more profitable than murder most times. Cannot make deals with dead men, only mail body parts to immediate family for intimidation factor. Also, Nicolai goes through Fernando's logs, learns that woman who claims to be best friends with man in back room has never been to store. Bizarre.
Close to end of night, two pretty girls come into Domain. Are wearing workout clothes like have just come from gym. Nicolai greets them in proper Russian way and they look at him and make mad giggle sounds. “Oh my god,” says one of them. “You're for real?”
Am not imaginary, and have not drunk enough vodak for you to be imaginary either. Can help you find something?” you have The Hunger Games in?”
Certainly. Have heard stories played of hunger games before. Good comrade once sent to gulag and forced to survive harsh Siberian winter eating twig-and-snowmelt stew cooked on cooling bodies of people who died night before. Came back changed man.”
Girls look at each other. Taller one of pair covers her mouth with hand and gasps, “Oh my god, you're amazing.”
No, am Orthodox. You speak truth otherwise though. Would offer you stroganoff, but all eaten earlier. Is sad, because was very good.”
Tall girl laughs. “You should totally do this every day.”
These words confuse Nicolai no small bit. “I do. Is not like I am different person day to day. Have had discipline beaten into me with rusted iron rod since age of two. Sent out to woodshed once when four. Smart enough not to need second time there. Howling of wolf and bones from last child there taught me.”
Nicolai lets girls also take some trick treat candy. Are dressed up as people coming home from gym after all.
At closing time, Nicolai shuts blinds and locks door, then goes into back room to write this report to send to Motherland about feasibility of keeping grip on store. Hopefully will hear back soon.
До свидания!