Sunday, December 29, 2013

Annual Abscondments IV: In Closing

2013 was a busy, busy year for Fernando's more roguish clientele, though the nefarious acts of thievery came in bursts: first late February/early March, then a second wave in July, and finally an end-of-year push in November. It proved Fernando's worst year yet in terms of lost inventory; twenty-one of Fernando's beloved and not-so-beloved movies were torn from his loving embrace and taken into the unexpected custody of a great wide spectrum of ne'er-do-wells.
This is their obituary.
Expendables 2, Wanderlust, The Notebook: A lady comes into the store, one who hadn't been in since the days of the old Keeper. She had some late fees from that elder age, $21. Fernando informed her of this fact and, against all odds, she agreed to pay them off.
So how'd that work out for you, Fernando? You earned $30 only to lose about $60 in inventory. Look on the bright side: if you keep this up there may be room for you on the executive board of a major financial institution. And on the brighter side, you no longer have a copy of The Notebook available to recommend as a dumb-silly romantic chick flick.
I Am Number 4: High school kid comes in and sets up account, rents one movie, never returns it. He came back to the store on one occasion in the company of some of his less-lawbreak-y peers and Fernando shamed him so thoroughly that he actually put down five bucks towards his debt. 
He still owes Fernando $35.
The Greatest Game Ever Played: Because if you're a thirty-something woman setting up an account whose sole purpose, apparently, is to steal something, best make it a mediocre movie about golf that had otherwise never been rented in all the years Fernando worked at and owned the Dominion.
New Year's Eve, War, 24: Redemption: Remember the guy from way, way back who trashed a copy of Ice Age and then visited the store not long after Fernando took over in the misguided hopes that new ownership would erase his debt? Yeah, he, Fernando later learned, at some point hooked up with a gullible young lady who set up an account and, apparently, rented for him by proxy. Three pieces of Fernando's inventory went missing but at least two of those three were uninspiring renters even when they were fresh and new and the third, while a decent, testosterone-laden popcorn flick, was not of any particular importance in the grand scheme of things.
But hey if either of them ever return to the store down the road I can feel justified affixing the "saga" tag to this affair.
Warm Bodies, Cabin in the Woods, 127 Hours: Kind of a twofer with the next entry. See below.
Beautiful Creatures, Real Steel: Okay, so, two guys in their late teens/early twenties come to the store at the same time and both of them set up accounts to rent some movies. One of them is from Happyrock, about thirty miles away; the other is more local and claims an address in Melvinsburg. Fernando checks out the licenses and gets phone numbers from them (one of which is a local land line) and rents to them.
When the movies had been out for three days, Fernando calls them up in turn to request that they bring them back in. The cell phone goes to not-set-up voicemail and Fernando leaves a message. The other one rings and rings and no one picks up. The following day, Fernando tries again. Still voicemail, still no response.
This repeats for a number of additional days until, finally, somebody picks up on the landline, a woman.
Fernando explains the situation to her and asks that she inform the young man that his movies are still out and if he could return them promptly. The woman tells Fernando that he is "out of state for work." Fernando asks that she pass along his request and to check around if, perhaps, the movies were sitting there at home. She agrees to do precisely that.
Buuuuut she never called him back, and Fernando also never did get in contact via cell phone with the guy from Happyrock.
Stand Up Guys, Prometheus: A middle-aged woman comes in to rent a pair of movies and they don't make it back. When he calls her up to find out what is going on, she tells him that she gave them to her son to drop off on his way back to school. Fernando lets her know that her son never did drop them off, and that he would appreciate it if she could double-check with him to make sure they make it back the next time he comes home.
Nope.
Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Muppets: Okay, sometimes people wake up on the stupid side of life. This pair of customers set up an account back in April, after having just moved into the area, and had been absolutely exemplary renters up til then. They were genial, treated Fernando like an actual person, and almost never late; when they were, they killed off their late fees immediately.
Then, one afternoon, they rented the above movies and they didn't make it back over the next three days. Fernando found this peculiar, so he called them up. One of them answered and told him that their car had taken a dump on them and that they were terribly sorry about everything, and that they would bring them back promptly once they found someone to give them a ride down to the Dominion, for they resided well into the boonies. This sounded good to Fernando, so he wished them the best and told them they could hash out everyone once the movies got back in.
Alas, they never did, and all of Fernando's subsequent calls went unanswered. What a pity, what a waste.
Now You See Me, Despicable Me: The girl who'd gotten a sorta-but-not-really divorce from her boyfriend a few years back dropped by and rented these movies, which never came back. She ignored Fernando's requests to return them, and now Fernando's sympathies lie with her jilted ex, wherever he may be.
The most embarrassing part is that she used a full stamp card for a free rental on Despicable Me. Would she have had it if Fernando had been less kind when she initially asked him to divvy up their communal stamps?
The Purge, Disaster Movie: Fernando tries not to judge people based on their last names and familial relations, but sometimes circumstances make it so incredibly hard to do. The young lady who rented this, by all appearances, comes from a family of thieves: her parents rented some things back under the Old Keeper's watch and never returned them. Then her older sister rented some things a few years back and never returned them.
Now, of course, she has rented some things and never returned them.
Fuck it, the next time somebody with that last name stops in, Fernando is going to be King Dick and let his prejudices run their fullest course.


Not a day goes by on which Fernando does not lament the passing of every one of these unfortunate abductees. Yes, even you, The Greatest Game Ever Played, even you. In fact, your loss is felt most keenly of all.

The question remains: What promises does 2014 hold? This Fernando cannot say. Truth be told, he seems to have driven away most of the assholes and recent weeks down at the Dominion have been, well, enjoyable. No entitled women coming to manipulate him into free things. No characters from days gone by stopping by to put into motion their inscrutable goals. No curious and random new faces with wretched spatial judgment.
Just the normal, genial customer base who rents movies, returns them mostly on time, and clears up any small late fees with a humble apology.
In short, the Chronicles seem to have wound down. Like in every closed system, the occurrence of random and interesting things decays as entropy increases and said system approaches a uniform, vacuous state. Rather than continue to draw out the unnecessary by milking a franchise (such as this is) until even its bones have been rendered down and snorted by a dwindling number of consumers (such as it is), as is the case with a certain industry that revolves around the production and distribution of motion pictures, it is time, I feel, to bring this book to a close.
There shall be other happenings, other tales of woe and dread, and even occasional tales of uplifting experience, I'm certain. Entropy is almost inevitably stalled out in the short term by random occurrences. Perhaps a fluctuation in fate will jar a new wave of content appropriate for the Chronicles of Fernando H. Stevens.
But until and unless there is such a time, let me tell you of a man who, in the late summer of 2010, made the lifechanging decision to cast his lot into the realm of weblogging through the collation and recording of happenings of great intrigue and of possible interest to souls other than himself. The wrangling with irate word processing programs, the mostly-kept rigor of deadlines, and the random acts of God which threatened the stability and structural integrity of his Chronicles did not daunt him. 
That man was one Fernando H. Stevens.

He had a blast, and he hopes you did too.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cold As Ice

Saladolsa's snowy season has, to this point, been one full of profound discomfort and chill. The temperature barely broke into the double digits most days and Fernando's large office windows were drafty portals to a frozen hellscape of blowing, gritty snow and patches of ice.
Fernando did what he could to keep the store clear of impediments to entry: he ventured outside to clear away the drifting snow and made sure to scatter salt over what his orange snow shovel could not remove.
One evening, the phone rings. "Hello, Dominion of Movies."
"Yeah, I wanted to let you know that we'll be keeping out the movies we got from you an extra night."
There is a pause just long enough that Fernando takes this as a cue to respond. "Alright, that's fine--" he begins, only to learn that he had inadvertently cut off the woman, one of Fernando's best customers.
"Our car just won't start," she continues.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Fernando says when he realizes what he'd done.
But the woman takes this to be an expression of remorse for her car troubles. "No, don't be. There's nothing you could do about it. We'll come in and pay the late fees tomorrow probably."
The jilted not-a-conversation continues with Fernando only now responding to her inoperative car woes. "That's fine. It's like two degrees out and I feel like you're not the only one. Don't worry about it."
"I'm sorry?" she asks, sounding confused.
"Wait what?" Fernando also asks, and assuredly confused.
"Maybe we should start over," the woman says.
"Probably." 
There is a pause of five or so seconds.
"Okay," she says with a nervous giggle. "Our car won't start, so we can't get back the movies we rented until tomorrow."
"That's fine," Fernando responds. "It's hateful outside and I don't blame your car for not starting. Don't worry about the late fees, since I wouldn't want to go out into this crap either."
"What, really?" she asks.
"Yes, really. Just don't let it spread that I'm not a heartless bastard."
She laughs. "You are the best. Thanks so much!"
"Welcome. Stay warm." Fernando hangs up, then looks around the thankfully empty store.
"The epitome of social class," he mutters, returning to his seat.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Priority

One of Fernando's regulars comes into the store one afternoon not long after opening and takes a quick look at the new release rack. "All your Wolverine is already out?" he asks, scowling.
"More like they haven't yet gotten in. I'm expecting all of them back today."
"Okay, how about this," Fernando's customer says. The Keeper hears the skritch of velcro as one of the other rental tags is torn off its case. "Hold this one for me and when the other comes in I'll come down and pick it up."
"That I certainly can do," Fernando says, taking the tag from the gentleman and placing it reverently on the desk in his office. "Did you want me to give you a call?"
"Nah, I'm gonna be running around for a little while anyhow. I'll stop by after I get gas at the station and see if you got it in."
Fernando nods. "Sounds good. If it gets in, I'll hang onto it for you. No promises, though."
And so Fernando's customer departs to complete his errands. A few minutes later a car pulls into the parking lot and a family of father, mother, and daughter clamber out. Fernando is fairly certain they owe him money, but not positive; he could not recall their names, since they had not visited the store in a rather long while, but verification would be swift and sure once he asked their indentity and he took a gander at the late list.
Anyhow, they fan out throughout the store and the two adults chat amongst themselves. Mainly they complain that all of Fernando's copies of Wolverine are out and they rather rudely, in that passive-aggressive not-a-whisper, point out that the Dominion "never has anything good in."
Ignoring or overlooking, of course, that if copies of the goddamn movies are present at opening from the night before without having been rented, the business model is doing something terribly wrong.
The daughter asks if they can rent something else but the mother (who is the one Fernando suspects of owing money) puts her foot down and tells the youngster that if the movies the grown-ups want isn't in, she "doesn't deserve" to rent Smurfs 2. At this moment, two more vehicles crunch over the snow in the parking lot simultaneously. One of them is the gentleman who had just been in. The other one is a truck owned by a man who had, on the previous day, come in and rented Wolverine. Fernando rises from his chair, scoops up the other tag which he had been asked to hold, and walks up to the counter to begin filling out a rental slip in anticipation of things to come.
Fernando's earlier visitor parked slightly closer to the front door, so he is the one inside first. "Did it make it?" he asks.
Fernando points over the man's shoulder at the second gent crossing the parking lot, who carries a stack of three movies. "He's got one, right there."
"Attaboy."
The mother, having deduced something potentially interesting albeit irrelevant to her own sad life is amiss, has since sidled closer to the counter to listen in on the conversation. The father and daughter are off in the kids' section of the store doing Pazuzu-knows-what.
The chimes tinkle and the second man enters. Fernando takes the films from him. "Thank you much." He sets two of them behind the counter and leaves the third, Wolverine. The second man squeezes past the mother, who lurks near the archway, with a low, "Excuse me," and browses the rental racks.
"Which ones did you bring back?" she asks him.
"Uh, The Thing, 2 Guns, and Wolverine," he answers.
Meanwhile, the transaction between Fernando and the first man has been completed. "Thank you much," Fernando says as the man walks out with his movies. "Have a good evening." He gathers up the rental slip and sets it on his desk, then goes about returning the rental tags for the other two movies to their cases out on the floor. He is peripherally aware of the woman approaching the counter.
"Yeah, I heard you got a Wolverine in." the woman tells Fernando.
Fernando briefly glances over at her. "I did, but it just went out again," he says, replacing the remaining cases on the shelf.
"I wanted that one."
"I'm sorry," Fernando tells her. "I am expecting my other copies back, if you would like me to hold one for you and let you know when it gets in."
"Why did you let that other guy just have it?"
Fernando blinks. "Because he asked nicely for me to hold a copy for him." He pauses, mulling over precisely how large a dick he wanted to be at this moment. He arrives at the conclusion "titanic." "And if I had put it out onto the floor, I would not have kept that promise."
The woman's mouth becomes a hard line and she fixes a death glare upon Fernando's uncaring self. The Keeper repeats his earlier offer, "Did you want me to hold one for you and give you a call if I get it in?"
"No," she hisses, sotto voce. "We're leaving."
"Alright. Have a good evening." With that, Fernando weaves through the rental racks to return the other two tags to their homes.
He ignores her so thoroughly that he does not even give a cursory glance over his shoulder when the door chimes jingle twice in rapid succession from the family's departure.
The second man rents three movies and has the social grace not to comment on what had just transpired.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Monstrous

The lady who tried to fleece Fernando out of rentals multiple times in the past decided to return to the store one evening. Why, Fernando had no idea, as he had been fairly certain that he had driven her away with his no-nonsense tone and immovable position on giving her an endless chain of gratis rentals. Maybe she was a glutton for punishment, or her avarice fueled a temptation that could not be resisted.
Nonetheless, Fernando greets her and she, not surprisingly, does not respond, caught up as she was in her own world and doubtless plotting her next move. So Fernando returns his attention to the internet while she browses the store. She comes up a few minutes later with a pair of tags for Turbo and Monsters, Inc. Fernando fills out the slip and takes her money and she leaves.
The following day, her vehicle pulls into the parking lot and she climbs out with her movies. The chimes jingle and before Fernando knows it, she stands before his counter, her perpetually irate expression made even more intimidating and vampiric, for her lips are pressed together so tightly as to not exist at all. "This one didn't work for me." She holds the case for Monsters, Inc. in her hand vertically, so Fernando can clearly see the colorful surface of the disc in case he needed to be reminded about how his inventory looked.
"That's no good," Fernando says, rising from his seat and crossing the office. "Let me take a look at it."
"It just didn't play at all," she insists, setting the case down on the countertop rather than passing it over into Fernando's outstretched hand.
"Peculiar. Let me pop it in my player and see. What exactly didn't work about it?"
"It wouldn't load at all. It just spun in the disc holder." She pauses for a breath, then appends with a generous dollop of vitriol, "This is not the first time this has happened."
Fernando ignores that. He powers on his DVD player and places the disc on the tray. When he pushes the button to close said tray, the woman suddenly shouts, "I didn't use a DVD player!"
Fernando looks over his shoulder and blinks rather confusedly. "Then...what? Like a game console?"
"XBox."
The DVD player faintly hums and churns. "Three-sixty?"
"Yes."
"Well, that's probably the cause of your problem. This disc was pressed in what, like 2001? It's older than some of my customers. Newer players, especially ones in consoles, don't like playing nice with geriatric discs like this one."
The woman puffs out a snort through her nostrils.
Fernando follows that up with a question. "Did you ever try this in an actual, like, DVD player?"
The woman folds her arms across her chest. "No."
"Perhaps you should try that tonight and see if the disc treats you better in that instance." Fernando pushes the power button to his television and, lo and behold, there's the DVD's title screen featuring music by Randy Newton. "It seems to be working fine for me." He pushes the eject button, replaces the disc in its case, and passes it back over to the woman.

She looks as though she wants to say something more, but decides against it and instead skulks out.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

We're the Necrotizing Fasciitis

A woman in her late 30s comes into the store one evening. She is a semi-regular customer and had not been to the store in a few months. Fernando greets her and she greets him back. Hell, she even goes beyond the bare minimum of social nicety to ask Fernando how he has been since she last saw him.
"I'm well. Keeping on keeping on, doing the best that I can," he answers. "Yourself?"
"I'm good. My daughter is having a slumber party tonight, so a bunch of her friends are over and they wanted me to pick out some movies for her. Do you have We're the Millers in?"
"Yeah, that's right over here," Fernando tells her, exiting the office to pluck one of the tags from the case. The front reads EXTENDED CUT in big yellow letters, and the woman notices this fact and is likely savvy enough to realize what it entails. She picks up the case and reads the back. Her expression sours and her eyes narrow as she scans the great large box on the back side which has the laundry list of reasons the movie is rated R.
"This is unrated?" she asks him with a slight frown.
"Profoundly so, yes," Fernando tells her. "It out-Hangovers The Hangover."
"Is it just raunchy humor?"
"That, and I feel like I would be remiss not to warn you about the spider bite scene."
"Why, what's so bad about it? It doesn't sound so bad."
"Well, the bite is on a penis."
Her expression wavers between confusion and bemusement. "That still doesn't sound--"
"They show the penis."
The woman stares at Fernando, blinks a few times, then quietly places the case back on the rack. "Let's not get that one, then. Probably not a good idea for twelve-year old girls to be seeing that."
"Probably not."
She scans the rack with a frustrated sigh. "There aren't any other good comedies in right now, either." She taps the case for Grown Ups 2 irately, for all copies of that film were leased out at that moment.
Fernando shrugs. "I can recommend Monsters University."
"Why, is it funny?"
"It has its moments. Mainly it's because it's a good movie. Great movie, in fact. Not quite as good as Monsters, Inc. but by no means does this render it low-quality. I'm old so I'm not allowed to like new things as much as their earlier iterations. It's a nine instead of a ten, is all."
"That sounds really good actually. I'll take it."
And that's how it's done.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hiatus

Sometimes life is not entirely a great large boring or despairing thing. Sometimes a full week, or more, goes by without anything extraordinary or uncouth or offensive happening inside the Dominion's walls, despite the presence of out-of-town hunters.
This is one of those times. Sometimes I fear I've finally driven away all of the entitled or otherwise asshole customers.
Furthermore, this lull in interesting content coincides with National Novel Writing Month, which of course I am doing again this year. After writing over a thousand words per day to compose a narrative I'd only envisioned two or so days before the first of the month, the last thing my overtaxed right brain wants is to switch gears and come up with more words on another topic. That, and all the time I spend composing an essay on, I don't know, altruism or a snarky observation on some unimportant facet of human society is time I'm not spending on increasing the wordcount for my NaNo project.
And I certainly am not going to be one of those people who counts posts made to other places on the internet as words added to a separate narrative. I have some scruples.
So, I'm taking a small siesta from this weblog, at least until something interesting happens again. The holidays draw ever closer and that always brings out the characters. Snow will fall from the heavens and I'm sure a butthole snowmobiler or six will take this as a sign to churn across the naked asphalt. And it's been quite a busy year for sneaks and thieves for some inexplicable reason, so the fourth Annual Absondments come the year's end shall prove positively monstrous.
The Chronicles will return. For as long as there are customers, there shall be depressing tales to share about encounters with them.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Here We Go Again

Firearm deer hunting season looms and with it come the entitled outsiders who expect Saladolsa and its businesses to cater to their every selfish need. The Dominion is in no way exempted from this farce and, while Fernando has a few hunters come in during the bow hunting season immediately prior to firearm season, they are much fewer in number and, overall, less dickish.
One day, Fernando has just headed into the back room to turn on the exterior lights, for it was about five in the evening and the sun has sunk below the horizon, and he does want for the parking lot-slash-road in front of the store to be illuminated. While he's back there, he fixes up a cup of coffee. He hears the door chimes jingle but thinks little of it. Then he hears an unfamiliar voice addressing someone else: “Goddamn, Hangover Three. They never stop.”
Fernando peeps around the corner of the door which separates the store's front from the sanctuary in the back and sees a couple of gentlemen in their late 30s or early 40s perusing the new release rack. They wear forest-colored attire and have taken no heed that the Dominion's office is unoccupied. To their credit, they also didn't immediately make a beeline for the back room. Fernando feels a niggling in the back of his brain, a sense of vague familiarity that he nevertheless cannot immediately place.
Hello,” Fernando greets them. “I'll be right out.” His coffee preparation takes another thirty seconds or so, then he pops back out to the front and shuts the door to the back room behind him. In the meanwhile, the pair of gentlemen have continued scouring the rental racks for something to watch, but they have either, apparently, seen everything Fernando has to offer or have no interest whatsoever in seeing, say, Oblivion.
In fact, one of them gives rousing and insightful commentary that changes Fernando's outlook on life forever regarding Katie Holmes, her overall physical appearance, and the voluminous and frequent sexual urges she inspires in anybody “who isn't a closeted homo like that jackass [meaning Tom Cruise].”
And then Fernando remembers where he'd seen them. They'd came in the previous year and made similar sorts of observations among their runnin' crew before they turned to Fernando for film-watching advice. On the bright side, at least Fernando has the one dude, Thailand, in his records so he would not have to do the un-fun song and dance which is account creation this time 'round.
Speaking of the homos, Thailand, the less-crass of the two gents, points out World War Z to Vietnam as a possible night's diversion and Vietnam responds with vitriol, “I seen it. It's not a bad movie. The ending's weird but the biggest problem is it has that fag in it.” Now, Fernando is by no means an expert, but he strongly suspects that Mr. Brad Pitt can pull more tail in a week than good ol' Vietnam has in his entire life. Perhaps instead Vietnam was taking a zealous stand against cigarettes?
Enough of this. Fernando wishes to spare his ears and brain of as much bigotry as possible. “Something I can help you with?” Fernando asks them. It worked last year, after all.
We're just trying to find something good, y'know. Something with action,” Thailand says.
Action, got it. “Iron Man 3. Have you seen it?” Both men shake their heads in the negative. “It's better than the second one. Not as good as the first, but what ever is in sequels, right?” Fernando shrugs as though sheepish.
You're telling me,” Vietnam murmurs. Fernando surmises this to be another reference to Hangover Three, one which he does vehemently share. But Thailand plucks a tag off the case and heads up to the counter with Vietnam, while Fernando takes an alternate path behind selfsame counter through a parallel rack arrangement
You'll have to forgive me, I misremember your name,” Fernando asks of Thailand when everyone is ready to complete the rental process.
Thailand. We were in here last year a couple times.”
Oh yeah, I remember now,” Fernando says, as though he only just remembered now. “It'll come to four dollars.”
Thailand digs out a five dollar bill while Fernando retrieves the movie. The swap is made, change is doled out, and Fernando bids them a good evening.

At least this time it wasn't an election year.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Call Forward

Fernando sits at his computer one dreary day and banters with a friend. It has been one of those profoundly slow Wednesdays on which the weather is just bad enough to encourage people to stay home but not quite bad enough to goad them into renting movies. The chimes jingle and a man enters the store. “Yeah, I'm here to pick up the movie you're holding for me?”
Er...which one was this?” Fernando asks. He has one reservation in the pipes, but it is for a different guy and he is waiting for said guy to arrive to collect them. It is possible, however, that this other man is here to pick up on the reservation in question.
White House Down.”
Fernando blinks. “I'm sorry, I don't have any copies of that on hold for anybody.”
Hey, I called you twenty minutes ago and you told me you would hold one.”
Fernando tilts his head. “I have gotten no phone calls all day.”
Listen, you told me you would hold that movie for me.”
I received no calls from anybody asking that I hold that movie. There's good news, though.”
What's that?” he asks, knitting his brows together.
I have copies of it in. Would you like to rent one of those?”
This is works for him.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

One Hour

Fernando sits at his computer one evening when a minivan pulls up and a guy comes in. He had rented some movies earlier that week and returned them two days late, racking up a neat twelve dollars in late fees. He picks out a couple of films, comes up to the counter, and says to Fernando, “I also have some late fees.”
Yep, twelve bucks. Did you want to put something down on them?”
Yeah, I'll pay that off.” So he does, and Fernando hands over the change, and the man leaves.
Not one minute later, a woman storms into the store and waves the cases at Fernando. “How much were these movies?”
Those came to eight dollars.”
They're four bucks each?”
Yes.”
And why was the late fee twelve dollars?”
Because you had out three movies for two days.”
She slams the cases down on the counter and crosses her arms. “Two nights?”
Yes, they were returned at around eight on the second night out. The movies are due back at seven.”
And you charged two nights for that?”
Yes.”
For one hour?”
Yes.”
I want my money back.”
Alright.” Fernando shrugs, rises, and heads on over. He places the movies she'd just rented on his desk and then pops open the till to hand over eight dollars.
She looks down at the money, then back up at Fernando. “What is this?” she hisses.
Your refund.”
I want all of it back.”
I'm sorry, the late fees which were assessed are a debt that needed reckoning.”
I want all of it back,” she repeats.
Sorry, I'm not giving you back the twelve dollars in late charges you owed me.”
I'll tell the police you ripped me off.”
Go right ahead. I have the signed rental form back here and the daily rate of late charges posted here, there, and there.” Fernando points for emphasis.
We're never renting from this place ever again!” she shouts as she storms out.
And I wish you all the best. Have a good evening.”

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Teleportation Tech

The doorchimes jingle half an hour before closing time while Fernando helps another customer by retrieving movies. Since he is somewhat distracted by his task, he does not immediately see who enters, but once he finishes up with his other customer he sees two young men around the age of sixteen, seventeen milling about the new release aisle. They wear canvas jackets and dun-colored pants, and their boots track clods of dirt across Fernando's carpets, a sure sign they had been mucking about in the forest at some point during the day.
Good evening,” he greets them, and they do not respond. Instead, they wantonly pluck tags until they are satisfied to at last approach the counter and spill four of them upon the glass.
Under whose name tonight?” Fernando asks.
The pair exchanges a glance before the shorter of the two replies, “Mine, I guess.”
Fernando flicks his pen back and forth between his fingers. “And that is?”
Suriname Elohim.”
Fernando looks the lad in the eyes. “Do you have an account here?”
No.”
Easily fixed.” Fernando heads into the office and retrieves a matriculation form, then places it upon the counter and hands over his pen. The young man fills out his name, his city, and his date of birth, then pushes the paperwork back across the counter in Fernando's direction. Fernando, upon reading what his guest had written, saw that he apparently hailed from Pearpound, which lay nearly a three hour drive away to the south.
I'll need your address, phone number, and a driver's license,” Fernando tells him.
Oh. I don't have those. I rode here with my cousin.” His eyes dart to left, where the taller member of the duo stands.
Fernando shrugs. “That's fine. Perhaps he could fill it out then.” Fernando retrieves a fresh application and tears up the first. The second young man fills it out and provides eerily similar information, except for the name. Most specifically, the Pearpound residence.
I'll need your driver's license,” Fernando repeats, for that line had been left blank yet again.
I don't have one.”
Hmm. Then how did you get here?”

The pair exchanges another glance, then both leave.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Peek-a-Boo

A pair of high school age young men come into the store one evening. Fernando has never seen either of them before. They are loud and abrasive and general annoyances who run up and down the new release aisle opening case after case, then replacing the plastic DVD houses on the rack, still ajar.
Hey, how come these are empty?” one of them asks after they've gone through and peeked inside the case of every film on the Top Ten list.
I find it a risky proposition to keep my wares out on the floor where anyone can help himself to them without oversight. Is there something I can help you with?”

Rather than take Fernando up on his offer, they depart.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Still Not a Time Traveler

The Conjuring is a film that a not insignificant portion of Fernando's customer base had been waiting on for some time. When, sometime in September, he was finally able to give people a release date, he was inundated with requests to reserve a copy for whomever on said date. Fernando pointed out that he wasn't even sure how many copies he would be getting, exactly, and that he did not want to pull an airline and overbook the reservations and leave some poor souls hanging, so he told the people, “Come back mid-October, like the fifteenth or so, and ask again then.
So, it's now mid-October, and an older woman comes into the store with grandchildren in tow. Fernando says “grandchildren” because this lady is, for all intents and purposes, a rental proxy for her daughter, someone Fernando rightly told off way back in the day when he informed her that she had thirty-eight dollars in late fees dating back to 2006 and that, no, he would not rent to her unless she put money towards it. Fernando still rents to her, since she pays off the inevitable late fees racked up under her name.
The kids are set loose in the family section while the matron wanders the floor yammering into her cell phone and getting snappish with her conversational partner, since all the movies said partner desired (The Heat, Hangover 3, and This Is the End) were absent from the rental racks, and they stubbornly remained absent even after the old lady asked Fernando if he was hiding copies behind the counter. The matron also took the opportunity to make a passive-aggressive jibe to the person on the phone at Fernando's expense, because, after all, “the guy running the joint doesn't know anything.”
Then she asks, “Do you have The Conjuring?”
Sorry, that doesn't come out until Tuesday.”
It says there that you have it.”
Fernando's eyes rotate in their sockets to double-check his sign in case someone had tampered with it, but, no, the header still reads UPCOMING RELEASES FOR OCTOBER 2013. “It's not yet the twenty-second.”
I seen it on display at Wal-Mart.”
Perhaps you could then go to Wal-Mart and buy a copy. I'm not surprised they have access to better time travel technology than I do.”
With that, the woman returns to the rental racks and eventually decides to rent This Is 40.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

That's Why

Late one evening, a few scant minutes before Fernando is set to close for the night, a scruffy man enters. He wears a sweatshirt stained with dirt and food, and his jeans are likewise worn and besmirched. He also has sheath upon his belt which holds a knife with a blade maybe four inches long, and he smells of pine resin.
Fernando chalks him up as an out-of-town hunter.
Hey, do you have Open Range?” he asks without preamble.
Fernando scratches his cheek. “I had it at one point, but somebody rented it a while back and failed to return it.”
I've been looking everywhere for that son of a bitch movie and can't find it.”
Well, if you like, I could order in a copy for you to buy. I don't know how much it would be, probably around ten bucks or so, and it might take a couple weeks to get it in, but I'm more than happy to if you'll be around to pick it up.”
Yeah, do that.” The guy turns and marches towards the door.
Um...I'll need your name and number.”
What for?”
So I can tell you the price and let you know when it gets in, if you end up interested in ordering it at that price.”
I already told you I'm interested.”
I know. But this way you'll know.”
So the man leaves his first name and a cell phone at which he can be reached. The area code, once Fernando besought Goo-Gol's insight, turns out to originate from southern Indiana. This bodes quite well, indeed.
But, Fernando is a man of his word and he performed the appropriate research, locating a copy of the film in question and pricing it for the gentleman. After opening the next day, Fernando calls the number provided and leaves a voice message informing the gent what the price will be and that he will go ahead with the order once he receives confirmation, and once a deposit of five dollars has been placed.
Time passes, and a few hours later the phone rings. The caller ID reads OUT OF STATE.
Hello, Dominion of Movies.
Yeah, this is Greece. You called me about the movie?”
I did indeed. I just wanted to let you know I've got a price for Open Range and I'll put in the order on that once you come down to place a deposit.”
Just go ahead and order it.”
Right, I will, but I need the deposit first.”
Don't worry about it. I'll come in to get it, don't worry.”
That's nice, but I still need the deposit.”
I told you that I'll come in to pick it up, and we'll square up then. I really want that movie.”
Then it shouldn’t be a problem coming down to pay the deposit.”
A long pause, at least ten seconds in duration. “Alright, fine.”
The guy hasn't yet come in to provide aforementioned deposit.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Man is a Virgin

A group of six high schoolers come into the store around 8.30 on a Friday night, two girls and four guys. They fan out through the store and browse the racks for a few minutes.
Then, one of the young ladies approaches the archway separating the office from the rental floor. “Hey, do you have anything here about virginity?” she asks.
Fernando swivels his chair about and looks at her, then thinks good and hard, as this is a question that he never thought would be posed to him and, therefore, he had no immediate answer. He ruminates in his chair for a good thirty seconds, and the young woman waits in the archway.
Finally, Fernando says, “Superbad,” missing, of course, the eminently obvious responses of 40 Year Old Virgin or any film he has which features the character of Young Jesus Christ.
But, rather than take Fernando's recommendation to heart, the clique determines that The Devil Inside is an appropriate film to enjoy this evening. Maybe that one is virginally topical too? He'll defer to the customers' wisdom on this one, as horror is not his bag.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Crawling in My Skin

 “What's that?” asks one of Fernando's regular customers as he peers over the counter and into the office, the one whose input and ideas are always taken with utmost gravity.
Dungeon Crawl:Stone Soup,” replies Fernando, turning towards his keyboard and monitor for a brief moment before swiveling his gaze back to the customer.
It looks kind of like Diablo,” the customer says.
You're...not wrong.” Fernando is rather surprised by this insight. “They're kind of similar genres, though this one is way harder.”
It doesn't look hard. It's not even moving.”
It's turn-based. Things don't happen until I move or otherwise choose for them to happen. And I've played this thing off-and-on for, like, six years now. Never beaten it.”
Maybe you're just not good enough at it.”
There is an argument to be made on that front, absolutely. It takes a lot of skill to beat one of these. At least it's somewhat fair in that it doesn't obfuscate information from the player like similar games.” COUGH Nethack.
Hey, Fern, do you know if you have The Croods?”
I do indeed.” Fernando rises from his chair and crossed to the shelves on which the movies sleep to pick out a copy.
Oh, I don't want to rent it. I was just wondering.” He turns and leaves.
Huh.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

That's Just, Like, Your Opinion, Man

One afternoon a semi-regular customer who waitresses at a greasy spoon diner-slash-gas station in nearby Peeweeston comes in. She browses the Adopt-a-Movie Box for a short while before selecting a title from it to claim as her very own. As Fernando retrieves the film and inspects the disc to make sure it doesn't look like someone knifed it, she tells him, “A weird lady came into the restaurant last night.”
Weird? Weird how?” Fernando asks, snapping open his rental case and moving the movie in question to its new home.
Well, she was really quiet and kept to herself. Like, she didn't talk much even when I went to serve her. So she comes up to pay and then she asks me, 'Do you guys do a lot of business here with people coming through?' And I'm like, 'Well, yeah.' And she said, 'I thought the sign would maybe turn people off from coming in.'”
This establishment, you see, does not adhere to a Fernandesque view of keeping the personal and business life of its proprietor good and separate. No, the owner of this joint instead proudly puts his politics on display, not in the last through a rather large sign which reads, in big bold letters, “DEFEAT OBAMA.”
This is the deep kind of political discourse Fernando's rural neighbors embrace.
Fernando's customer continues, “So I looked at her and I said, 'I don't know why you would think that,' and she goes, 'The man in the shirt over there doesn't help things either.' So I look and there's a guy who always comes in and he's wearing the same shirt I've seen him wear a bunch of times.”
And which shirt is this?” Fernando asks, more out of obligation to be a good conversationalist than because he finds this tale of any interest.
It's one of those ones that reads, 'Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Steve Jobs, and Bob Hope. Now we got no cash, no jobs, and no hope.'”
Classy,” Fernando says in a deadpan tone.
Right? Why couldn't she just keep her opinion to herself?” his customer says, mistakenly believing that Fernando's thrown his lot in with the bumpkin who attires himself with puerile talking points.
Fernando shrugs. “Why be upset?”
Nobody needs to hear about any of that.”
I notice you don't seem to have any problem with the guy in the shirt.”
No, why would I?”
Because he's doing the exact same thing.”
No he's not. He's not bothering anybody with it.”
Weird. It sounded to me like it was bothering somebody.”

Fernando's guest looks at him for a moment as though she is about to retort with something, but instead she closes her mouth, scoops up her movie, and departs.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Conspiracy Conspiracy

One afternoon Fernando is trying his hand at Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup when a man enters the Dominion. He approaches the counter and Fernando greets him.
Yeah, do you have any documentaries on 9/11?” the man asks.
Not really documentaries, no,” Fernando replies. "I've got the Oliver Stone picture, off the top of my head, if that was something you would maybe be interested in.”
No, I'm looking for ones that are about covering up the truth.”
The...truth? No, sorry, I know I don't have anything you're looking for with that particular...slant.” Documentaries are piss-poor renters to begin with, and the most recent one in the store is Michael Moore's Sicko...which came out around two years before Fernando even took hold of the Dominion's reins of leadership.
Notwithstanding most social and political so-called “documentaries” are attention-whoring malarkey with an investigatory and explanatory outlook about on par with the average 24-hour news channel, in that the creator holds to a normative position, rather than an empirical one, and then seeks out examples to shore up this preconceived notion. No scholarly or investigatory work can be wholly objective, as the researcher always imprints some of his or her views into the investigation at hand. But biased, histrionic bullshit is what sells to the average American; and even then “sell” is grossly overgenerous. As stated above, the Dominion's customer base doesn't care to watch the newest Michael Moore schlock; and Fernando would rather spend money on titles that turn a profit rather than pandering bullshit which, while it aligns itself politically with the plurality of nearby ignorant customers, they still don't rent.
Anyway, the guy wandered the store for a few minutes and then left.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Future Is Then

A older gent comes into the store one Sunday afternoon. He's a visitor from downstate, one of the myriad hunters who heads north only during the time of year when the slaughter of delicious, delicious deer is condoned by The Powers That Be. He has stopped by the store every year for at least the past six, and Fernando had never had any issues with him, even though he is an entitled, hypocritical old guy who, for example, proudly informs Fernando that he steals his cable and internet from others in one breath while in the next complaining about “handouts to lazy people while hardworking folk like you and me get nothing”--this being White Person code for denigrating the coloreds, in case you didn't understand.
Anyhow, he stops by for the first time this year and makes small talk at Fernando about how he hacks into satellite relays and using this to get free access to DirecTV. Fernando nods and smiles because it is his job to nod and smile, and the man decides to rent a couple of movies and bring them up to the counter.
You get a lot people who run off with your stuff?” he asks as Fernando fills out the slip.
Normally when people ask this or similar questions, Fernando has a tingling itch creep up his spine and he braces himself for a world of idiocy. He has no desire to share the status of his inventory with a man who only comes to the store maybe four or five times every year. The tingle of ire and snark swells, but the Keeper suppresses it. Instead, he replies, “It comes and goes. Nothing I can really do about it ahead of time if one day someone decides to wake up on the asshole side of the bed.”
Code Talker Santa chuckles, pays, and leaves.
The movies do not come back the following day, nor the day after. At this point Fernando digs through his records for the man's contact information. A local number had been provided, and Fernando tries that one first. No answer.
Fortunately, because the man is a vagrant visitor to the Dominion's environs, Fernando also took down the gent's cell number long long ago, and now as he punched in those ten digits he prayed to Hel that the number would remain in service. Fernando made a promise of burnt sacrifice to the Norse goddess when, after a few seconds which felt like eternities, he heard ringing.
On the fourth ring, someone picks up. “Hello?” It is a man's voice, but not the man whom Fernando sought.
Hi, this is Fernando calling from the Dominion of Movies in Saladolsa. May I speak with Code Talker Santa?”
Yeah, hang on.” A faint clunk as the phone is set down somewhere, then an echoey shout of, “SANTA! SOME GUY ON THE PHONE FOR YOU FROM A MOVIE PLACE!”
After a few more seconds, the phone is lifted and C.T.S. says, “Shit. I totally forgot to return those movies.”
Indeed you did.”
Well, I'm back home in Pakistani Creek right now.”
If I may make a suggestion, perhaps you could mail the discs back. This isn't the first time I've had something like this happen.”
Yeah, yeah I'll do that. Jesus Christ, and to think I was asking you about people who stole from you when I was just in there.”
The coincidence is palpable,” Fernando says in a dry tone. “Anyhow, I just wanted to touch base with you on that. Thanks for mailing those out to me.” Fernando realizes that the mailing has not yet been done, but, by acting as if it already had, he hoped to exert psychological pressure on C.T.S. to complete the task before him, self-fulfilling prophecy-style.
Sure thing. I'll square up with you next time I'm up there.”
Excellent. Thanks again. Have a good day.”
You too. Bye.”

Once the movies arrive, perhaps Fernando will post an appropriate UPDATE as he did when the lady no longer wanted to own A Single Man.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Born a Crinkling Man

One evening Fernando is engrossed in a deep conversation online with Teodor and Iacobo when the chimes on the door jingle. The Keeper swivels his chair about and booms, “Hello,” but there is no response.
Nor did, Fernando came to grasp in short order, he any longer desire one, for his guest was none other than VHS Guy, returned to within the Dominion's boundaries after months in absentia. He cradled a paper bag under one arm and wispy tendrils of booze flowed from his person to lace the store's atmosphere in a stale, malty net.
VHS Guy moved into Fernando's store and pretended to browse the new release rack by picking up and then immediately setting down the case for The Great Gatsby. Then he returned to the foyer and set his bag upon the glass of the counter. “What's the deal with these ones here?” he asked, slurring his words.
That's my Adopt-a-Movie Box. Those are for sale for four dollars each.”
Adopt-a-Movie, eh? To keep?”
Fernando presses his lips together. “Yes.”
Huh.” VHS Guy walks his fingers over the spines of the cases crammed within the cardboard box. “Then how come it says two bucks up here.”
They become two dollars if you have eight dollars in purchases already made,” Fernando says.
Why can't I just get them for two dollars right away?”
Be...cause...that's what they're priced.”
Oh.” VHS Guy reaches into the plastic hut which houses the blank scraps of paper for Fernando's weekly certificate drawing, but something resembling cognizant memories flicker through his neural web and he, for the first time in all the times he'd visited, does not fill out a slip and place into Fernando's magical red bucket. Instead, he gathers his illicit bagged goods and shambles out, leaving Fernando to his secrets.

This is well. This is how things ought to have been.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Ordinary

Fernando sits at his desk one afternoon enjoying a rousing play at Dungeons of Dredmor when a truck pulls in. It does not appreciably slow. Normally this is nothing of particular note, as the road which passes in front of the Dominion leads to the nearby gas station and eatery, and many people opt to turn in from the highway in front of the Dominion when headed to these locations because the road-orifice is wider.
This truck, though, had a set of deer antlers mounted on the cab's roof, in a desperate plea for attention and uncouth display of masculine prowess. The prongs of this fine rack jutted skywards like defiant fingers aimed directly at God...such as there were, since it was not a truly epic set of antlers, the sort of which men sing songs for all the ages. No, it was a six- or seven-pointer, eight-pointer at absolute best. The truck itself was clad in the colors of House Camo and the cab's rear window proudly bore two crests: the head of a deer centered in a gun's crosshairs, and a Peeing Calvin who loosed his urinary load, FATAL-style, upon the disembodied head of Osama bin Laden.
Though the driver of this vehicle did not stop into the Dominion, Fernando found himself imagining, as his masochistic self is wont to do, what could have transpired if this alpha male of mythic proportions were to drop by for a visit and ask something inane of Fernando.

Maybe, some day, we will know.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Love Bites

A middle-aged woman comes into the store one afternoon. “Hey, boss, you got When a Man Loves a Woman here?”
Sorry, I'm afraid I do not. It was here on VHS long ago, but I cleared those out a while back.”
And you didn't get it new?”
No. I didn't really see the point.”
It's such a good movie though.”
This is what I've heard, I guess.”
You guess?”
Well, I'm not particularly the target demographic so my opinion doesn't really figure into things, plus I'm the guy who owns the store so even if it did it wouldn't practically matter.”
Will you get it?”
For you? I could certainly look into ordering you in a copy to buy.”
No, to rent.”
I'm afraid not then.”
You just said you'd order a copy.”
Yeah, for you to own and to treasure for always. I'm not going to order in a movie that's twenty-five years old and have it take up premium inventory space for the foreseeable future.”
I would rent it.”
I'm afraid that doesn't change my conclusion. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

There is not, and the woman leaves.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Haggle Hag

Fernando, upon doing some basic economic diligence one August afternoon, concluded that he needed to raise his prices to keep pulling in an amount of money which would allow him to exist more-or-less comfortably. His distributor had been slowly hiking up prices on the supply end of things, and the cost of living had, of course, been creeping its slow way upwards over all of history as inflation worked its magic.
He increased the price on his new releases by fifty cents, effective September 1st. Everything else in the store remained the same price. He did not in the slightest look forward to explaining this change to his customer base, but for the most part people were cool with it.
Then one lady came in to rent Star Trek: Into Darkness.
It's four dollars now, actually,” Fernando tells her after filling out the slip upon noticing she has dug out three-fifty in bills and change.
What's that?”
New releases are now four dollars.”
They're supposed to be three-fifty.”
Well, they used to be three-fifty. Now they are four dollars.”
What if I don't want to pay that much? What if I decide not to come here anymore?”
Fernando shrugs. “Then I suppose you won't be renting or coming here anymore. Though let me pose this question: Do you also threaten the managers of gas stations or grocery stores when they change their prices?”
The lady's mouth snaps shut. She does not answer Fernando's question, but she does withdraw another dollar bill, and that is good enough for him.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fernando's Final Quest

The last night in the hotel was spent discussing tomorrow's schedule. Only one panel was of any real interest to anyone, and this panel was slated to start in the early afternoon. Normally this would not be a problem, but the hotel check-out was by 10 in the morning and the party would not only have to navigate the dreaded whorls of Chicago traffic on their own both coming and going, but also to find a place to sequester the Millennium Falcon while they attended the convention, then deal with near-rush hour traffic during the escape sequence.
Ain't nobody feel the need to deal with that shit. We all have Wisdom scores. We would depart on the morrow.
The crew skipped the final, doubtless underwhelming, breakfast. They planned to instead stop for delicious foods on the way back north. They could be leisurely in their travels without fretting over the nightfall's looming threat and its horrible, attached curse of kamikaze ungulates.
The departure was swift and sure. Gertrude was allowed out of her box and used to map out the twisting dungeon of tollways and on-ramps, but only in the grandest sense. Her cries of “bear left” were patently ignored, and so she did not succeed in hanging another traffic infraction about the posse's neck.
The return trip north was less invigorating than the trip south had been, overall. Everyone was exhausted from experiencing the busy, populated weekend and most of the journey passed in relative silence. A few small conversations, mainly pertaining to Dungeons and Dragons, occurred, but nothing of cosmic importance.
The group stopped at a Golden Corral to gorge upon unhealthy buffet foods, and it was Fernando's first time being in such an establishment. He tried all the varieties of so-called “hot” wings, but found them lacking, even the one that had a large starburst of “EXTRA SPICY” appended to its buffet sign. The fried jalape├▒os, on the other hand, left Ronaldo devastated, and so this led Fernando to challenge their prowess as well.
He was not disappointed. These beasts, having forged some fell pact with the capsaicin gods, had been instilled by powers other mere peppers could only hope to attain. The first bite made Fernando guffaw and chortle, but then the witchery worked its sinister magic and yea Fernando did suffer, though he did also spite these hot peppers by consuming them and annexing their disdain for the living, so he might better achieve his own dark goals.
Little more remains to be sad. Bellies full, the journey resumed. Gertrude, it turned out, had been moonlighting as a comedienne, for she spent more time “recalculating” routes after the glorious meal than actually informing Ronaldo what the route ought to be, and this proved incredibly funny. For bringing such joy into the group's lives, she was permitted to remain outside of her box for the remainder of the trip.
Macombo and Natasia were dropped off at their residence, and Fernando reiterated the invitation extended to them for Ronaldo's going-away party. Such things worked out, and now Macombo and Natasia may be considered full members of Fernando's runnin' crew, thereby granted unfettered access to the back room of his Dominion.
Fernando was then deposited. He retrieved his satchel of goodies from the Tahoe's trunk and looked Ronaldo and Teodor in the eyes. “Well, that could have been worse.”
We should do it again sometime,” Ronaldo said.
Maybe so. We'll see how things develop. Until later, gentlemen.”

The vehicle pulled away, and when Fernando marched through the door he felt the Dominion drape the etheric mantle of Keeper about his shoulders once more.