Thursday, February 28, 2013

This Is Not an Update

Fernando sat down in front of the computer one Thursday and opened the Open Office document in which he keeps Chronicles. He scrolls through, checking titles, searching for the content upon which the world's masses wait with superhuman patience. He comes across one which he thinks will work, but it turns out he'd already uploaded it and changed the title at the last minute.
Fernando reaches the end of his document. It's far, far too early to put up “Annual Abscondments IV,” even though Fernando is out nine movies already in 2013.
Fernando leans back in his chair and scratches his cheek. It seems he lacks in product. This could only mean that he's gone for a minimum of two weeks without running across any indignant customers, moronic telemarketers, outlandish mirth, or inept blackmailers.
Christ. This never happens,” Fernando says aloud to his Dominion, which lies empty at this early hour.
That's when the string of three trucks belonging to Fernando's electric company began pulling into the store. They stop in the middle of the road before the Dominion, not even bothering to pull to the side. Men in coats bearing their master's sigil climb out and gather near the trucks in a small circle. One of them points in the vague direction in which the Dominion lies. Could there be something amiss with Fernando's power flow, something that requires three trucks with bucket lifts to repair? That would be quite the tale!
But, no, after their short palaver they return to their vehicles and pull back out onto the highway. Interesting event averted.
Fernando presses his lips together and looks to the top of his television, where a line of mini-Maoi, a red-orange octopus with a harelip, and an orange crab with a funky mouth lair. He addresses the crab, “I don't care. I'm gonna write it up.”
Fernando pauses. “And I may as well tell the story of the time whatsherface asked me about you guys. I don't think I've done that one yet.”
So he writes this, and the other one as well, and another week's content is generated. Huzzah!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Regular Ol' Wednesday Night

Wednesday. 7:30 PM. Fernando sits at his desk and waits for 8 PM to roll around, so he can close up the store and go home. He is excited to do so, for he had conversed earlier with one of his fine comrades about some delectable chicken piccata she had recently enjoyed at a restaurant, and this discussion caused a great longing for the Italian Schitzel-analogue to fester in his belly.
As merry thoughts of breaded and fried chicken dance in Fernando's head, a vehicle pulls up. Some people climb out and a few moments later the chimes above the door tinkle.
Hello,” Fernando greets his guests. Then he stops and squints at one of them, the only one he recognizes of the bunch. It is a man in his early 20s, the kind of person who finds injecting copious amounts of ink beneath his epidermis to be a laudable pastime. Perhaps he felt that an abundance of tats made him look more intimidating, or showed off his rebellious spirit.
Really all it accomplished for him on this night was jarring Fernando's memory and sending the Dominion's Keeper straight to his forever-ago late list. The last time this gent had come into the store had been about a year ago. He rented two movies and had been a little bit tardy in returning them. When he brought them back and rented five more, he paid off his late fee. No big deal.
Those movies had been out for a much greater length of time. While they, too, eventually found their way into the Dominion's drop box, five movies times six days times nightly late fees added up. To seventy-five dollars, in fact.
The visitors are quick in gathering tags from the new release rack and bring them all up to deposit on the counter. Tattoo Tom says to Fernando, “Hey man. What's up?”
Not too much. Could I get your name?” While Fernando is almost positive that the bloke standing before him owes seventy-five dollars, it could very well be the case that Fernando has mistaken a newcomer with the other tattooed man.
But, no. “I'm Tattoo Tom. Been a while since I came here.”
I'll say. You've got some late fees, if you wanted to put something down on them.”
Really? Shit. How much?”
Seventy-five dollars.”
Whoa,” he says, stepping back. “Why so much?”
You had out five movies for six days.”
And that resulted in seventy-five dollars in late charges.”
Hold on,” he says. “The time before I only had like seven bucks or something.”
Eight, most likely. Two movies, two days. But this is five movies and six days.”
Well does he have to pay it all off now?” asks one of his companions, a rather attractive young woman.
Fernando shrugs. “I'd be content with half now, and then we can trickle in the rest bit by bit.”
That's still like thirty bucks,” says the girl.
Thirty-seven fifty, actually. But I'd settle even for thirty-five. An honest showing of penitence to get the ball rolling.”
I don't know if have that much,” Tattoo Tom says. “How much do these come to?”
Fernando totals the rentals mentally. “Nineteen bucks.”
So that would be...?” Tattoo Tom asks, scowling.
Fifty-four dollars all together, with thirty-five on the late fee.”
This exasperates Tattoo Tom, for his blows air from his mouth. “That's a lot of money.”
Fernando shrugs.
Let me...let me run to the ATM machine real quick,” he says.
That's fine.” The three visitors exchange a quick look and skedaddle.
Fernando isn't quite sure why Tattoo Tom had to run to the ATM at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to retrieve his money, but he's positive he'll be back any day now.
The chicken piccata also turned out splendidly.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Play to Win

VHS Guy had been making regular appearances at the Dominion of late, just making Fernando's day complete by showing up to not rent movies and walking out some minutes later. Fernando's interactions with him ranged from curt to smarmy.
One evening he enters the store and pretends to browse the Adopt-A-Movie Box. “Hey, uh, how come I ain't won this drawing all the years I been coming in here?” He sets a brown paper bag on the ground before the counter. Whatever its contents are, they rustle loudly as the weight settles to the carpeted floor.
Unfortunately, another person is browsing the shelves so Fernando cannot be as dismissive as he likes. “Oh. Well, one needs to enter the drawing in order to increase one's odds of being drawn.”
Alright. I'm just gonna fill out this winning ticket then.” VHS Guy snatched up one of Fernando's pens and paws through the box of paper slips he keeps near the drawing bucket, probably seeking the largest rectangle he can find.
Um, it really doesn't work that way. You need to rent or buy something in order to enter.”
I been coming here.”
Yes. But. You haven't rented anything. I run this as sort of a thank-you to my customers, the ones who come in and help me to keep this place open.”
I been coming here,” VHS Guy repeats, because this has always been a successful argumentative tactic.
At this point there is little more Fernando can think of to further clarify what the words he has been saying mean without coming off as a right massive boner to his other customer and the entire rest of the planet. So he does the same thing VHS Guy had just done: repetition. “The drawing is for people who've rented or bought something.”
VHS Guy ignores these words and babbles to himself. “What goes on here? Name? Name's good.” He folds his slip of paper with a flourish and deposits it in the bright red drawing bucket. “Okay then.” He leans down to scoop up his crinkly bag and walks out.
Silence fills the store.
The other customer speaks. “That was a little bit weird,” she says.
You have no idea.”
Spoiler alert: VHS Guy doesn't win the drawing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Fernando is enjoying himself one evening. He'd dug out his DVDs of The It Crowd earlier in the day and had spent it in a cozy bubble of proper nerdish mirth and awkwardness. That program (or perhaps “programme”) has a great many important life lessons to impart upon the ignorant who seek enlightenment.
A lady enters the store with three kids in tow, between the ages of three and six. Fernando pauses the DVD and greets her. She reciprocates and then turns to her children. “You kids stay right here by me, okay?” She leads them into the Dominion's main aisle and begins to browse the new releases.
Valiant effort, Mom. All for naught, but props are given when deserved. She did her damndest to adhere to Fernando's sign, and for this he cannot fault her.
For her children do the exact opposite of obeying her commands. They promptly evade her grasp and split up into three unbridled mini-cyclones of destruction determined to rearrange the shelves. They giggle and cavort and sow despair within the Dominion's walls. The mother tries reigning in the loin-beasts, but she only possesses two arms and so one member of the fell triumvirate is always able to roam freely.
When at last she herds the trio of children into the Dominion's foyer, she commands them to remain there. “Don't touch anything!” she says. She gives Fernando a sheepish look. “I'm so sorry.”
Fernando shrugs. “Kids happen.”
The lady returns to her browsing. The kids stay in place for a blissful fifteen seconds before one of them has come across a new toy.
Fernando has a very nice, ergonomic, bright orange plastic snow shovel which he inherited along with the rest of the Dominion when he became Keeper. In winter, he leans it on wall separating the office from the entry foyer, between his New Releases whiteboard and the switch controlling the Dominion's interior lighting.
Whunngg goes the shovel's plastic scoop against the wood of Fernando's sales rack. One of the kids squeals and shortly thereafter a second fff-whunngg fills the store. The sound is not one which has much power behind it, but it portended foul misdeeds.
Fernando rises from his seat and walks over to the counter. At the same time, the mother has dropped the case she was reading directly to the floor and bolts into the foyer. She snatches the shovel away from two of her three offspring and leans it against the wall. “Okay, we're leaving now!” she says, gathering her brood and forcing them into the chilly outdoors, whereupon she packs them into her minivan and drives away.
Fernando walks out into the main aisle and replaces Taken 2 in its rightful place. He wanders the rest of the store and rights the wrongs he encounters. He then inspects his foyer. His bag of salt had been tipped over and a small dusting of crystals were mounded around the opening at the bag's top. He rights the bag, sweeps up the spilled salt, and nods.
Then he reenters his office and resumes his journey to a more mirthful place.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


One Monday in February was a sad Monday, for it was one on which his distributor failed to process one of Fernando's orders in anything resembling a timely fashion. It was not a pissant direct-to-DVD film either, but Skyfall, the long-awaited and highly acclaimed Bond flick. Arguably, this was the biggest release of the month.
It was with a heavy heart that Fernando accepted that he would need to make a midnight run to Inuitland so he can snag some copies and have them available for his customer base. The original plan was to head up there with Alfonso after the weekly roleplaying session ended, but that changed when Cortez and Ronaldo volunteered to accompany Fernando on his late-night sojourn.
They transformed and rolled out, heading straight to Mal-Wart district, an adventure beyond measure, for it was one in which Fernando escaped the Dominion's tentacled grasp for a short while. While he was out and about, Fernando figured he'd get some other shopping out of the way. Cart in hand, the trio passed into the bowels of Mal-Wart.
It had been Suit Night, so Cortez and Ronaldo were at their dapper best, looking quite professional indeed as they trailed behind Fernando as the Keeper went on his madcap collection. Cat litter, check. Onions, check. Crackers, check. A hodgepodge of inventory settled in the shopping cart's basket. Crowning it all were four copies of Skyfall, provided to Fernando by a genial albino.
The checkout lady did not want to be there, not in the slightest. She scanned the content's of Fernando's shopping cart in disinterest, until she came upon the DVDs. “You must really like Skyfall, huh?” she asks.
No. This is for business purposes.” Fernando said these words of response as two suited men flanked him. The woman perhaps thought Fernando to have criminal connections, for she surrendered this conversational thread and little more was said until Fernando bade her a good night after paying.
The night was still young (only about 2:30 AM) and a night of All Flesh Must Be Eaten had just been concluded. It was time to consume vast amounts of unhealthy food! The original plan was to pay a visit to Taco Bell, but that place was closed, even the drive-thru. Well, McDonald's would just have to do. Ronaldo steered his vehicle into the drive-thru and the group waited for someone to take the order.
Three minutes of silence later, no order-taking was forthcoming, and someone else had pulled up behind Ronaldo. Cortez suggested telephoning the place to inform them that someone awaited service in the drive thru, but Ronaldo pshaw'd the notion. “Let's pull around and see if anybody's even in there,” he said.
So they did. As the car passed the window at which the money, under most circumstances, changed hands, the three passengers saw a skeevy man with a scraggly mustache at work inside. When he noticed the car, he ducked out of sight as if ashamed or worried for his life.
Fuck this. Let's go to Hardee's,” Fernando said from his place in the back seat.
I'm poor, and Hardee's is expensive,” Cortez objected.
I don't care. You're carting my ass around. I'll buy the food.”
A monster Thickburger does sound good....” Ronaldo dreamily whispered. So it was decided. To the nearby Hardee's! The lady in the other car at the McDonald's went her separate way. Farewell, Anonymous Drive-Thru Woman!
At Hardee's, rather than heading directly to the drive-thru, Ronaldo pulled into the parking lot behind it. The three climbed out of the car and stood before the gently glowing menu.
I'm thinking of trying that jalapeno chicken sammich,” Fernando says.
I dunno. Monster thickburger is a thing,” Cortez answers.
Right, but two of those for one of those.”
You don't know how big they are.”
No, but it won't be the size of a McChicken or something. This is Hardee's, not a place which doesn't want to take your money.”
It's a fair point,” Ronaldo admits.
You guys do what you want. I'm for a thickburger,” Cortez says.
They reenter the vehicle, pull out of the adjacent parking lot, and realign the car in the drive-thru. A man cheerily cleaned one of the large windows in the dining area while a Beatles song blared over the builder's exterior speakers.
Hi, welcome to Hardee's! What can I get you?” a cheery female voice asks out the drive-thru speaker.
Ronaldo leans over to the speaker. “I'd like four jala--”
No, I changed my mind. Make it six,” Cortez says. “And some bacon ranch fries.”
Sorry, six jalapeno chicken sandwiches--”
Six you said?” the woman asks.
Yeah, six. And an order of bacon ranch fries.”
The nice lady repeats what Ronaldo had told her to verify the order. Everything seems in order, and the final cost comes to about twenty-eight dollars. “Thank you for choosing Hardee's!” the woman says at the exchange's close.
Thank you for not being McDonalds,” Ronaldo answers.
The food takes some while to prepare, but it's fine. The three sit in the car and share laughs and merry tales of how the evening had progressed to this point. The frightened man at McDonalds was compared to someone Ronaldo knows from work, a man he described as “a pedophile who talks as if he has a pine cone up his butthole.” When the food arrives, Ronaldo pulls aside and parks in the Hardee's parking lot once more so that the food might be enjoyed without worrying about crashing the car or traffic regulations.
And such sammiches they were. Oh, their splendor. Heaped with delightful hot pepper goodness and slathered in a mouthwatering chipotle sauce, hot and fresh and as satisfying as, in Fernando's own words, “Like a woman's hand in a llamaskin glove.”
Because it was 3 AM, these words were seen as the most hilarious thing on earth. Cortez conjured cans of Vanilla Coke from some nether dimension and a right and proper feast was had.
'Twas a good good night. But, at its end, Fernando returned to the Dominion, copies of Skyfall and bag of cat litter in hand: the ultimate hero's return.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Arguing Against Tautology

A shabby man Fernando has never seen before enters the Dominion one day. He's frumpled and chunky and wears clothes that make Fernando's fashion sense seem positively enlightened.
Hello!” Fernando greets him as the door jingles shut.
Hey, where's your movies?” the man asks.
Right over here,” Fernando says, striding out of the office and into the obvious. “New releases are right here on these racks, with the newest of the new on this shelf and the top ten rentals up top here. Everything else goes back chronologically. The rest is broken up into genres, so you've got kids' and family over there, sci-fi on the back side of this rack, action on the three spaced out in the middle here, comedy beyond that and wrapping around into horror, which wraps around to the outside wall over there. Drama's next to that and then war and westerns have their own little sections there and there.” Fernando gesticulates fervently during his speech, pointing to each section of the store as he comes to it.
The guy doesn't really seem to have taken any of that in. “Where's the new ones?”
Ri-right here.”
Shabby Mack trundles into the aisle and stops very near to Fernando. Fernando shuffles away, in part because personal space is not a hypothetical and in part because a miasma of booze envelops the man in a ghastly cocoon. Roll a d20, save against poison. Mmm, nope.
Fernando moves a little bit farther away. “If there's anything in particular you're looking for, just let me know and I'll track it down for you.”
Shabby Mack grunts and looks around the store. “How come these cost more?” he asks.
Well, they're newer.”
Yeah and?”
Um...that's it, actually. They're newer, so they cost more.”
That don't seem fair.”
Fernando shrugs. “New things cost more than old things. That's just the way things go.”
Shabby Mack rotates and faces Fernando. He opens his mouth. “BBBRRRRRRREEEEEEEEP!”
A noxious cloud of stomach-gas assails Fernando, who staggers back and desperately fans the air.
That's what I think,” Shabby Mack says. He exits the store.
Fernando, now deader on the inside, returns to the office and considers getting out of the business for the first time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dialectical Conversationism

It is a weekday like most any other. Fernando has just emerged from the sanctity of his back room with the object that is to be his evening meal. He returns to the office and is about to dig in when a car pulls up and the chimes above the door jingle.
The man who enters sniffs loudly. “Jeez, Fernie, ya tryn'ta get ridda vampirer sumthin'?” This gent, a reliable customer who nevertheless only comes into the store on a bimonthly, at best, basis, is one who speaks quite the dialect of English, one relatively uncommon in the Saladolsa area (by dint of its comparative urbanity), but widespread in the fell hinterland reaches which lay outside the reach of twenty-first century civilization and about an hour's drive away from any major highways.
No, just some pizza.”
Lotta garlic onnair.”
What can I say? I like garlic. How's things?”
Pretty good. Drivin' truck. Keepin' busy?”
Fernando looks over his shoulder at his computer monitor. The Dwarf Fortress wiki glares back. “Busy enough.”
The gent steps into the store proper, workboots clomping. “What's a goodun?”
Depends what you're looking for I guess. What're you in the mood for?”
The man, whom we'll call Finland, scratches a stubbly cheek. “Think comedy. Only got time for one cuz I gotta haulina morning.”
Have you seen Ted? That's pretty widely regarded as worth a watch.”
I seen it. What's thissun here, Dredd?”
That's the remake to Judge Dredd, the one from the '90s with Stallone. Haven't had a chance to see it yet, but I've heard it's surprisingly good. Not really a comedy, though.”
'Sall the same though, ainit? Can't have a movie what's just the thing what it'spossedta, gotta put in crap what don't matter.”
While the words used to express it are a mite dubious in quality, Fernando agrees wholeheartedly with the message they hamfistedly convey. “Yeah, yeah, that's true.”
Fuck it, I'll giv'er.” Finland yanks the tag to Dredd off the rental case and brings it to the counter. “Don't owe ya nothin' from last time, right?”
Fernando pauses in his frantic scribbling. “Nope, you're good.”
'Kay.” As Ferando finishes up his side of the transaction, Finland peruses the sales rack. “Y'still got Final Destination up here?” he asks. Once upon a time, in a fit of impeccable foresight, Fernando ordered three copies of Final Destination 5. Not only did the movie rent for shit, but he couldn't move the used copies for the life of him. Not copy, copies. All three of them still linger within the Dominion's walls, mocking Fernando's wretched past judgment.
Unfortunately. You want it?”
Finland shakes his head. “Naw. Save it for somebody else. We square?”
Indeed so. Have a good evening.”
Yep. Enjoy yer pizza.” Finland steps outside and returns to his vehicle.
Fernando toasts Finland with the homemade slice of heaven as he walks by.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Coincidence vs. Contrivance

A lady rents a couple of movies one day in December. She has with her a gaggle of four children, their ages ranging from eight to three. The transaction concludes without conflict; she selects her movies, pays, and leaves. Hell, her kids didn't even do obnoxious things to the store.
About an hour after she'd gone, the phone rings.
-Ring ring ring-
Hello, Dominion of Movies.”
This is Indonesia Radula. I was just in to rent some movies.”
I wanted to get Men in Black 3 but instead you gave me Paranorman.”
Well, she certainly selected Paranorman as one of her rentals. Fernando digs through the rental slips to double-check that he hadn't done a stupid thing and given her the wrong movie.
Hmm...well, it seems that the tag I got was for Paranorman. That's no big deal, though. If you wanted to come down and swap it out, I'd be more than happy to.”
I'm not going back down there.”
Drat. Fernando fortunately has a second-string response to placate disgruntled customers. Sometimes Fernando fucks up. “Okay, then the next time you come in I can make Men in Black available to you, gratis.”
That's good.” Then she hangs up.
Three weeks later she returns, kids once again in tow. “Yeah, I called a while back about getting a free rental,” she informs Fernando. Her tone is condescending and waspish, but that cannot be allowed to rattle Fernando nor change the fact that he gave the woman his word that she'd be getting a free rental.
Indeed,” Fernando says. He happens to have a copy of Men in Black 3 in and he retrieves it for the woman's benefit. “Here you go.”
I want to get a different one.”
Well, one new release is priced the same as any other new release. “Sure thing.”
She throws down two tags, Frankenweenie and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Fernando fills out the slip and fetches the movies for her. She pays for the one and leaves.
About an hour after she'd gone, the phone rings.
-Ring ring ring-
Hello, Dominion of Movies.”
This is Indonesia. It happened again.”
What did?”
You gave me the wrong movie.”
I did.” Fernando's tone is dry, and he retrieves her slip.
Yeah, you gave me Frankenweenie but I wanted Hotel Transylvania.”
I got the tag for Frankenweenie.”
Yeah. That's not the one that I wanted.”
That's the tag that I received.”
But you gave me the wrong movie.”
Nobody speaks for the span of ten seconds. Then the woman asks, “What are you going to do about it?”
If you'd like to come down and exchange them, that can be arranged.”
I don't want to come back down there tonight.”
Second verse, same as the first. Fortunately, Fernando possesses a measure of longitudinal awareness which extends back at least three weeks. “Ah. In that case, I'm afraid there's little I can do.”
These words are not taken well at all. “This the same thing that happened last time I rented!”
That is quite the odd coincidence, isn't it?”
I got a tag for Frankenweenie. How should I know that that isn't the movie that you actually wanted? Besides, this exact thing happened the last time you were in and that strikes me as a little weird.”
The lady hangs up on Fernando in a huff.