Sunday, March 31, 2013

Case By Case

Some semi-regulars come into the store one sunny March afternoon, a married older couple with whom Fernando has butted heads in the past. The male half saunters in the slumps across Fernando's countertop. “Hey, you got any of these cases for sale?” He holds up one of Fernando's beautiful clear movie cases, the ones which are nigh-invulnerable.
No, sorry.”
The old owner used to sell them to me all the time. She kept 'em in the back room.”
Fernando is not sure to which old owner the man referred, though he was correct in that boxes of them had been housed in the rooms beyond Fernando's happy place door. However, over the four years that Fernando had been in charge of keeping the Dominion afloat, he had put all of them to use holding movies. “I don't have any available for sale, I'm afraid.”
Fernando's words are apparently not enough to placate the man. He desires empirical evidence. “Well, let's go look and see.”
Um, no. I don't allow people into the back room. There's nothing of any real interest back there for them.” Aside from Fernando's roleplaying materials and food and shower and many other unimportant items in life. “Besides, like I said, I don't have any of them for sale.”
Order some more then.”
Well, Fernando did deserve that for not making clear his chief roadblock regarding ordering in cases for the man. “I can't find any of them anywhere anymore. The place from which I get my cases no longer stocks them and I haven't been able to find anywhere else to get more.”
The man leans forward a little bit more and squints at Fernando. Fernando returns the gaze, sans squint. The awkwardness grows as neither men speak over the next ten or so seconds.
If I ever find a supplier, you'll be the first to know,” Fernando says at last, clasping his hands before his belly.
The man grunts and departs.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Don't Know

A young man enters the store and returns a movie he'd rented a few days prior.
Thank you much,” Fernando says as he rises from his throne and collects the film. “Did you want to kill off paying for the extra night now?”
Can I do it next time?”
It is a paltry dollar-fifty, and Fernando sees this gentleman often enough. “Sure thing, no problem.”
The young man turns to leave, but reconsiders and reorients himself to face Fernando again. “Hey, do you have Band of Brothers?”
Indeed I do. Did you want me to track it down for you?”
No, I wanted to know how much you'd sell it for.”
That I don't know off the top of my head. I hadn't planned on selling it anytime soon.”
Well, if you were gonna sell it, how much would it be?”
I don't know.”
Just give me a rough idea.”
I don't know.”
Well why not?”
I hadn't planned on selling it anytime soon, and haven't researched what a reasonable price for a used copy would be, so I don't know how much I would charge.”
It can't be that hard to figure it out.”
Sure it can. I don't want to undercharge, as that would be bad for me; and I don't want to egregiously overcharge, as that would be bad for you.”
You sell off other movies all the time.”
Yes, but I don't routinely sell off television miniseries boxed sets.”
The young man, having grown frustrated that Fernando cannot give him the answer he so desires, departs.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


 “Hey, do you have that movie with the kids and their grandparents?”
Hmm? Oh, you mean Parental Guidance? No, that doesn't come out until the 26th.”
Right, but do you have it?”
Are you sure?”
Would like for me to hold it for you for the 26th? I would be happy to do so.”
I'd like to see it now.”
I'd like to see The Hobbit Part Two right now as well.”
She left.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ire of the Keeper

Rise of the Guardians proved to be a pretty popular release. Fernando had many people ask that he hold a copy for them during its first week on the shelf. Fernando did such reservations, and gladly, for he much enjoys making money and providing good service to his customers.
One evening a gentleman comes to the store and asks if Fernando has any copies available.
Sorry, not right now. I am expecting some back yet today, if you wanted me to hold one.”
Yeah, that'd be great. Give me a call when one does.” He leaves.
One does come in, and Fernando dutifully contacts the gentleman. He leaves a message, sets aside the movie, and waits. Alas, he never came in. Fine, life happens. The next morning Fernando takes the copy and returns its corresponding tag out to the floor. Customers come and go and all of the Rises of the Guardians Fernando has in vanish in short order.
Early in the evening the man comes into the store. “Yeah, you got that movie for me?”
Rise of the Guardians? No, all my copies are out.”
You said you'd hold it for me.”
That was for yesterday.”
No it wasn't.”
...Yes it was.”
The argument having reached its conclusion, the man selects another film. “Okay then, save me another copy once one gets in.”
Can do.”
None are returned over the remainder of the evening, but all of them are nestled in the drop box the following morning like Peeps in their house. Seeing as the gentleman must return the movies he'd rented the day before, Fernando calls him to ask if he ought to perhaps save one of the movies for such a time. He tells Fernando “Not right now.”
Okay, cool. Back out onto the floor they go.
Around six in the evening the man brings back yesterday's rentals. The first words out of his mouth: “Got any Rise of the Guardians?”
What about the ones you said you had earlier?”
I put those all back out on the floor when you said you didn't want me to hold one, and other people picked them up.”
Oh. When are you expecting some back.”
Call me as soon as one gets in.”
The cycle repeats itself. Copies rest in the drop box. Fernando gives the man a call and is once again shunted to the answering service. He tells the man that a copy of Rise of the Guardians is available for him to come by and pick up.
The other copies make Fernando money, but the last one sits behind the counter, sad and alone. Other customers come in asking about that movie, if Fernando has any available, but Fernando cannot let the one remaining copy go because he gave his word that it would be kept available, and Fernando does not renege on his promises.
Come closing time, it is still resting behind the counter. Fernando sighs and shakes his head.
It is now a few days later. The man pulls into the parking lot about an hour after opening time and enters the store. Fernando has copies of Rise of the Guardians in. Nothing can go wrong this time.
The man gives the new release rack a cursory glance before approaching the counter. “Hey, you got any Zero Dark Thirty back there?”
This...this was not how things were meant to go! The previous knot of incompetence and failure was to have been solved Gordian-style! “No,” answers Fernando.
Could you hold one for me?”
At this point Fernando's frustrations over being jerked around over roughly the past week bubble to the surface. “Will you come in and pick it up this time?” he asks rather crossly.
Fernando's guest has the good grace to at least appear a mite sheepish. “Something came up,” he offers by way of excuse, though not apology.
Indeed.” Fernando thinks for a moment. “Tell you what, it's rent-one-get-one today. Pick something out now and I'll call you later once I've got a copy of Zero Dark available for you, and that can be the free one for today.”
This plan sounds good to the man. He picks up a copy of The Hobbit and departs.
Fernando just happened not to have any copies of Zero Dark Thirty which were to be made available to this particular man come in that day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nope, Still Not Family Video

Fernando sits in his throne one evening having an enlightening conversation with his geographically-separated buddy Laurentia about cat nicknames. She had just dubbed her two critters Princess Peach and Meowser, because one is a dainty girl-cat and the other one is “huge and thick and chases her around all the time.”
This being the best idea ever, Fernando heartily approves and as he informs Laurentia of his opinion, a pair of customers, one regular and one semi-regular, enter into the store. They shoot the breeze with one another for a while and share eldritch life-stories as they browse the aisles. One of them asks the other one if he knows where “a movie that has Jeff in it” is located, rather than asking the guy who owns the store and is more intimately connected with its inventory than he ever has been with any woman.
Fernando takes it upon himself to track down Jeff Who Lives at Home so that the two men can be on their merry ways with a minimum of fuss. “Is this the one you were thinking of?” Fernando asks, handing the second man the case in question.
I think so. This is the only movie with Jeff in it?”
Pretty sure. If I've got another one here then it's news to me.”
Cool. Thanks, man.”
While Fernando returns to his place behind the counter to complete the rental procedures for his two guests, he hears the clatter of movies being deposited in his drop box. Fernando gives a quick glance over his shoulder at the sound. He sees a blue plastic case slowly slide through the opening like an azure turd.
I don't have any blue cases, Fernando thinks. They're all either clear, or red, or orange, or yellow. “Excuse me one second,” Fernando says to his customers.
He crosses the office and lifts up the blue-cased film. In the interim, other movies, some in blue cases and some in clear, continue to sneak inside the Dominion's walls. The film in question is Gangsters, Guns, and Zombies. Fernando has this movie in his inventory, but it's currently nestled on his shelf in a bright yellow case. This can't be his.
The barcode sticker which reads FAMILY VIDEO provides further evidence of that fact.
Hey, hey, hold on!” Fernando shouts as he gathers the now-six films into his arms. He hustles out of the office and out the front door. A scruffy man in his early twenties bends over before the drop box with a bulging plastic Menard's bag dangling from the fingers of one hand. A self-rolled cigarette rests between his clamped lips and Fernando can smell the unmistakable aroma of plants in the genus Cannabis from ten feet away. The strange man shoves another movie into the slot even as Fernando speaks.
Hey, uh...I'm not Family Video.”
Wha?” he asks, tilting his head and looking at a place somewhat to Fernando's left. He mechanically inserts an eighth movie.
I'm not Family Video. I can understand the confusion, seeing as we're both in the video rental business and have signs out in front of our respective stores, but I'm definitely not Family Video.” Fernando extends the six movies toward the man. He has no desire to deal with Family Video if there is any way for him to avoid it. “You should take these back.”
Oh, thanks man.” Pokey Joe takes the six proffered movies and turns around. He begins walking to a beaten-up green sedan where another man, the getaway driver, sits behind the wheel.
Let me get you those other two,” Fernando says. “I'll be right back.”
Oh. Okay.”
Fernando reenters the store. His customers have wry smiles upon their faces as Fernando swings around the counter and back into the office to collect the remaining misdelivered discs. Then he heads back outside and turns them over to Pokey Joe's driver, as Pokey Joe himself had taken a seat in the passenger's side of his best friend's ride. “There you go. Have a good one.”
Pokey Joe's driver grunts, shifts gears, and pulls out of the Dominion's parking lot.
I swear--” Fernando begins saying as he reenters the store. He is cut off by the unmistakable nng-tak-chrak-tak-chrak-tak of snowmobiles cruising across his parking lot.
There's no snow!” Fernando shouts to nobody, except maybe a hidden Guardian Spider.
You sound like you have a problem with those guys,” the second of Fernando's customers states.
I really don't care as long as there's something appropriate for them to mobile across, but there isn't any, and those aren't asphalt-mobiles!”
Both of Fernando's guests laugh and pay and continue on with their lives. Fernando sits down to compose the anecdote. And here we are.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Old Friends

 “I've been meaning to ask you,” a regular customer says to Fernando one day long ago, perhaps six months after he had taken on the mantle of Keeper. Fernando stiffens, because even by this point he realizes these words are rarely a prelude to something he wishes to experience.
What's that?”
Why's there a crab and octopus on top of your TV?”
Fernando looks over his shoulder into the office, where there are indeed a bathtoy crab and a bathtoy octopus resting atop the television. “Those are Crumbles and Octorok. They watch over the store when I'm not around.”
Come on, really,” she insists.
Well, if you must know, they were passed into my keeping. Neither of them is technically mine. They belong to some friends and are used to bless nerdish debauchary and so forth, and by that I mean they tend to be thrown around a lot. I actually don't think either of them have ever gotten wet, except for maybe via Pepsi or something.”
Nerdish debauchary?”
Dungeons and Dragons. Satan's game.” Fernando pauses for a moment. “Y'know, I'm still missing Kafka.”
Yeah, he's a cockroach. I have no idea where he vanished to.”
Fernando's guest's face screws up in disgust. “They make cockroach bathtoys?”
No, no. Kafka was actually from a cheap-ass dollar store magic trick package-toy-thing. I think one was supposed to be dexterous enough to make him a surprise. Practically that meant we would wait until someone turned his or her back and then we'd put Kafka in an obvious place.” Fernando's vision blurs as he retreats into the mists of time. “There was also an obviously fake pencil which never fooled anybody, but we still went along with it because why not.”
Well, I hope you find your cockroach then.”
Alas, years later Kafka is still absent. Our little cockroach had grown into a strong, independent cockroach man. Maybe he settled down with a nice cockroach lady and birthed a brood of mini-Kafkas. Maybe he fell in with the wrong crowd, suffered a heroin overdose, and died alone and unmourned in a secluded alleyway.
Maybe, just maybe, he's still trying to find us, too. Godspeed, Kafka. Godspeed.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

And a Bottle of Rum

A middle-aged man, one which Fernando had not seen before, enters the Dominion one afternoon not long after opening time. “Hey, do you sell copies of movies?”
How do you mean?”
If I pay you can you make a copy of a movie for me.”
Sorry. I enjoy staying out of debtor's prison.” Yes, Fernando knows that such a thing does not exist anymore. No, that did not stop him from invoking it.
Fernando's response in the negative does not dissuade his patron. “Do you know any place that does?”
No, sorry. I try not to associate with people who knowingly violate copyright law and I reckon most people in the business feel similarly.”
So what am I supposed to do?”
Renting it comes to mind. That way you can enjoy the movie without dedicating fifteen or twenty dollars towards owning it.”
The man makes a disgruntled chuff, flails an arm and hand towards Fernando dismissively, and walks out.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

After Hours

The blessed time has arrived where Fernando may rise from his throne and lock down the Dominion in an elaborate closing ceremony. Fernando has a bit of after-hours work to accomplish, some checks that need to be written and some bills that must be paid, in addition to his daily accounting ritual. Fernando does not enjoy doing any of this while the store is open, as he prefers to remain undistracted when doing actual work and hopes to avoid the possibility of overly curious souls asking stupid questions.
He has just flourished a signature upon a check which is to be sent to the old Keeper as payment for debts incurred when Fernando hears tapping at his front door. Since it is by now fifteen minutes past eight, Fernando's desire to earn three or so dollars is vastly overshadowed by his desire to not have to deal with the public for the rest of the evening. He ignores the tapping and seals the check within an envelope instead.
The tapping transitions to arrhythmic pounding. Fernando continues ignoring it.
Then Fernando hears pounding upon his office window. The shades are drawn. “Hey, I know you're in there! I can see you!”
Fernando shoves his chair back and trundles down one of the aisles into the back room. He has just been filled with the mighty need to consume coffee. As a tangential benefit, maybe now that Fernando cannot be seen, this unwelcome annoyance will forget he exists.
Maybe it worked the way Fernando envisioned, maybe the guy just got frustrated and left, but nobody was there when Fernando returned to the front with a fresh mug of miracle liquid.
Don't go to a restaurant when it's closed expecting to be served a steak, and don't bother Fernando when he's not on the clock.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Boxed In

A semi-regular and his friend whom Fernando had never seen before are in the store. As the semi-regular peruses the offerings upon the rental racks, the friend exchanges meaningless small talk with Fernando.
What's the best movie that came out in the past year?” he asks of the Keeper.
That depends on what you mean by 'best.' The Avengers, maybe?” Fernando answers. He tends not to think too heavily in absolutist terms like “best” and “worst”; as far as he is concerned, movies are either tolerable or they are wretched, with no real gradations within the categories.
Yeah, that one was pretty good,” says the stranger. Fernando cannot think of a meaingful response or addendum to that, so he remains silent. The friend fidgets before the counter. “Have you ever thought about expanding?” he asks after he'd come across another conversational thread which might prove of interest.
The thought had crossed my mind now and again. I'm busy crafting a business plan to that effect, actually.”
Oh, really now?” he asks with unbecoming eagerness. “What exactly?”
Fernando has learned that one needs to play cards very close to the chest, indeed, in this world. “I don't want to get ahead of myself because everything depends on whether or not I can get that plot of land next door.” Fernando points across the counter and over the guest's shoulder, at the foyer's opposite wall.
Oh, I was thinking you could stand to benefit from bringing a Redbox in here.”
Fernando feels one corner of his mouth twitch. “Wait what?”
It could help you garner some extra income.”
Uh, probably not.”
How do you figure? Many stores have been going into that kind of partnership.” The guest's soothing tone and not inarticulate speech suggests to Fernando that he has a stake in getting Redboxes set up.
I wager not very many of them are video rental places.” Fernando's voice is matter-of-fact. “Redbox stands more to gain than the business in question.”
How do you figure?”
I doubt Redbox would set up a kiosk if they were to experience negative profit thereby. Therefore, I must conclude that a Redbox makes, and keeps, more money from the rentals of their movies than the venue charges to keep the machine on-site. Considering that I am, myself, in the business of renting out movies, I would in effect be paying Redbox to rent out their movies at my location if I were to do such a thing, seeing as they would offer the same product that I do, and it is my experience that pissing away money is a bad idea. So, no, I don't see myself bringing in a Redbox inside my store anytime soon.”
Fernando's refutation of Friend's argument so cowed him that he left the store. The semi-regular customer paid and went on his way without incident.