Sunday, April 28, 2013


A guy who comes to the store maybe once every six months walks up to the counter. He had been making such rounds even before Fernando took over as Keeper, but this man never rented anything. His name, address, phone number, all these basic facts are utter mysteries because he does not properly exist in the store's records. However, unlike other people who visit the store and never rent anything, he generally would pick up a couple of old movies off the sales rack, so he was not treated with utter derision by either Fernando or the old Keepers when he came a-knocking. He was, in fact, welcomed, as he was one of the three or four people left on earth willing to erode away the Dominion's VHS holdings.
Hey, where did all your tapes go?” he asks, placing his elbows on the counter and leaning over.
Fernando levers himself up out of the chair. “Oh, I got rid of those back in December. Sold them off to somebody in bulk.”
The man tilts his head Quizzical Dog-style. “How come?”
Well, I needed the space on my racks and shelves back here, and they weren't the biggest renters. Selling those off freed up a great deal of that.”
Why didn't you tell me?”
Fernando scratches his cheek with one finger and decides not to point out he had no way of getting in touch with his guest. “Er. You hadn't come here for about six months, and I mentioned it to somebody who was here at the time and things kind of went from there.”
Yeah, but you know I'm good for 'em.”
Yes, I do. But. I needed to free up the space back in December, not now in April.”
The man thrusts a thick finger into his right ear and swirls it around, then wipes the prize off on his shirt or pants, somewhere below the counter. Fernando wishes he possessed the power to unsee so very many things. “So you don't got any anymore?”
Not a one. Sorry.”
Hrm.” The man stumps around the foyer, peering up at the signs Fernando has posted. He picks at the paint on the wall near the Adopt-A-Movie Box. He spreads his palms out on the countertop and taps his fingertips against the glass.
Finally, he says, “So you got rid of all of them?”
Indeed so.”
They don't make them anymore, huh?”
Nope. Stopped almost ten years back. Everything's DVD or Blu-Ray now.”
Yeah, yeah.” He squints his eyes and bows his head to take in the image of his hands on Fernando's counter.
You think you'll be getting anymore sometime soon?”
Probably not, no.”
Alright. Well, if you do just let me know.” The man turns and shambles out.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Grade Scale

 “Hey, is this movie any good?” asks a regular customer one day. He has gone through all the other, newer, recent releases and desires some far which he had not yet consumed.
Fernando rises from his throne and peeks out of the office at the man, who holds in his hands the case for Gangsters, Guns, and Zombies so Fernando can easily see the title. “It's a B movie through and through,” Fernando tells him. “It's not good, but if you're looking for a movie that's so bad it becomes good, perhaps with the help of liberal application of alcoholic beverages, you could certainly do worse.”
B is still like, what, an 80 percent in school, right?” the man asks, inadvertently talking up the movie far more than Fernando would ever like to do.
It most certainly is.”
These words are enough to ensure the film is rented.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Actually Late

Django Unchained is a fairly popular movie. Everyone wants to see it, and it behooved Fernando to make this film available. To this end, he procured many copies of the film. On the day it was released, all of them went out within half an hour of opening time.
The unfortunate latecomers were filled with sorrow that they could not have the item they so greatly desired, but Fernando informed them of a service he would provide. Indeed, he would make the film available to them on the following day! He would call them when one arrived and they could come and pick it up without worrying that a poacher would snipe it before they could visit the store and pick it up themselves!
There was but one tiny detail which Fernando discounted in crafting this masterful plan. It required the competence and cooperation of his customer base. Instead of all, or even most, of Fernando's copies of Django Unchained finding their way back to the store, none of them did.
At four the Keeper was yet unworried. The workday had not yet ended, and many people routinely returned their movies between the hours of four and six. Fernando waited and took the concerned telephone calls from the people whom he had promised a rental. No, he doesn't have any in right at this moment. Yes, he is expecting them back. Yes, he will call once one arrives.
By six Fernando had grown perturbed. Had more than zero copies of the film found their way home, he would have had lower stress levels, but the prospect of having to deal with multiple ornery customers who had been denied their film—legitimately ornery customers, as Fernando had given his word and staked the reputation of his Dominion in this matter—filled him with dread.
When seven rolled around and still no copies of the movie had been returned, Fernando walked up to his late fee list and began jotting down names. Normally he waits until closing time to do such menial bookkeeping, but he needed a way to vent his frustrations, and what way is better than to scrawl words upon paper in jagged script? Mixed blessing: the phone calls stopped coming at around 6.30 PM. Rather than having to be Cool Customer Service Guy, Fernando can just wallow in the guilt brought on by a number of customers whose wants had remained unsatisfied being forever linked to Fernando's business.
At 7.57, three minutes before closing time, a vehicle pulls up. A man steps out. He had been to the store yesterday and rented Django Unchained. He enters the store.
I'm not late, am I?”
You are, actually.” Fernando's voice is curt.
I got it back before you closed.”
Movies have to be back by seven.”
The man squints at Fernando and considers arguing with him. He then reasons through the consequences of going into it with Fernando given the glower upon his face and changes his mind. “I'll catch you later.”
The number of people who wanted Django Unchained the following day once Fernando called bearing the good news and apoligies? Zero. They'd all gotten copies somewhere else.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Your Attention, Please

A young lady enters the store one afternoon and selects a movie to rent. She had been in before, but always as a second fiddle to another of Fernando's customers, and this is her first time being the name on the slip. Unfortunately for Fernando, he has no idea what her name is. He retrieves the movie for her in the hopes that she'll finish the matter which demands all her attention by the time he returns.
Alas, she does not. “Could I get your name please?” he asks her as he returns to his place at the counter.
The young woman is, however, still engrossed in texting, perhaps with another of Fernando's patrons who had experienced some ineptitude when it came to social niceties. She does not look up from her important work and mumbles something which sounds vaguely like “Tannnnnyehlleh.”
Fernando presses his lips together. “I'm sorry, I didn't get that.”
She ignores him.
Okay then. Fernando fills out the slip for a Tascribblescribblescribble. It is not as though his penmanship would have rendered the proper name in any way more legible. She still has given Fernando no attention. “There is an additional service charge, you know.”
Kay puttionere.” She still has not looked up nor paused in her texting, and doesn't seem to care that Fernando is making things up whole cloth.
It's fifty dollars.”
What?” She looks up, finally, but she does not seem upset by this grossly inflated number. She hadn't heard Fernando, but she does place a five dollar bill on the countertop.
It's fifty dollars.”
Now she's confused. Still not outraged, like most people might be, but it's a step up from apathetic. “Why is it so much?”
You ought to start paying attention to the words which other people say."
Wait what? Hold on.” She returns to her texting.
Fernando takes the bill and puts it in the till. One reaps what one sows. “You're all set.” She ignores that too.
Fernando walks away and returns to his business in the office. At some later point during the day, when he happens to glance over his shoulder at the counter, the young lady had gathered enough of an attention span to collect her movie and walk out.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Fernando has just fixed a cup of coffee in the back room and is returning to his post within the Dominion's office. As he navigates the racks of rental cases, a pickup truck with a closed-up bed pulls up in front of the Dominion. The driver parks parallel to the store's front, which is not usually a problem, except that he is directly in front of the Dominion's door. A middle-aged man and his wife clamber out.
Fernando has just reentered the office and set down his coffee when the chimes jingle. Without preamble, the man, who is a tall and broad middle-aged sort with a battering ram of a paunch fastened to his abdomen, booms out, “You got any good wilderness movies?”
Um...I'm not sure what you mean. You mean like The Grey?” That seems to Fernando like a decent wilderness movie, insofar as it has wilderness as an antagonistic force acting upon the protagonist.
This is insufficient for Fernando's guest. “No, I don't want none of that shit with vampires and werewolves. Try again.” Maybe he thought Fernando had made reference to Fifty Shades of Grey, which doesn't even exist on film at this time. At least Fernando assumes Fifty Shades of Grey involves vampires, since it's Twilight fanfic that transmogrified into the next big thing containing flat female characters the mostly-female readership can use to live vapid and perfectionist fantasies. It could be that it doesn't, and Fernando lacks the basic interest to even search Wikipedia for a synopsis of the book's plot.
Regardless, Fernando's guest's words left the Keeper a bit stunned. Fernando had expected to be rebuffed, since this man seemed like a alpha-male kind of guy who asserts dominance over others through contrarian behavior. He hadn't expected it to be so curt and effective. This leaves our hero speechless for a few seconds.
A few seconds is all the boisterous visitor needs to continue his verbal assault. “Can't think of anything?” he asks. “The hell kind of guy are you, working at a movie store but you don't know what people want?”
Fernando is now gearing up to dig deep into his snark reserves and set this confrontation on the express lane to Hell. Instead, the man's wife steps in. “Honey, look. Paranormal Activity 4.”
The man doesn't even turn around to look at her when he says, “Quiet. I'm talking with the man.”
So that's nice.
The woman's attempt to defuse the situation has given Fernando additional time to take stock of his situation. He probably would lose in a head-to-head clash. Fernando must be as water, to absorb his guest's ridicule with stoicism and to avoid being baited. He shall be the bigger man. So Fernando says, “The Grey is actually Liam Neeson and his plane crashing in the Alaskan wilderness. There are wolves, but they're the normal kind, not the were-kind.” Fernando did not use the adjective “lycanthropic.” In hindsight, he ought to have.
But the guy ignores Fernando's words and ambles into the store. The next few minutes are a span of time which will forever leave a dark stain upon the Dominion's generally welcoming and jovial aura. The wife points out a wide variety of movies which might be taken for rental. In every case, the man rebuffs her choices as being “stupid” or “retarded.” When she stumbles upon Rise of the Planet of the Apes and points out the existence of this film, her husband says, “We're already living in a country run by one. Don't need to watch a movie with a planet run by 'em.”
So that's nice.
Finally they reach a consensus, and by that Fernando means that the man found Larry the Cable Guy: Delta Farce and told his wife that this is what they're going to watch. He selects the tag and brings it up to the counter, his wife trailing. Fernando sets to filling out the rental slip. “Can I get your name?”
Morocco Mali.”
Fernando says, “One second,” and checks in his records. He exists therein. Damn. Fernando checks the late fee lists. He's not on there. Double-damn.
So Fernando fills out the rental slip and takes the monies which are owed him. Once the couple leaves, he collapses into his chair and shakes his head.
Apparently two dollars is now enough to compromise one's scruples in the business world.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cop Dude

One afternoon Fernando sits. It is a slow day, wretchedly so, at the Dominion. Five o'clock and only two customers? On a New Release Tuesday? Granted, it was a shitty New Release Tuesday, but still.
Fernando heads into the back to empty his bladder and when he comes back up front he is glad to see one a young woman, one of his quasi-regulars. “Hello,” he says to her.
Hi,” she responds. She has in her hands the case for one of Fernando's movies that had come out about a month prior. “How are you?”
I'm well enough. Slow day, though. Even the traffic on the highway has been oddly tame. There's not any kind of surprise sports thing going on tonight, right?” Any sports would be a surprise to Fernando, who keeps up to date regarding them about as well as the average person follows the development of D&D Next.
Maybe it's the cop in your parking lot.”
This is also news to Fernando. “Cop in my parking lot?”
Well, not right in there. A little ways down, more towards The Distraction.” The Distraction is a restaurant which lies between the Dominion and the gas station, one which produces pizzas which have given the world a unique unit of measurement for pizza grease: the Bill. One Bill of grease is equal the amount flop sweat produced by a fat guy working in a ninety-degree environment for one hour. Pizzas from The Distraction range anywhere from .3 to 4 Bills, even among pizzas which contain the same toppings. It's quite bizarre.
Fernando presses his lips together, strides out to the front of the store, and peeks outside. Lo and behold, a blue police car squats maybe fifty feet from the Dominion's front door. “Yeah, that could very well do it, I guess,” he grumbles once he ducks back inside. But there is little Fernando can do to fight the law. The law would win.
At the end of the day, Fernando's take-home was only slightly larger in size than the average Grinch's heart. It disheartened him.
Cop Dudes, if you want to set up a speed trap, don't do it near my store. Don't do it near anybody's store. Public safety and doing your job or whatever, yeah, I get it. You still scare off customers.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rectangular Prison

Fernando sits at his computer one evening. A beaten-up blue sedan pulls up in front of the store and a man who looks to be in his mid-20s clambers out, one whom Fernando has never seen before. Lots of those have been visiting the Dominion lately. He holds in his hands one of Fernando's slim cases, bright yellow and visible from space. He crosses the short distance to the drop box and Fernando hears the familiar klek-klik of the Dominion's Guardian Flap being lifted up.
The man seems to experience some difficulties, however. He can't seem to get the case through. Fernando watches through his office windows as the man's face transitions from bemusement to confusion to seething ire. This is high entertainment, something which one could doubtlessly exploit to make millions of dollars, even though Fernando's savvy allowed him to reason out the drama's entire plot the instant the curtain rose.
After about ten seconds of trying and failing to fit the case through the drop-hole, the young man remembers that there exists an interior to the Dominion where he may deposit his film. The chimes above the door jingle and he strides up to the counter.
He slams the case down upon the glass countertop. His eyes are baggy and rimmed with red. Fernando absolutely does not make any internal judgment calls about people who should sleep more and smoke pot less. “Man, why do you have a drop box if these things won't fit through it?”
Your orientation was off by ninety degrees.”
Fernando takes up the yellow case and grips it in midair by one edge, so that the case's longer edge is in his visitor's line of sight. “This is how you were trying to do it.” Fernando thrusts the case a short way towards the man for emphasis.
Fernando now rotates the case so the shorter edge faces the man. “This is how it should have been done.” Fernando pushes it forward again, but this time releases his hold. Gravity performs its usual deeds, and the case tumbles to land on the countertop.
The man's mouth hangs open. He closes it and then leaves.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


A young man comes in to rent. “Hey, can I charge this one?”
You have twelve dollars in late fees.”
And no.”
Spoilsport.” He leaves.