Sunday, June 30, 2013

In a Way It's Fitting, Really

A lady who hadn't come to the store in at least two years enters and asks to rent Identity Thief. Fernando does not have any copies in at the moment, but he gives her the song and dance he always does about holding movies and phone calls and assorted other similar trappings. She feels this is a fine idea and gives Fernando a cell number. It has an outlandish area code and the first three digits of the local number are also ones not found on area cell phones.
That's my friend's. My phone is out of order right now,” she says.
Oh...okay,” says Fernando, who doesn't really care one way or the other as long as her plan for him to get in touch with her works.
Time passes, a customer returns Identity Thief, and Fernando makes the phone call.
-Ring ring ring-
Hello?” It is a man's voice.
Hi, this is Fernando calling from the Dominion of Movies. I just wanted to let you know Identity Thief was back in--”
Where? I didn't want anything held. Who is this?” Fernando can't place the accent—it's definitely American, but it is not any with which he is immediately familiar.
--so....Fernando Stevens, calling from the Dominion of Movies in Salasolda. And no, no you did not. But Bhutan Lecithin came in earlier and asked me to call you on her behalf--”
I got nothing to do with her anymore.” The man sounds perturbed, his voice a crackly growl.
Oh. Then I am at a bit of an impasse.”
Guess so. Have a good one.” The strange man hangs up.

Bhutan never came in to pick up Identity Thief.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cold Sell

It's one of those demonically hot and muggy days which fill late June. Fernando sits in his comfortable palace and a group of three teens, two guys and a gal, come in. The two dudes are brothers; the girl is presumably an acquaintance of some sort to one of the two.
They drop off some movies they'd rented the previous day and mill about the store in search of more. “It's too hot outside to do anything.”
Oh, I hear you. That's why I'm sitting in here not doing anything.”
Yeah, it's nice in here. I think on the way home we'll pick up something to help cool off.”
Ah, yes. Magic words. Fernando latches onto them like an asp to its prey. “Well, I do have delicious and refreshing sodey pop here. Only a dollar fifty with deposit.”
The young man is resistant. “Oh, I don't know....”
Fernando dials up the pressure. “You could head over to Lint's Gas and pick up some there, I suppose, but paying a dollar thirty for twenty ounces? Unreasonable. I've got the big ones here.”
Well, actually I was thinking getting some ice cream or something.”
Y'know, ice cream is a really good idea. But you know what would be an even better idea? Ice cream with sodey pop.”
The leader hems and haws, but his brother and the young lady are both eying Fernando's sodey pop fridge. Fernando leans over the counter and pops the door open with his right hand, letting the refrigerated air within mingle with the warmer atmosphere outside the icebox. He spreads the palm and fingers of his left hand in a “what-can-you-do” gesture. “At least that's what I would do if I had ice cream in my future.”
The younger brother takes a step forward, then catches himself. The older brother says, “Ehhh, no, sorry, I think we'll pass.”
Fernando eases the door shut. He has done all that he can do. “Well, alrighty. They're here if ever you want them, though.” The trio collects their movies and departs.
Three minutes later, Fernando is having an in-depth discussion about the quality of film sequels with another customer who'd paid Fernando a visit. The chimes jingle and the three teens from before enter, walk straight up to Fernando's sodey pop fridge, help themselves to some of its contents, and queue up while Fernando finishes his Spiel.

In an appropriate parlance:
You try smooth talking him with all your cunning [roll d20] but sadly fail to convince him.”
Did you add in my Charisma bonus?”

....You almost fail to convince him.”

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Keys to My Heart

A lady comes into the store one afternoon and has in tow three children. She meanders to the new releases while setting the offspring free to spread woe all across the Dominion. One of them, in particular, takes it upon himself to screech and run like a peyote-addict howler monkey. Fernando sighs and closes his eyes and prays for it all to end.
The child begins shrieking even more loudly and Fernando hears a whup-skrah, the sound of something whipping through the air and then scraping against wood or plaster. He emerges from his lair in a great tsunami of righteous ire and checks out what exactly transpires in his store. The mother chooses this moment to take a renewed interest in her brood and hurries to block Fernando's path, but he can still see the thing which transpires.
The shrieking child gibbers and points beneath the racks which house his sci-fi and fantasy movies. The mother shouts, “What's going on!” but the kid just hops skyward, turns, and runs further down the aisle. The other two children, not having failed their Wisdom checks, huddle close to Mom.
Where are my keys?” she demands of her less-scurrilous kids. One of them points in the direction of the racks.
Fernando strides past the woman and peers into the dark chasms from which no explorer returns unscarred. A lanyard keychain is slung over one of the crossbars, just out of easy reach.
Fernando puffs a short sigh. “Hang on, I'll get a broom.” He retrieves the item from his back room, maneuvers it awkwardly, and at last hooks the lanyard. He lifts it up and out of the fell pit, depositing it in the woman's hands.
The woman has the good sense to look somewhat abashed. “Thanks. I'm so sorry.”
My only question is, why would you give him your keys.”
He likes to play with them.”
I can see that.”

And lawn darts are the recreational items banned because they were supposedly unsafe for kids?

Friday, June 21, 2013


Paula Deen said some bad things recently.
The fact that an old, southern woman might have within the language centers of her brain the capability to use words in a fashion commonly deemed as racially inappropriate seems to have come to a complete shock to America at-large, who are, astoundingly, treating this as more newsworthy than Kim Kardashian having recently whelped and naming the kid after the latter half of a Hitchcock movie, after she drew the Apples to Apples card referencing it during her last family game night. Everybody is fucking outraged that Paula Deen planned to organize a wedding themed with a level of social ignorance/ineptude I could only dream to attain. And then, by Mimir's Well, all the so-called journalists and investigators have dredged through this woman's life history for every single race-related social faux pas she'd perpetrated over the course of her long existence.
I'm not defending her; she said and did some stupid shit and she should suffer the consequences thereof. I'm not excusing her poor decisions based on her age or the social cues and mores she'd picked up during her upbringing that stuck with her, perhaps overtly and perhaps only subconsciously, the rest of her life. That said, America, get some goddamn perspective.
Why are we suddenly giving so great many fucks about the Queen of Butter and her verbiage? “Probably,” one might say, “because it's symptomatic of all the things we suspect about southern people but can't really prove.” The South does get the short end of the stick on racial issues more often than not (rightly so or otherwise I'll leave as an exercise for you to puzzle out on your own), and on such occasions the rest of the country can come together for snide chortling at the South's expense. After all, though Americans pretend otherwise, we are among the pettiest and most Schadenfreude-seeking people on the planet. We crave stories of other peoples' fuck-ups. How the hell else could reality television thrive?
The thing is, the media has treated this Paula Deen fracas with all the gravity of the average Entertainment Weekly So You Think You Can Dance? article. Editorial-writers (people doing the exact same thing as me, except their works are presented via ostensibly well-regarded publications or institutions) poo-poo their noses at the poor reflection on her character which this horror provides. This is inappropriate and wrong, and this sixty-six year old woman's racist history which we've gone out of our way to (re)construct, why, it's just scandalous!
Okay....and now what? Let's agree it's scandalous that this thing happened. Do we use our fervor to some noteworthy end or....No, we don't? We'll just be incensed for a short while then, watch things invariably die down, and return to a daily slog identical to the one before this media buzz began, except maybe Paula Deen is out of a job? Okay then.
Here's my take: Let's stop pretending that we as a society have a responsibility to engage in this farcical moralizing. Stop being disingenuous with your surprised cries that this isn't how Real America does it, that we're not all like this, and that Paula Deen is a social anomaly. Don't post to Facebook or Twitter how sad and shocked you are that someone like this exists in modern America and swear up and down that you'll never buy a Smithfield ham or cook anything in butter ever again. Don't even bother wringing your hands at the travesty of it all if you can't or won't nut up that shit like this is commonplace all across the country among all age demographics and not limited to people living in Bumfuck, Missalabameorgidennesstuckansolina who happened to have one black friend while growing up under Jim Crow.
Or, we could take this opportunity to have a frank discussion on race and racism in this country, both of the overt and institutionalized varieties. This would require that the members of the American media take something resembling an objective, empirical approach to the matter, like maybe bringing sociologists or political scientists who do research in that area onto their news programs rather than reinviting those old-hat demagogues (and you know who they are) who provide absolutely nothing of value and instead offer up only their own biased claims and exclamations.

One of these options is the much easier and more likely of the two, and that's why this screed is the only fuck I'm willing to give on the matter.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


A reedy guy who'd been to the store only maybe five times over three or so years comes in one day and rents a couple of movies. His modus operandi over previous visits was as follows: return the films a day late and take the three or so dollar late fee. Fernando diligently adds the tally to the late fee list and it sits there, a toady blemish, until Fernando reaches the point where he wants to trim the damn thing down to below four or five pages, whereupon he culls the late fees under ten bucks attached to people who hadn't come to the store in roughly a decade. Soon thereafter, through a combination psychic resonance, word on the street, and confirmation bias on Fernando's part, Timely Tim returns to the store with a clean slate and this phoenixesque degeneration starts anew.
The second-to-last time Fernando culled the late fee list, he had once again purged this debtor's history, and Timely Tim made his reappearance. This happened around October of 2012. He rented a couple of movies and they were, again, dropped off a day late. This time, though, Tim came in the following day and rented again. The conversation went roughly like so:
Fernando: “You have three bucks in late fees from yesterday. Did you want to kill them off?”
T.T.: “Oh...I only got enough money for these. I'll hit you up next time?”
Fernando: “That's fine.”
Those movies, too, were returned late. Now, though, T.T.'s late fees had no real reason or excuse on Fernando's part to be swept away, so when Fernando most recently cropped his late list T.T.'s six dollar debt remained intact.
Now it's June, 2013. Timely Tim had made like the cicada he somewhat resembles and stands in the Dominion's foyer. Fernando says to him, “You've got six bucks in late fees, if you wanted to put something down on them.”
I do?”
Yeah, from October of last year.”
T.T. screws up his face in concentration. “Are you sure?”
Fairly sure. We had a talk last time. You returned some movies a little late and said you'd pay the late fees next time you were in.”
You said that was three bucks.”
You rented again that day and returned those late too.”
Well, that one wasn't my fault. My friend was s'pposed to drop them off.”
But your friend didn't. Perhaps if you ask you will be reimbursed for your troubles.”
How much does it come to altogether?”
Thirteen bucks.”
T.T.'s expression is momentarily cunning, then resigned. “'Kay, fine.” He squares up with Fernando and takes his movies out.

They are returned four days late. Eighteen is many more dollars than six, and Fernando looks forward to T.T.'s next visit a year down the road.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cool Old Guy

An older gentlemen started visiting the Dominion about a year ago on a weekly basis. He is the affable and awesome sort of old chap, a dude in his late 70s who possesses boundless mirth, sharp wit, and excellent stories which Fernando found just marvelous to hear. Fernando has no idea where this guy came from and why he'd never stopped by the store before that point, but that's all beside the point. Cool Old Guy was here to stay, and Fernando was more than fine with that.
This is a man who'd served in the Korean War, one who traveled overseas to places as disparate as Thailand, Norway, and the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza; he attended Michigan State University back when it was still called Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. He married his college sweetheart and worked, over the years, as a civic engineer, a shipbuilder, and a woodworker. He collects fossils and has an irrepressible curiosity for the sciences, and also more “realistic” science-fiction literature and movies (“Way I see it, I'll never get off this rock, so it'll always be fictional to me personally.”).
His speech is not filthy or vulgar, simply factual. He does not shy away from topics which might be considered in bad taste or embarrassing. He told Fernando about his collection of Playboy magazines, which go all the way back to issue #1 (“And they're all still perfectly readable, though not even God could tell you how some of those pages still turn,” he said). They have had frank and not pants-on-head stupid conversations about American politics and normative political and social philosophy, something which never fucking happens.
Cool Old Guy spoke smatterings of no fewer than seven languages in his heyday: English, Japanese, Korean, Russian, German, Spanish, and Latin, though anything not named English is limited to curse words and naughty names for body parts these days. He did not just learn rote phrases to get by on a daily basis, but delved into the underlying grammar and structure of the languages he knew. His worldliness imparted upon him awareness that different cultures parse the world in different ways and that those differences are communicated through idiom and metaphor. He recognized that, though he could once speak Japanese or Latin, perhaps get by or even thrive in places that used those languages, he was not and could never “be” Japanese or Latin. He also loves witty turns of language, subtle puns and jokes which play with the words used in the jokes' construction instead of grandiose and hilarious observational humor in the vein of Patton Oswalt or Louis C.K.
Of course, they also discussed movies. Aside from his love of science-fiction. Cool Old Guy adores comedy, and is far more open to what falls under the potentially “good” umbrella than Fernando. He'll give anything a fair shake, even if it or they later turned out to be stinkers.
One afternoon, Cool Old Guy had just picked up a stack of five movies (one should also mention this man never returns anything late; instead he pays ahead for multiple nights) and is preparing to finalize his transaction when he suddenly says to Fernando, “You know, Gandhi was a really remarkable man.”
Oh?” Fernando says. Perhaps Cool Old Guy had an amusing anecdote or observation involving the revered Indian activist and statesman.
Well, he spent his entire life walking barefoot, not wearing sandals or shoes, so the soles of his feet became like leather. He wouldn't eat meat and lived entirely on eating greens...of course this left him kind of spindly and when you eat nothing but veggies your breath leaves a lot to be desired, but he did it because he held fast to his spiritual beliefs.”
The briefest of pauses, then: “I guess you could say he was a super-calloused, fragile mystic hexed with halitosis.”
Fernando blinks once, then twice more. “Oh. My.” More blinks. “Oh my.”

IDGAF if the pun has been around for ages and Cool Old Guy heard it somewhere else. It's the first Fernando had heard of it, and it made his fucking day.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Astute observers would have noticed that a dread case of schedule slip occurred this past Sunday. This is with good reason: Fernando was in no mood to upload a tale of dread, woe, or merriment, for he had been obligated over the previous days to participate in the wedding ceremony of his homeboy Iacobo. The Dominion's doors shut and, queerly enough, no one asked stupid questions of Fernando's reasons for closing up as they had the last time he took time for a mini-vacation.
The Dominion's back room had been chosen as the location for the bachelor party; debauchery could readily at-hand and the murderous Cellar Spiders, absolutely not to be confused with the benevolent above-ground Guardian Spiders, could handily dispose of any corpses which happened to be created in the course of festivities. Such things would bring Fernando no joy, as prey-juices would invigorate those troglodytic monsters, but good fortune was had: no one and nothing expired over the course of celebrating, which went on for roughly twelve hours. It was a smallish affair, as Fernando understands bachelor parties to go. Fernando and Iacobo were of course in attendance, as were Alfonso, Ronaldo, Cortez, Teodor, Bergeron, and Damien.
Catriona, by dint of possessing a vagina, had been forbidden attendance at this momentous event by her mother; rather, she was to giggle at the simultaneous bachelorette party over curiosities like penis-shaped ice or Cards Against Humanity. While this does sound as though it were a merry time, it lacked the defining feature of Fernando's shindig: impressive amounts of meat. During the party's course, eight or so pounds of animal flesh were consumed in brat and burger and hot dog form by the guests, notwithstanding the assortment of fixin's and appropriate side dishes accompanying this fare. One brat which tumbled into the coals was given over to Catriona as a burnt sacrifice, for she was ever in the guests' hearts, and the bottle of charcoal lighter fluid was emptied on that day. Ronaldo took the bratwurst eating contest prize, with eight consumed sausages. The reward in question? The right and obligation to eat the final remaining bratwurst of the initial three pounds.
One can file this one under “Phyrric victory.”
Once the sun finally set, prompting the moths and June bugs to initiate their rapacious nightlife, the action retreated indoors. Gifts were given to Iacobo, the sodding bastard, in whose name this travesty had been erected: dollar store insects (and a rat), a giant two-pound bag of peppered beef jerky, a single condom (for emergencies, one must understand), one bottle of the most delicious beer in all the world (that of the Schlenkerla), and a swanky hat which could perhaps be worn during the wedding ceremony or the off-the-hook reception, or even some other time if Iacobo felt the need.

At this juncture came the rolling of bones, though in fact little was accomplished upon the tabletop. Fernando, Iacobo, and his guests were quite fine with bullshitting for bullshit's sake over some cracked-open brews, reminiscing over adventures from days long past and portending adventures which were to come. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Urine Trouble

 “Hey, have you seen this movie?” The speaker is a semi-regular teenaged customer, fourteen or fifteen or thereabouts, and he asks Fernando the question on a rent-one-get-one-free day.
Which one is that?”
This Life of Pee here.”
Life of Pi.”
Pee, pi, what's the difference?”
I think you'll find that uric acid is rather different from the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.”
Whatever. They shouldn't spell it different from how it's pronounced then.”
While Fernando cannot and will not argue against some of the abject silliness found within English spelling, he still responds in this instance with all the snark he can muster. “I'll get right on telling the Greeks they've been doing it wrong these past three thousand years.”
Fernando's guest brushes it off like it ain't no thang. “Is it any good?”
Apparently it's a kid on a boat with a tiger on a journey of self-discovery, or something like that. I've also been told that it's much better than I'm making it sound.”
Have you seen it?”
No, but some year I'll get around to it, probably. Maybe.”
I just don't want to get a movie if it'll be boring.”
Have you seen Gremlins?”
No...when did it come out.”
1984.” When Fernando sees mistrust start to creep across the lad's features, he hurries to append, “This thing is a Christmas classic. It should be required viewing for everyone every year, right next to the old animated Grinch and stop-motion Rudolph, and Peanut's Christmas.”
...It's June though.”
How can we say that one movie is better-viewed at a specific time than any other? Down that road is nothing but arbitrary tomfoolery. Whatever happened to Christmas in July?”
...But it's June.”
Fernando waves a hand in dismissal. “July's a crappy month anyway. Don't listen to anything nice you've heard about it. Moths and cloying heat, that's what it offers the world. Christmas in June is the new thing.”
Fine, fine. I'll get it.”

One corner of Fernando's lips curls upwards in a satisfied grin.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


At around 1.30 in the afternoon one Wednesday, Fernando hears the rumble of a vehicle outside the store. He peers through a corner of the blinds. A red pickup is sprawled in the parking lot directly blocking the door. A woman sits in the cab, idling away. Her location leads Fernando to surmise that she is dropping off a movie, but after two minutes of sitting there he amends his supposition and views her as a camper.
Fernando makes himself busy in the office, straightening things which do not need straightening. 2 PM rolls around and the truck has not moved. He sighs and unlocks the front door.
The lady in the truck's cab leans out the window at him. “Oh, now you open?”
Yes, now I open. It's two.”
I been waiting half an hour for you to come in.”
I get that a lot,” Fernando says, turning and striding to his office. The lady shuts off her truck and comes into the store after him.
She browses the store for about five minutes, then comes up to the counter with six tags in hand. “It's get one free day, right?”
Indeed so.” Fernando retrieves a pen and rental slip. “Can I get your name?”
Azerbijan Switzerland,” she answers as she fishes through her purse for crumpled small bills.
Fernando stops writing. “You have twenty-eight dollars in late fees. How much did you want to put down on them?”
Oh...all I have is this.” She drops nine tattered dollar bills to the countertop.
That's not even enough to cover the rentals, setting aside the late fees.”
She frowns at the pile of tags. “How much do I need to pay off on the late fee?”
How much do you feel you ought to pay off?”
A dollar?”
Let's do this: you rent two of those and put the remaining five-fifty from your nine dollars towards the late fee.”
Fernando takes her money, retrieves her movies, and watches her depart. The movies wound up two days late, so she now has two and a half dollars more on her late fee than previously.