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.
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.
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


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."
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


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?"
The DVD player faintly hums and churns. "Three-sixty?"
"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.