Ms. Floor Candy was in again tonight. She wandered in while A Perfectly Reasonable Customer was buying her books. She spent the first twenty minutes critiquing the woman’s choices and Casually Mentioning how she hitchhiked through England looking for Alan Moore. “He was really sweet.” She clearly lied. “Very down to Earth in a way most people can’t even comprehend.”
Reasonable Customer knew her from somewhere, and had about an hour-long conversation where she’d mention a book or a movie and Floor Candy would say “Oh God. I totally forgot to mention those in my novel. The main character in my novel. My novel. The novel I just finished. Do you want a copy of my novel? I just finished my novel. I should go back and put a reference into my novel. The themes of my novel. Ursula Le Guin was upset with the way they toyed with her novel, so I’m not letting anyone toy with my novel. Oh, I know. My novel. Do you want me to e-mail you a copy of my novel? My novel…”
While she droned on, a guy came in and asked “Do you have any books in Chinese?”
"No. Sorry." I said.
"Porn?" He asked.
I pointed to the Adult Section.
A smell overtook the store. A distinct Someone Shit Themselves smell. I couldn’t be certain it was Floor Candy but she seemed the most likely culprit.
While Porn Guy was flipping through Japanese porn, I overheard Floor Candy prattling on. “I don’t see movies based on books. They never do them justice, which is why I won’t let them film my novel. It’s not really finished finished. I haven’t edited my novel, but I wrote it from page one to page done. Hee hee. Do you want me to e-mail you a copy of it?”
"This is bullshit." Porn Guy says. "These are censored."
I shrugged but had grown mute.
"Do you have scrap paper?" Floor candy asked. The distinct odor of shit lingering around the counter.
"Post It Note, ok?" I asked.
"Pohst Eet Note?" She asked in a creepy falsetto with an accent.
I handed her some post it notes and a pen. She held on to the pen but ran her fingers over the pen case. “Black black black black black black.” She said in a completely different fake accent.
"Bullshit porn." Porn Guy said.
I gave Floor Candy a different black pen. I looked at the clock. She had been in the store since the Mesezoic Age.
"Spoilers spoilers spoilers." She said, in response to what I’m not sure. This time in a deep baritone. "I don’t want anyone to spoil my novel." And then she said "My novel!" in the creepy falsetto again.
Porn Guy left. “Let me nooooooooooooooote that.” Floor Candy woman said, in response to something I hadn’t paid attention to. And she reached over the counter for a purple marker. Her arm and hand covered in indecipherable text. Tattoos from a blind artist on acid.
"Froggy." She said in the creepy falsetto. This was not in response to anything that involved frogs. "Froggy. Froggy. Nippy rabbit. I deed. I deed."
"Did you read Bone?" Reasonable Customer asked.
"I read Princess Bride. I reference it in my novel." Floor Candy said.
"What about Bone?" Customer asked.
"I’m waiting until it’s done. It’s taking forever." Floor Candy said.
"It’s been finished for almost ten years." I said.
"No. It’s not done." she said in her normal voice. "Not done." in creepy falsetto.
"It is, actually." I said. "They recently put out a sequel series of novels. But those are done now, too. But the original series ended in 2004."
"Some of them are done but not all of them." she said in a baby voice.
"Nope." I said. "They’re all done."
"All done." she said in the creepy baby voice.
Another hour passed. A day. A week. A month. A unit of time that even stars can’t conceive of..
"That reminds me." she said in her normal voice. "There’s a scene in my nov—"
"I’m so sorry." I said. "I just noticed that we’re actually closed." Something that must have looked like the inbred child of a smile and anguish spread over my face.
"Yea, I haven’t even eaten dinner yet." normal voice. "Yay, dinner!" creepy falsetto. "What type of food do you like?" weird baritone.
"I’m sorry." I said. "You really need to go. I have to" come up with an obvious lie to get you the hell out of this store "close up." Ok, that was just the truth.
"Cloooooooooooooooooooosed." she said in the baby voice.
"Thanks for letting us hang out." Reasonable Customer With Terrible Taste In Conversation Partners said.
"Bye." I said, closing the smell of human fecal matter on the other side of the door.
As soon as they went outside, I locked the door to the building, and went into the hall to find out what Floor Candy had written on the Post It Note.
"Writer. Looking for serious artists for collaboration. No weirdos."
A cloud of weed walks into the store dressed as a dude. ”Hey, where’s your Batman is dead section?”
I, I believe understandably, look perplexed.
"Batman and Superman are all like, dead, and trying to kill Robin and shit?"
I…what? “I don’t know that one. There was a period a few years ago where Bruce Wayne was dead, and Dick Grayson was Batman for a while, but they weren’t trying to kill everyone.”
"They were all, like, cannibals or something." He says.
"Marvel Zombies?" I ask, taking him over to the Marvel section.
He looks at the cover. ”Is that a Spider-Man zombie?” He asks.
"Oh, man, I can’t even handle this right now." And he wafts back out to the street.
Man ambles into store. “Hi.”
I say “Hello.”
He says, “It seems dark in here.”
I say “You’re wearing sunglasses.”
He says “That’s no excuse for it to be dark.”
A woman rushes down the stairs and into the store. ”Do you have a bathroom?’ She asks.
I hand her they keys and point to the door.
A few minutes later she comes back in. ”Do you guys film and print the people who use the bathroom?’
"Of course not." I say. "Eww. No."
"Well," she says, raising her eyebrows at me, "while I was in there, I heard the distinct sound of someone scanning me, and then I heard printing."
Oh. ”There is a print shop on the other side of the bathroom wall. They scan and print things all the time but I’m 99.9% positive that they’re not linked into the bathroom.”
"99.9% but not 100%?" she asks.
"I’ve read a lot of sci-fi. There’s a .01% chance that I’m a robot. Or that my entire life is being filmed for a reality TV show that I’m not aware of. Actually, that’s more like a 37% possibility." I get lost in that thought for a second.
"What are you saying?" she asks.
I say, “I’m saying you being a paid actress participating in a bizarre prank on me is more likely than the people at the print shop scanning your body while you use the bathroom.”
Then she got a real worried look on her face. Which means, now *I* have a worried look on my face.
Tough guy in a leather jacket walks into the store, looks around and asks, “Have you seen an Asian kid in here.”
"Yes." I say.
"How long ago?" He asks.
"An hour ago. A half hour ago. Two hours ago. I see a lot of people that fit that description, you’re going to have to be more specific."
He lets out a loud sigh. “An Asian guy who bought something.”
"Sorry, that’s not helpful. What was his name?"
He shakes his head. ”I don’t know his name. He’s Asian and he likes comics.”
"I’d like to think most of the Asian people who shop at this comic book store like comics. There is definitely more than one person who falls into that category."
He sighs. ”He’s Asian.”
"I get that." I say.
"Was he here?"
I shrug. ”Possibly. Is there anything else you can tell me about him?” Don’t say he’s good at math. Don’t say he’s good at math. Please don’t say anything offensive.
"You are NOT helpful." he says. And, hey, at least he didn’t say anything offensive.
"Sorry. If you remember his name, let me know."
"Is it weird that we’re friends and I stumbled on your OKCupid profile? I mean we were kind of a perfect match." He laughs nervously.
President’s Day has been very busy at the store. Having no time to go out and get lunch, I ordered in. Forty-five minutes later, my phone rings. “Hi. Did you order Chinese food?”
Guy: “I’m around the corner.”
Me: “I can’t leave the store.”
Guy: “I can’t come in. Very busy.”
Me: “I ordered food delivered because the store is busy, and I can’t leave the store.”
Guy: “I, too, very busy.”
Me: “Yes, but my job is to be in one place so people can buy things from me, your job is to bring people things.”
Guy: “Can’t —”
Me: “I don’t have time to discuss this. Please just bring me the food I ordered.”
He ended up driving up to the front of the store and I politely asked the regular customer who was looking for Vertigo books not to steal anything while I ran to the front door and grabbed my food.
It was not what I ordered. But I ate it.
"Ultron is a bad villain." He says when he approaches the counter. As no one has asked him his opinion on Ultron or, in fact, anything, I am nervous about our impending interaction. "Have you ever read anything about Ultron?"
"Uh, yes." I admit.
"He’s just a robot who doesn’t do anything. He wants to kill people. that’s stupid. What’s his endgame? In the Avengers Next series, he’s killed most of the humans on Earth but he hasn’t replaced them with robots or anything he’s just killed them. It’s like Gorilla Grod. What’s his endgame? People are monkeys now? Is he lonely? He doesn’t have to wipe out the human race. He can just make a sign that says ‘Who wants to be a hyper-intelligent gorilla? Sign up here.’ and he’ll get people volunteering. Am I right?"
No. Nothing about this conversation is going to go right. I remember you, now. You like to trap comic book employees behind counters and assault them with your opinions for no reason. What’s YOUR endgame? If it’s me wanting to punch you in the face, I’m already approaching the destination.
"But Ultron. I mean—"
"I’m sorry, sir?" I say to one of the bazillion people behind him. People who are here, not to wear me down their moronic theories and negative opinion of every book that’s ever been published or filmed, but people who are here to buy things from me. Things they plan on enjoying. "Let me help you."
My coworker is buying a collection from a man I know from another store. The man selling the collection is on my list of the ten nicest, most patient people I’ve interacted with in the comics world. My coworker is #2 on that same list.
"Are these comics yours?" Annoying Loiterer asks.
"Yes." says Mr. Nice Guy.
"They’re reprints. Worthless."
I sigh. “They are not reprints. They’re comics from the sixties and seventies.”
"How do you know?" AL asks. "They look like reprints to me."
"Because I sold them to him."
My Patient Coworker looks up at me and rolls his eyes. I have never seen him roll his eyes before.
Al casts them a glance.”Well, they’re in perfect shape. They must be worth thousands of dollars. Maybe millions.”
MPC casts him a flammable look. “No, they’re not.” He takes one out of the bag. “See the creases near the spines? The dings on the corner? The circle imprint where someone put their drink down? They are not in perfect shape.”
The man selling them giggles. He did not crease, ding, or rest his drink on these books. They were like that when he bought them, five or six years ago.
AL says “So they’re only worth a couple of hundred dollars.”
"NO." MPC says. "Some aren’t even worth ten dollars."
AL looks at them again. “They must be worth at least a few thousand. You know what I hate? Marvel keeps numbering and renumbering their comics. If they would have just kept their original numberings they’d be in the millions right now.”
I can not let this stand. “No.” I say. “Action comics was the longest running comic. When it stopped a little over a year ago, it was at 904.”
"Right." AL says. "If they hadn’t renumbered them, they’d be in the millions."
"No." I say. "They’d be at 921."
He shakes his head. “They’d be in the millions if they didn’t renumber them.”
"No. Comics come out once a month. That means twelve issues a year. For a comic to reach the million mark it would have to go for over 83,000 years." (I’ve had to do this math for someone before.)
"I want to get my hands on an issue one million. If DC and Marvel would stop renumbering them, I’d have it."
"That’s not true." I say, digging my fingers into my palms. "The first of what are now DC comics came out in 1938. It will be 84,938 before the millionth issue would come out. You will be long dead." And not just because I’m going to kill you in about five minutes.
"But if they hadn’t renum—"
"Renumbering has nothing to do with it." I say. "You will not live until the millionth issue of anything. No one has ever lived a million months. Statistically speaking, it is unlikely that you are going to be the first person who does."
"But if they didn’t renu—"
"NO. You’re wrong." I walk to the other side of the room.
He, of course, follows.
Mr. Nice Guy starts asking me questions about the Young Justice cartoon. A series we both very much enjoy.
"What do you think of the second season?" He asks me. Me.
AL answers. “The animation is fine, but the story arc is stupid. I mean what’s the aliens’ endgame?”
"I like it." I say to Mr. Nice Guy. I am just not going to acknowledge AL for the rest of the day. "I’m sad that it’s almost over."
"Well, they messed up the Martian Manhunter thing." AL says. "He’s the last martian. So why does he have a family? And why are there so many other martians? And what’s with Beast Boy being streamlined into the story? He’s supposed to be from Doom Patrol. They haven’t shown Doom Patrol at all in the series. That’s stupid. They’re telling the story wrong."
My Patient Coworker is standing behind him about to have a seizure.
"Well…" Mr Nice Guy says. To Me. Me. "I don’t know what I’m going to watch when it’s over. They’re ending Green Lantern, too."
"I haven’t seen it." I say, cutting off AL. "How is it?" I ask Mr. Nice Guy. Mr. Nice Guy.
AL says. “It’s stupid. The art is dumb. And Green Lantern spends too much time on Earth. It’s like the movie. Green Lantern on Earth is stupid. he needs space.”
"I liked the movie." Mr. Nice Guy says.
"It’s stupid." AL says, though, no one has asked for his opinion. "Everybody hates it."
I smile. Though I don’t mean it. “Well, he likes it. And he’s the person I asked.”
"And The Watchmen Movie," which absolutely no one has mentioned "was awful, too. It’s a faithful adaptation, but so what. The thing is…"
"What did you like about it?" I ask Mr. Nice Guy.
"It was fun." He says. "It wasn’t great cinema or anything, but it wasn’t horrible."
"It was really bad." AL says.
"I didn’t ask you." I say. I think my tongue is bleeding.
"Okay." My Patient Coworker says to Mr. Nice Guy."I’ve priced up the comics you brought in."
"And it’s in the thousands, right?" AL asks.
"NO." MPC exhales so loud, a seismologist in San Andreas gets nervous. "Let’s go outside." He says to Mr. Nice Guy.
I sneak out from behind the counter to help another customer. Any customer. I am willing to carry their purchase home for them. To walk it home for them, even if they live in Checnya.
"And you know the problem with Wolverine, right?" AL asks.
"Yes." I snap. "I know all about everyone’s problems."
"Well, in the next movie—"
Five minutes later, I come to, in line for a sandwich. I am unsure exactly how I got there. I remember My PatientCoworker coming back into the store at one point, and mentioning the word ‘dinner’.
On my way back to the store, a bus parks at the crosswalk, blocking anyone from crossing across this section of Harvard Square. I fall in the snow, trying to get around it. The woman behind me kicks the bus. An elderly man is shouting at the driver through the closed window.
When I get back to the store it is empty of everyone but My Patient Coworker. “Everyone followed you out.” He says.
I ask only, “Did you kill him?”
And My Patient Coworker smiles in a way I have never seen him smile before. And the music stops. And our store is blissfully, blissfully silent.
Overheard by a very bearded guy in a porkpie hat at the Au Bon Pain:
"I don’t mean to be rude but I don’t want to spend Valentine’s Day with you. I barely know you. We went out once. And you gave me herpes."
A twenty-something girl is smiling and talking with a woman in her fifties. A third girl is standing to her left looking traumatized. “Oh my God.” She says. “I’m having a stroke.”
The twenty-something rolls her eyes and says “You’re not having a stroke. This is my German teacher.”