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.”
A wizened man shuffles down the stairs, places his umbrella in our conveniently labeled Umbrella Box and says “Hi, I’m Peter.”
I smile. “Hi, Peter. I’m Adam.”
He sighs. “I’m Peter.”
I smile. “And I’m Adam. How can I help you?”
He sighs again. Sighing is usually my job. “I’m Peter. I’m here to pick up my DVDs.”
I ruffle through our special order box. “I’m sorry.” I say. “I don’t have a bag for Peter. Also, we don’t usually carry DVDs. What did you order?”
He sigh again. “Arched. It’s for my nephew. I called five minutes ago to make sure it would be ready, I’m in a hurry.”
I shrug. “I’m sorry.” I say. “But you didn’t call me. I think you’re in the wrong store. Are you looking for—”
He sighs again, which is not annoying at all. “I am not in the wrong store. I called a few minutes ago and talked to Mark. He told me they’d be behind the counter.”
"I’m sorry. There’s no one named Mark here. And, as you can see, I’m the only one working here." I say.
"Well, maybe he’s new, but I definitely talked to Mark and he said my Arched DVDs would be here." He huffs. This is the first time I’ve heard someone legitimately huff since I was a child.
"Sir, there are five of us who work here. There is no one named Mark. There is a Mike, but he isn’t here today. There is a Matt who works at Comic Book Store Around The Corner. Would you like me to call and see if that’s where your DVDs are?" I am certain my conversation with Matt would be Gold.
"I DIDN’T TALK TO MATT, I TALKED TO MARK."
"I’m sorry." I say. "There is no Mark here. And no DVDs. We sell mostly comics and a few action figures and t-shirts."
"I KNOW WHAT YOU SELL. I’m getting impatient." A destination he arrived at several sentences ago. "Did you sell my DVDs to someone else?"
I sigh. Because it is my turn. “Sir. You are in The Wrong Store.” I hand him one of our business cards. “Are you looking for Yet Another Comic Book Store? I would be happy to give you dir—”
"I AM NOT LOOKING FOR ANOTHER STORE. THIS IS THE STORE I ORDER MY DVDS FROM."
I shrug. “I don’t know what to tell you. We don’t sell DVDs.”
"Well, I used to get them from your Alewife store, but that shut down."
Ahhh. “Sir, that’s Not Us. The store you’re looking for is about a block away. Would you like me to call them and see if—”
"I’M NOT IN THE WRONG STORE! YOU’RE IN THE WRONG STORE!" and he stomps up the stairs in stark contrast with his shuffle down.
"Sir." I say.
"WHAT?" he yells down the stairs.
"You left your umbrella."
Well, it is raining today.