Grenshaw’s first instinct was to call Mary in and ask her what she knew about GCF Computers. But, truth be told, he was a little paranoid. Could this whole thing be a conspiracy to make him look crazy? Maybe Mary was in on it.
Instead, Grenshaw decided to kick off early that afternoon and swing by the antique plastics shop on the way home. He’d forgotten to tell Tommy to get a new mug for the chef at the Marigold CafÃ©, if Tommy had gone there at all, and he figured he might as well stop in at the plastics store and get himself something. He’d been in a few antiques places recently. They reminded him of his father.
He knew right away the place was a throwback when he opened the door and it sounded a bell – a real bell. A tall, thin woman appeared from a back room. She looked to be in her 60s, and she carried herself with a dignity that further reminded Grenshaw of his father. She said nothing.
“Um,” Grenshaw began, “I’m interested in getting something” – he held up his mug – “to replace this mug.”
She walked wordlessly over to a shelf which housed several plastic bottles, some of which were the kind you would have thrown out back in their day, and some of which were large and durable.
All the merchandise was meticulously organized, each bearing a small, dissolvable sticker with a number scrawled on it. Grenshaw pulled a white, cylindrical container off the shelf and eyed the large number on its sticker. Was that the price?
“How much for this one?” he asked.
She looked at him like he was an idiot. “Sixty two,” she said. Indeed, the number was the price.
Grenshaw turned the mug over in his hands. He remembered these. They were plenty durable. Even in high school, he’d had friends who had owned these mugs. He hadn’t spoken with those people in years.
“Alright,” he said. “I’ll take it.” He’d never have to get another mug after this one. He held up his other mug, considering whether to give it to the chef at the Marigold CafÃ© or to buy a new one. But it occurred to him that since Tommy may not have gone to the Marigold, he might have to do the negotiation himself. Best to have a gift in hand.
“Do you have a means of disposing of my old mug?” he asked the woman.
She took it from him, walked out the front door, and set the mug on the sill of her display window. Grenshaw watched as she returned inside. He was utterly perplexed.
“Will there be anything else?”
Grenshaw was momentarily speechless. “Um, yes,” he said eventually. He pulled a small plastic mug off the shelf, this one more reasonably priced. “This too.”
As the woman walked over to her computer, Grenshaw noticed a small, hunched figure outside. Its face was obscured by a large hat, and it was covered a blue, pillowy jacket. It shuffled by slowly and grabbed the mug off the sill.
“What . . .”
The woman motioned with a finger to her lips. “Shhhh,” she whispered. “Neither one of us saw that.” She rang him up, took his money, and silently walked to the front door, which Grenshaw took to mean “you may leave now.” He felt compelled to say something to her other than “thank you,” something that would prove to him that she was human.
At the door, he noticed the GCF Computers shop across the street. He pointed toward it. “What do you know about that place?”
She shook her head. “I make my living off the past,” she said, “not the future.”
to be continued . . .