28 Nov

Grenshaw and the Monster 6

Grenshaw didn’t sleep well that night. He was a little anxious about stopping at the Marigold Café in the morning to deliver the plastic mug. And since he hadn’t heard from Tommy after their little meeting the previous day, he didn’t know what to expect when he got to the café.

He got up, perused the place for mice, gathered his things, and left.

Traffic was light, as usual; it was early enough that the air was relatively free of floating ads, and the city was quiet. Grenshaw used to love the early morning hours. He remembered once when his father had taken him down to the water to watch the sun rise over the far shore and cast its light upon the skyline. “Each day brings a new decision,” he had said. That was right before the Revolution.

Funny. Grenshaw hadn’t thought of that day for 20 years.

As he was searching his mind for more details of that strange morning long ago, he turned onto 3rd Avenue. Up ahead, he could see the café, and as he got closer, he could make out a small figure in blue walking away from the small diner. It was the same individual he’d seen at the antiques shop.

He accelerated toward the place, hoping to catch up to the mysterious creature, who had turned a corner, out of sight. He sped right past the Marigold towards the intersection, but he could see nothing when he peered down the alley.

Grenshaw doubled back toward the café and hopped off his bike. “Were you just talking to that person in blue?”

The chef squinted at him. “Oh, mornin’, chief,” he smiled. “I knew you’d be back.”

“I’m sorry. Impolite of me. Good morning.”

“You’re referring to the little guy?”


“Calls himself Troll. He was a bit upset.”

“Troll?” Strange name, Grenshaw thought.


“And why was he upset?”

“Well, I used to get my orange juice from him, but now I’m gettin’ it from some other company.”

“He was your supplier?”

“Supplier,” the chef repeated. “Is that what a supplier is?”


The chef looked like he was figuring something out. “Say, chief, you know a lot about this kind of stuff. What is it you do?”

“Um.” Grenshaw wasn’t sure if he should be revealing his identity as the Marigold Café’s new supplier. “My father worked in plastics.”

“That so?”

“Oh, speaking of which” – Grenshaw got out the plastic mug, happy to change the subject – “here’s a replacement mug for the one you gave me yesterday.”

“Well how about that.” The chef held up the plastic relic. “That’s real nice, chief. Say, you want another orange juice today? Price reduced.”

“Price reduced?”

“Yep. I like to pass the savings on to the customers, you know?”

Grenshaw furrowed his brow.

“Not the way your pa would have run things, is it?”

Grenshaw didn’t answer.

to be continued . . .

26 Nov

Grenshaw and the Monster 5

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 Café, 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 Café 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 . . .

24 Nov

Grenshaw and the Monster 4

When he got to the office, he parked his bike next to a newsstand, where some guy was selling daily downloads and stock reports. Grenshaw bought a stock report and scanned it on the elevator. Orange juice was doing well. Which meant the company was doing well, and he was doing well.

And so, Grenshaw had a smile on his face when he stepped through his office door and found Tommy standing at the window. “Tommy,” he said, wondering what the intern was doing in his office. He couldn’t imagine that Mary would have allowed him to just walk in. “What are you doing here?” he asked, not bothering to hide his annoyance.

“Hi, sir. I just wanted to talk with you quickly before I go.”

“Go?” Was Tommy quitting?

“Yes, sir, to the Marigold Café?”

“Oh, right.” Grenshaw pulled out a chair and motioned for Tommy to sit in it.

Tommy declined.

“Is this about adding the café to our account?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Look, Tommy, I know this sort of thing may seem a little, I don’t know, ruthless?” He looked at Tommy to register his reaction. He couldn’t discern much. Tommy’s expression was blank. Grenshaw decided to change his strategy. “Tommy, back in the day, when my dad was working in plastics.”

“Your dad worked in plastics?” Most people were impressed by this fact.

“Yes.” Grenshaw took a second to soak up the admiration. “When he was working in plastics, it was everywhere. There was plastic in computers, there was plastic in shoes. It was in bikes, in chairs, in pencils. You’d buy a meal and you’d get plastic utensils and plastic dishes. You’d buy a toy for your nephew; it would be plastic, and it would come in a plastic container. In fact, everything came in plastic containers: candy, paper, clean water. And after you opened it up, you’d throw away the plastic.”

Tommy was listening intently.

“You’d throw the plastic away, and then you’d put it into a plastic bag in a plastic trash can.” Grenshaw walked to the window and peered down at the streets below. “You could really make some money back then.” Behind him, Grenshaw heard a woman clearing her throat. It was Mary.

She was standing in the doorway. “Everything alright, Mr. Grenshaw?”

“Of course,” he said, wondering why she was asking.

“Okay.” She looked perplexed.

Grenshaw tried to regain his train of thought as he turned toward Tommy, but when he discovered his office empty, he completely lost track of what he’d been saying. “Tommy?” he said quietly.

Outside his window, a video advertisement floated by. He heard a woman’s voice saying, “Have you been experiencing mood swings? Find yourself confused recently?” Alarmed, Grenshaw gazed at the ad. Tommy’s disappearance, the eyes in the alley, and now this ad, pinpointing his exact emotions – it was all too coincidental.

The woman winked. “Get your life right.” She smiled. “GCF Computers. Powered by the state of your mind.”

to be continued . . .

22 Nov

Grenshaw and the Monster 3

When Grenshaw got to his bike, he poured the juice in immediately. He got on his phone and dialed his secretary. “Mary. Grenshaw. Listen, put the intern on the phone.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Grenshaw,” Mary said. He waited for a half a minute and then heard Mary say, “Here he is, Mr. Grenshaw.”

“Hello?” A young man now spoke.


“It’s Thomas, sir.”

“Right. Listen, I need you to do something for me right away. I need you to find out who supplies Marigold Café with its orange juice.”

“Marigold Café. Okay. Where is that?”

“It’s on Third and Prospect. You writing this down?”

“Yes, sir. Marigold Café. Third and Prospect.”

“Yeah. Find out their supplier and then underbid them.”

“Underbid them?”

“Yeah, Tommy. The idea is to get a corner on the market. We underbid the competition, lose some money in the short run, but then we can jack up prices later.”

“I see, sir. I’ll get right on it.”

Grenshaw started up his bike and hopped on. The motor purred, and as the scent of orange juice filled the air, he took in his surroundings. This was the nice section of town, lined with expensive boutiques and restaurants. Next to the French restaurant he’d eaten at the previous night was an antique plastics shop. It advertised Tupperware in its windows. Next to that was a high-end computer store, selling wireless, glass computers and bearing the slogan, “Powered by your state of mind.”

Grenshaw took a deep breath. Today would be a good day, he decided. As he was about to pull out in to the street, he noticed the mug he’d gotten from Marigold Café lying on the ground next to his bike. It wouldn’t have taken much to get off his bike and pick up the mug, but he didn’t want to put forth the effort.

As he pulled away, he knocked the mug over. It broke.

He pulled out into the street and did a u-turn, pointing his bike toward the office and making a mental note to tell Tommy to take a new mug to the Marigold Café. As he drove off, he looked over his shoulder at the broken shards of the mug, but they were nowhere in sight. “That’s some efficient anti-litter technology,” he said to himself.

For some reason, he started thinking about the glowing pair of eyes he’d seen in the alley the night before.

to be continued. . .

20 Nov

Grenshaw and the Monster 2

That night, Grenshaw dreamed that he was in the Christmas day parade. As one of the most successful businessmen in the area, he could probably count on an invitation to the fast-approaching event; in that sense, his dream was realistic. However, he was riding an elephant, an unlikely scenario he recognized even in his dreaming: from his perch atop the elephant, he looked down, waving at the crowd and saying, “Well, this is hard to believe.”

The small people on the sidewalks below him looked horrified. “What did he say?” they asked each other. Grenshaw couldn’t make out what they were talking about, but he could hear their mutterings rise in volume and in irritation. Soon, one of them shouted, “Let’s do it!” And with that, the crowds stormed into the street, lifted up Grenshaw’s elephant, and carried the beast like ants carry away crumbs of food.

They carried Grenshaw and his elephants through the streets aimlessly, turning right then left, doubling back, crossing medians, venturing into dead end alleyways. Then they ventured to the water’s edge, and one of the little people shouted, “Let’s throw him in!” The crowd responded with a cheer.

Grenshaw woke up.

He sat up in bed and watched as mice scurried across the floor to hide in corners, under furniture, and God knows where else. There must have been fifteen of them. Most expensive condo in the downtown area and he had mice! How they could have gotten in or what they could be eating he had no idea. He did most of his eating at restaurants or at the office; he barely had a crumb in his kitchen.

With that thought in mind, Grenshaw decided to head out for breakfast. He left a note with the building manager, saying he expected the mouse problem to be solved by the evening, and he set out walking toward Nouveau Au Jous, the expensive restaurant where he had run out of juice the previous night.

On his way, he passed the alley where he had seen the glowing eyes. He glanced into it, wondering if he’d see the eyes again, but this time, all he saw were mice.

The smell of eggs and bacon coming from a breakfast diner down the street tore Grenshaw’s attention away from the alleyway. He followed his nose and grabbed a stool at the street bar. He ordered a sandwich and watched the bearded chef throw his food on the griddle. “You want something to drink?” the chef asked.

“Sure,” Grenshaw said. “What do you have?”

“We got fortified water, clean water, dirty water, coffee, and orange juice.”

Grenshaw “You’ve got orange juice?”

“We sure do, chief.”

“Who’s your supplier?” Grenshaw thought he had at least the city market.

“Who’s my what?”

“Nevermind. I’ll take a large juice to go.”

“Sure thing, chief. You got a mug?”

Grenshaw had left his mug with his bike. “Uh, no. I don’t. You got a ceramic one I can buy from you?”

The chef sized Grenshaw up. “Tell you what. You bring this one back to me tomorrow. How’s that sound, chief?”

“Sounds great.”

to be continued . . .