“Hello? Is anybody here?”
Behind me the door clicked heavily shut. The velvet curtains rustled as they fell back into place, blocking all natural light. I stood for a moment and let my eyes adjust to the gloom. When they did, I could see that the shop, or “shoppe” as the sign had proclaimed it, was spacious and well-appointed, with a wide array of merchandise. It was, however, completely empty and rather shadowy.
An old-fashioned bell sat on the counter. The sign beside it read “Ring Bell to be Serviced.”
“Oh this won’t do at all,” I muttered, giving the bell a vigorous ring.
Before the metallic ringing had faded, the curtain behind the counter was swept aside and a tall, aristocratic figure stood before me. He was as out of place in the shopping complex as his shoppe, but the smile he gave on seeing me seemed genuine, if tight-lipped.
“Yes?” His voice was deep, cultured, and carried a faint accent.
“Good afternoon. I realize that it is not really any of my business, but– Let me begin again. I walk past this shopping complex every day on my way to class, and-”
“Ah, you are a teacher!”
“A professor, yes. In any case, I walk past this shopping area every day, well, five days a week. I’ve gotten used to the ‘Kum’n’Go,’ much as I hate it, and the ‘Stop’n’Shop’ was pretty easy, really, but in your case…”
I trailed off, looking into the case in front of me for the first time. Was that a lancet? Why would it be, nestled next to a leather-bound book?
I began again. “I presume that this is some sort of novelty and/or gift shop?”
“You presume! And/or!” The humor in the proprietor’s voice was evident.
“Your precision declares your specialty. You’re a grammarian, yes?”
When I answered, “Not so much a grammarian per se as–” he laughed aloud.
“And you would have the world follow your precise, dependable rules, yes? It must frustrate you terribly when it doesn’t? You see my shop, it seems to be in order, and while you don’t know quite what I sell here, my sign offends you. You see, I wish to give people a chance–”
“Not the sign!” I blurted out. He raised one eyebrow at the interruption. I pushed on. “It isn’t the damn sign, and you know it. It’s the apostrophe.”
When he simply smiled tightly, I pushed on. “Sir, forgive me, but your command of the language is clearly superior. However, just as clearly, your speech carries just the hint of an accent, and so you may not know what your sign implies, as it is currently constructed.”
Vaulting the counter with ease, the proprietor was beside me in a flash.
“I assure you in return, sir,” he whispered, his tongue flicking out to wet my neck before he plunged his fangs into it, “My sign says nothing more than the literal truth.”
(c) Greg Beatty, All Rights Reserved