24 April 2009

"Customer Surface"

By Curtis C. Chen

"Next in line!"

Scott stepped up and fumbled with his plastic bag. The woman behind the counter watched as he extricated the box and his receipt. Her name tag said "Mildred."

"Reason for return?" Mildred asked.

"Actually, I'd just like to exchange it," Scott said.

"What's wrong with it?"

"It's a time-blade."

Mildred turned to look at him. "Excuse me?"

"It must have been packaged wrong," Scott said. "Or just bad quality control. Anyhow, I'd like to exchange it."

"We don't carry time-blades," Mildred said.

"I know," Scott said, wondering why he felt like he had to apologise. "That's why it's a mistake. I just need a regular ritual knife. Something low-energy."

Mildred picked up the box. "This package has been opened."

"Yes," Scott said. "That's how I found out it was a time-blade instead of an athame."

"I'll need to check the lot numbers," Mildred said, and opened the box.

Scott folded his arms and tapped one foot, hoping he looked impatient instead of nervous. Mildred pulled out the knife and turned it over.

"Sir," she said, "this blade has been inscribed."

Scott leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. "Yes, I realised it was a time-blade when the raven-claw tip in my engraving pen turned to dust halfway through the inscription. You should be glad I'm not suing your store for selling faulty merchandise."

Mildred said, "I'm sorry, sir, we cannot accept damaged, altered, or hexed merchandise for return or exchange. It's store policy."

"Well, I want to talk to your supervisor," Scott said.

Without taking her eyes off him, Mildred extended one arm and tugged on a rope which hung from the ceiling. Somewhere above them, a bell gonged.

The air behind Mildred shimmered, and a stocky man materialised. His name tag read "Barry."

"What's going on?" Barry said.

Mildred said, "This gentleman wants to exchange some merchandise." She held up the knife.

Barry squinted at it. "Is that an inscription?"

"Yes," Mildred said, and repeated Scott's story. She got all the details right.

When she finished, Barry looked at Scott and said, "Sorry, sir, but like she said, it's company policy. Nothing I can do."

Scott nodded. "Then I want to speak to your supervisor."

"I'm the store manager," Barry said. "You'd have to write to Corporate."

"Fine. Give me the address," Scott said.

Mildred stepped out of the way while Barry used her terminal and scribbled the information on a notepad. He tore off the parchment and handed it to Scott.

"Thank you," Scott said, his hands shaking as he gathered up everything he had placed on the counter. He turned and walked away quickly.

Five minutes later, Scott parked his car at the kebab joint down the street and walked in. He found the booth where Dana was still nursing her giant soft drink and slid the sheet of parchment across the table.

Dana pulled a scroll from her handbag and laid it flat on the table next to the parchment.

"Perfect match," she said, smiling.



Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting, and fairly well written, but I don't think the story is well-suited to flash fiction format. Maybe it's because I don't know anything about Veronica Mars, but there's not enough context here for me to understand the final moment, besides that something important has happened.

Unknown said...

Plot keywords for "Veronica Mars:" private detective, high school student, friendship, teen, spy.

Also, handwriting analysis.Does that help?