I gritted my teeth. “Come ON damn you!” It was an ugly scene…and getting worse by the second.
The first I knew there were any witnesses was when I heard, “Excuse me, is this for sale?”
Startled, I looked up at the customer over my glasses. Everything is for sale if the price is right…but she was holding up a half-roll of paper towels she’d picked up off our sink and I couldn’t grock why. Coming to an art store to find just the right half-used roll of paper towels just didn’t make sense to me.
The situation was already awkward. As is my habit when we aren’t busy I’d been tinkering on things at my worktable in the back of the shop.
I hadn’t heard her come in. I really need to get me a bell. Well, ANOTHER bell that is. Somebody bought the one I was gonna put up. AND the one before that. The art they glance over without pause, but I can’t keep the darn bells in stock!
I mentioned awkward? Yeah, well, the thing I was tinkering on was one of those 4′ tall wire/lighted animated Christmas reindeer decorations. The wife had me putting a couple out near the front of the store but the words “some assembly required” were mucking things up.
The manufacturers had been REALLY clever in packaging it and I had to extract the stupid thing from a box about the size my corn-flakes come in. The good smashing it had achieved sometime in it’s journey from the north pole (via China) only made it more interesting.
The deer-thing was being finicky about going together…especially the rod that hooked to the little motor that animated it’s head so it could swing back and forth in a very unconvincing and zombie-like manner.
Since the motor was basically deep in it’s body cavity, me and said reindeer were getting VERY familiar.
The customer with the paper-towels had caught me hunched over the reindeer, screwdriver in mouth, my hand (my entire arm really, clear up past the elbow) shoved up the hapless reindeer’s butt trying to attach the stupid rod to the motor.
Since I ALMOST had it hooked up and was moving it this way and that to get it to mesh on the motor shaft, the poor reindeer-thing’s head was rapidly waggling back and forth.
“Come ON damn you!” It really came out more like “MMMMonOn am ooo!” since I had a screwdriver in my mouth.
[enter said customer]
Yeah, it didn’t look good.
I was thankful it the deer thing wasn’t squeaking. There are probably laws in this town about stuff like this.
The customer looked at me looking at her over my glasses. A moment…frozen in time.
The tableau broke. The reindeer’s head swiveled to look at her. I’m pretty sure it said in a tiny, barely audible voice, “Please help me!”
I suddenly felt the need for a shower.
Irrationally, I hoped she didn’t notice where I had stuck my arm. I’m pretty sure I blushed.
My other arm was occupied trying to keep the spindly legs attached so the entire thing (myself included) didn’t take a tumble off the table.
I spit out the screwdriver. We all watched it clatter across the table. I’m pretty sure the reindeer sighed in relief.
“Paper towels? You want to buy a half-roll of paper towels?”
“Yes please. I’ll give you five bucks for them.”
It’s an art store…and I had the momentarily funny and completely depressing thought that maybe the half roll of towels (with a little water damage on the bottom end that was sitting on the counter) was being mistaken for a piece of art. I can see it now; “‘Small town contemporary consumable’ art genre discovered right here in Clarksville, Texas.”
I had abandoned my “attach the damn rod” mission and was unobtrusively trying to extract my arm from the reindeer’s butt. It seemed to be firmly stuck though. Every time I pulled on my arm his head turned violently to the right and bounced off the stops to swing back around and desperately look at the woman. Yes, we were VERY familiar. He really didn’t seem to be having a good time though.
Since I couldn’t point I sort of motioned toward the back of the store with my head, “Five bucks will buy a LOT of paper towels at the Family Dollar store just one block that-a-way.” The deer swung his head to look intently at the back of the store, then swiveled back to stare at the woman. I think he mouthed, “please…”
My arm was still stuck.
“Please. I’m desperate. Ten bucks!”
Now, as much as the mercenary capitalist in me would LOVE to sell half rolls of paper towels for ten bucks (2000% markup?), it’s just not in me to rip folks off or take advantage.
“Situation in the car. You don’t want to know. Please?”
I’m pretty sure she was right…any “in-car” situation that would make somebody dash into the nearest art store and offer to pay ten bucks for half a roll of paper towels is probably something I don’t want to know about. I had my own problems anyway…rod be damned…I really wanted my arm freed. There are situations a man shouldn’t tolerate for long…and being elbow deep in a reindeer butt (even a wire sculpture reindeer butt) in front of a lady is one of them.
“Take ’em. On the house.”
She sprinted out of the store throwing a “Thank you” over her shoulder.
It took all my strength to bend that spindly wire reindeer to a point where the motor arm would attach. Finally his head quit swinging wildly and with a little more force I could extract my arm from its butt.
I’ve named him Abner Hanks Belo for my own reasons.
Today, until well forgotten, will always be known as the day I did rectal brain surgery on a wire reindeer. Truth is he needed it though.
AHBelo stands guard at the front door of the store for now…thankfully disarmed…his body and antlers lit beautifully and his head swinging slow and zombie-like back and forth. He seems happy enough despite being thoroughly violated…”oblivious” may be a better word. I keep expecting him to cut and run when I walk by.
I have this urge to hum the theme from “Deliverance”. For some reason my fingers are all tingly…
It’s time to close…and I lock up with some relief. I really feel the need for that shower now…and perhaps a bottle of whiskey. And maybe some bleach.