Thursday, August 14, 2008

Prone To Breakage

The following story is inspired by the following writing exercise found on Aimee Bender's website:
For a group; 3 or more is best.
On a scrap of paper, write down an occupation. On a second scrap of paper, write down a kind of store. Pass the occupation to the person at your left; pass the store type to the person at your right. You will end up with two scraps, by two different people.
Then, in a couple of pages, explain why this person is at this store, and describe the small event that happens while the person is there. Use the store.

In my writers' group, I was given the profession "philosopher" and the setting "antique hardware store." What follows is my attempt to do this prompt while remaining true to the theme of this blog.

     “So now you’re a philosopher,” I snap as I finger a tiny brass hammer the size of my palm. “Good for you.”
     He sighs and takes the hammer from me. He squints against the dim light and reads the tiny ticket attached to the hammer. The tag flutters against the wind emitted by a small albeit well-placed fan hidden in the corner of the store, and it takes him longer than normal to decipher its inscription. “This is from 1927,” he scolds, “treat it with delicacy.” He nods towards a sign posted high to our right as he gently returns the hammer back to its home.
     I look up at the aforementioned warning framed in what is likely an antique frame above what is likely an antique cash register. Please be delicate, objects are prone to breakage, it cautions, the fancier version of “you break you buy.” The words themselves are printed in a jarringly modern font, and I feel that the sign would be much more appropriate had someone written that warning by hand, or even better, with carefully elegant calligraphy. Below the admonition and behind the register stands an elderly woman with curly blue hair and frosted white tips. She’s likely older than half the antiques in this dump.
     This thought causes me to laugh; I accidentally snort a whiff of dust and sneeze three short expulsions in a row.
     “I hate this stupid store,” I complain as I wipe my nose with the back of my hand. “It only has antique hardware, nothing interesting. And it’s dusty.” I glare at the elderly woman, she is too busy polishing a nail longer than my middle finger to pay me any heed.
     He, too, isn’t listening to me. Instead, he runs his hand through a dark wooden box of screws, smiling absently as if he’s massaging a bag of smooth pebbles and not sharp metal points.
     Frustrated, I look out the store’s finger-print laden windows and watch as two of our fellow tourists walk hand in hand towards the beautiful beach that makes this patch of coast such a desirable vacation destination. We had taken this three-day holiday to work out our relationship kinks, not shop for unusable and therefore useless paraphernalia. The fact that there is even a market for tools that are “prone to breakage” depresses me. I again curse the hotel staff for recommending antique shopping as a suitable weekend excursion.
     “I’m just saying,” he continues as I follow him over to a table covered with old measuring tapes. These twines are not made out of plastic like the measurements of today, but soft materials like felt; one particular piece feels like velvet. I wind the faux-velvet rope between my fingers like a boxer getting ready for a match. “I think some people aren’t meant for long-term monogamy.”
     “And you got this from reading some Kafka and one book on basic philosophy?” I mime a jab and imagine the crowd roaring in approval.
     He rolls his eyes and takes my hand. Gently, he unwinds the tape and places it back on the table.
     “I was just thinking out loud,” he says with a shrug of his shoulders. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
     “I hate this place, it’s gross, let’s leave,” I reply. This time, the blue-haired woman does hear me. Off his embarrassed glare, I, too, shrug. “I’m just thinking out loud.”
     Quickly, we exit the antique hardware store. When we are outside, he turns left and I go right. It takes longer than I’d like for me to realize we aren’t walking together.

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