How should i shop? I observe the other patrons:
A tall skinny white left-handed short-brown-haired post-teen with no piercings and no scars but torn complicated clothing and semi-full lips and narrow cheeks and tall forehead and no cosmetics and hazel eyes and sandals and not much facial or other expressions and ambiguous gender and so forth is introverting around a display of obsolete toy horses. They can't walk or neigh. I introvert around some things, furtively observing the next patron:
An erect poodle with prehensile fingers and no fur and a variety of tattoos and no clothing but with a purse or bag of green faux-leather is forming shapes in a deep red drawing pool – little human faces in various expressions, silhouettes, each fading after a few minutes. Its expression is unreadable to me. When its finger traces out my profile in the pool i turn away. Who else to observe?
A medium-height magenta-mottled middle-aged bald man with no glasses mingles his fingers with the waters of the silverfish tank. Other than that he appears to be asleep.
The patrons do not seem to be a talkative bunch. I should shop with a neutral expression and with various untalkative characteristics. I wonder if that's bad for the fish.
A plastic telephone next to me rings. It rings. It rings. The tall skinny etc post-teen gives me an annoyed look; i answer the phone: “Hello?”
“I need to meet you – what's your name? – never mind I'll just call you Spanakopita – ”
“ – okay Span here's the plan in two hours I'll meet you at the gelatin museum (that's two blocks up) and we can talk on the tour. I won't know you so you'll have to introduce yourself and convince me to go with you – tell me it's about the 'O' word if I hesitate and try not to look too freaky or you might scare me off and it's of paramount importance that we – shit, they're coming...” The phone clicked, then fell silent.
Two blocks in two hours. One block per hour.
On the one hand, perhaps I should not follow the instructions of mysterious voices coming from plastic toy phones. On the other hand, i did chose to go down this street, and i should meet the responsibilities inherent in such a choice so i can look my grandchildren in the eye many years from now while lecturing them on personal responsibility.
When is two hours. When is now? I dig through a bin: Mickey-Mouse watch with one bent arm; egg timer; hourglass – tempting, but you have to pay attention; electromechanical clock with a steel ball that rolls along and flips numbers, no batteries; hour-candles with matching matches; magic flute, marked “as is – frequently sleeps in”. Then at the bottom, a sundial.
Anything else? I glance around – Loch Lemon pie mix; prim-mouthed rag dolls; tiny life-like metal figurines, of dogs and people and various alien or unfamiliar species, tapeworms and viruses and giraffes and sponges, Neanderthals and black widows and coelacanths and lemmings, squat and tall scary things, Venus fly traps and Venus flies, tortoises and porpoises and blue whales and Portuguese men-of-war, lemurs and trilobites and a crystalline heap, mud sharks and a spherical haze of finely spun metal threads. I take that one, wondering what the metal is, and approach the register.
Behind the register is the greasy unkempt top of a head. I drop my sphere and sundial on the counter a little louder than necessary.
“Hold on!” The head ducks down out of sight. Gurgling sounds, then swishing, then faint roaring, all for several minutes. I hold on.
The top of kempt and silky-soft head is visible behind the register. A pale arm reaches up and pushes the keys of the mechanical register, then pulls a lever. Numbers spin, settle: 030. I hesitate, then hand over a credit card.
A voice mumbles beneath the hair, “Titanium yeh... Olympium... Godsium... Brahmium... Coyoteum... ehm.”
The card reappears without any swiping noises. A receipt joins it:
I peer out the door – up – down – across – around – no snickering porpoise. I cross the street and sit at a small rickety table outside a food and beverageary. Nobody appears, once, then several times. My sundial is set to 'now'. I turn it slightly forward and the world grows bright and hazy, swift-moving indistinct forms appearing and disappearing. The sundial ticks down slowly to the 'now' setting like an egg timer, then dings. A waiter is waiting.
I wait. He waits. I request a menu. He nods toward a rack by the door that has several.