Exchanges, No Refunds
by Sandra M. Odell
"They wash ashore like moonbeams. I bring them in and lay them out to dry," the old man said from his stool behind the counter. The words lingered with hints of Latakia blend pipe tobacco. Dull yellow whiskers circled his mouth, those on his cheeks coarse and white. "Sometimes they're so tangled up it takes months to straighten them out. Folks should take better care of how they relationshipize. There's only so many to go around, you know?"
A middle-aged couple, her eyes soft and gray, his intense and brown. She frowned. He nodded. "We're looking for something different. Special," he said.
"Take your time," the old man said, and returned to cleaning his pipe.
Hand in hand, the couple browsed garters hung in colorful rows between displays of Pocky and salt-crusted hula dolls on weak springs. He pulled a strand from the display, blue with hints of summer sunlight--"I like this one."--and brought it to the counter, the middle-aged woman in tow.
"All righty. We don't take plastic, Mister. Cash in hand or nothing."
"Oh. Sorry about that." He pulled a crisp green fold out of his wallet.
The old man took the money. "Wanna check the fit?"
"Nah, it'll be fine," he said.
And lowered her eyes.
"Suit yourself." The proprietor cut the tag.