The “A” Shelves

For @inventrix’s commissioned continuation of

The tension in the store was thick and uncomfortable. Jordan was unhappy, and Mrs. Gent was getting back-straight and glowering, like our neighbor down the street that liked to count heads as we left and frown at the number of people who lived in our three-bedroom house.

I didn’t know what to do about it, either. Jordan was in charge of smoothing situations over. I was pretty good at putting my foot in it, but that was about it. Making it better generally involved lots of apologies. I didn’t think I had anything to apologize for, but it was worth a try, wasn’t it?

“I’m sor-”

The floor shook, the items on the shelves rattling. “Oh, dear,” Mrs. Gent frowned. “This is not a very good time.” She turned towards me and Jordan with a careful smile. “If you two could take your lemonade and go into the aisle labelled ‘A,’ please? I think that would be the safest place.”

“Safest?” Jordan snapped, but I wasn’t in the mood to argue anymore. I picked up my tea.

“A is which way?” I asked, talking over whatever Jordan was going to say next.

“That way, thank you,” Mrs. Gent gestured. “Past the radios and behind the coffee makers.”

“Thanks,” I said, laying it on maybe a little thick. “Come on, Jordan, you heard the lady.” Past the radios, that was easy, and we turned left, following her gesture, to find another row of shelves at a right angle to the first set. Candelabras, squiggle-circle-dot-squiggle (looked like fancier, smaller candelabras), 15849(23-09) (looked like long pieces of steel in various shapes and sizes)… there were coffee makers, although they were labelled in French. Close enough!

We headed “behind” that shelf, which meant around, and there indeed was another aisle labelled “A,” appearing to be at right angles to le cafe makier shelf.

“A” seemed to start with a stack of abaci, from bright children’s beaded toys – we should get one of those, I thought, for the beansprout at home – to ancient-looking counting racks with characters painted on the beads. Then were adzes, many of them looking practically stone-age, hung on a rack with their sharp edges dangling free.

The building shook again there, and, as all those cutting edges swayed near us, I wondered a bit at Mrs. Gent’s definition of “safe.” We had, after all, gotten her sort of annoyed.

Jordan seemed barely fazed, staring at a single acorn, packaged as if it were something really expensive, nestled in azure silk in a maple-bole box and placed between stacks of katana. “What is this place?”

“It’s Mr. Ting’s,” I answered helpfully. It wasn’t the altimeters that were getting me, it was the collection of vases labelled “ἀγγείον.” “And they figure the alphabet differently here.”

“They figure lots of alphabets, I’d guess,” she murmured, picking a narrow box off the shelf. It was rusted on the corners, but a pin-up painting of something with more tentacles than body was still clear and bright on its cover. “And… lots of different clients, too.”


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6 thoughts on “The “A” Shelves

  1. 🙂 The acorn made it in! 🙂 And yeah, interesting definition of safety (that or they really don’t want to know what’s out in the main area).

  2. Mrs. Gent was getting back-straight and glowering, like our neighbor down the street Sitting? P.S. I think that their lemonade turned into tea somewhere…

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