Tag Archive | character: mrting

What You Need

For @inventrix’s commissioned continuation of

Part 7-7.5 of 7.5

Mr. Ting was beginning to creep me out and, what was more, I was worried Mt. Jordan was going to blow any minute now. “We really need an AC unit,” I put in, trying not to stare at the silver whatsits. Or the tin with the tentacle thing on it. “An air conditioner. We have a kid at home, and cats and rats…”

“Already taken care of.” He smiled benevolently at us. “A new unit has been delivered to your doorstep. What is more, in your absence, Ashton and Taylor are installing it – and cleaning the window.”

Jordan stared at him. “You can’t know that.”

“Aaah. That may be. But what also is, is that I do know it. And when you return home, you will see that these things have happened.” He patted Jordan’s shoulder, and somehow came back with all his fingers. “And that is all right. But that is only what your household needed, no? That is not what the two of you, what J.J .and Jordan, and J.J.-and-Jordan, need, is it?”

“There is no J.J.-and-Jordan,” we both said hurriedly. The tiny man only smiled.

“There may not be a romantic relationship. You do not look at each other as if you are having a romance. But you are here together because there is a together, no? You are living in your house of complications because there is a friendship, a something-more?”

We shared a look, and it was Jordan who looked away, but me who spoke.

“There’s an us, like that,” I agreed. “Friends. Just… just friends.”

“Indeed,” he smirked. “‘Just’ friends. It is a good thing to have, ‘just’ friends, like Mrs. Gent and I. And do you believe me, J.J.?”

Did I believe him? That was a very good question. “It seemed ridiculous. It seems unbelievable. Far-fetched, at the very least – Ashton setting up anything?” I smirked at him. “Compared to that, you psychically delivering an AC to our house seems entirely reasonable.”

He bowed, like the stereotype that had been in my mind when I first walked in here. “Then allow Mr. Ting to continue to provide what you need.”

“What will it cost us?” Jordan asked again, a little less sharply.

He shook his head, and patted her shoulder again. “Mr. Ting sometimes needs things too. Actual things, mind you. Radios. Cathelyubra. Paperwork. You will come across something that it will look like the store could use. That’s the cost.”

“That’s it?” That was me, this time. “For the AC?”

“The Air Conditioner – that, your roommates paid for in cash and a third of a chocolate cake. It was a very good cake. No, you will bring things back to the store in payment for what I will give you now.”

That sounded ominous. More ominous was the sound of the building shaking and thudding again. A shelf twisted and turned, and we were on the section labeled “P.”

“You will need these.” He passed us each a rucksack that seemed loaded to the top. “And here is your exit.”

“Thank you?” I had turned to put on my backpack, and when I turned back, the little man was gone and in his place was the exit. “Well.”

“Well.” Jordan looked at me, looked at the door, and walked through. “Let’s go… oh.”

“Oh?” I’d followed her through, on her heels like always; now she stepped aside so I could see.

See the island we were suddenly standing on, see the stream meandering through, the grass purple, the water green. See the string of islands off the shore to the left, at least thirteen of them. See the creature fishing the stream, holding the pole in two of its fourteen feet.

See the door behind us close, just in time to hear it click and watch it vanish.

“…Oh.” I tried to pretend I wasn’t excited, and hoped Jordan would forgive me for this new quest.


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About the Want

For @inventrix’s commissioned continuation of

Part 6 of 7.5

“You have quite a bit of interesting stuff here,” I countered. “I mean… stuff I’ve never seen before. Languages I’ve never seen before.”

“That is because, my dear, you have never traveled, have you?”

“I went to Michigan on vacation once,” I offered defensively, “and I’ve seen Niagara Falls from the Canadian side.”

“That doesn’t count,” Jordan poo-pooed. “That’s a day trip.”

“You have, I think, seen a great deal where you are. But you long to see wilder things, things that are not so… what is the word?”

“Mundane,” I answered, suddenly tired of it all. “Dirty. Routine.”

Jordan was looking at me strangely. “We have a house. We live with four other adults, two cats, three rats, and a toddler. Three of the adults are in a love triangle, one of them is a performance artist, one is insane, and three of them change gender presentation depending on the day. You work in a museum. Last weekend, we went urban spelunking in the old mental ward. What is routine about your life?”

“We never go anywhere!” I was aware, on some level, that I was having this argument, this argument I’d carefully been not having for years, in front of a complete stranger. But it had been a damn long day, and the argument had been a damn long time in coming.

“We have responsibilities!” Jordan shouted back at me. “We have things we have to do, JJ, and we can’t just be like Ashton and hare off whenever we want to!”

“Why not? Ashton does fine!”

“Because Ashton doesn’t get anything done that needs to get done! Ash isn’t here looking for an AC, Ash wasn’t getting the groceries last week, Ash wasn’t fixing the porch. Face it, JJ, it’s you and me when it comes to being grown-ups, and if you bail on me I’m never going to forgive you!”

“Toni buys groceries,” I offered weakly.

“Toni has a child to feed. You know, it’s not that I don’t want to travel, J.J. I’d love to see Paris. I’ve been saving up for years. But someone has to clean the shit stains out of the toilet. Someone has to be an adult. And I wish for once it was someone other than me…. ma and you.” The last bit was gentle, and a little bit guilty-sounding. I didn’t complain. I tried to be a grown-up, but Jordan seemed to have been born knowing how to do it.

“Mr. Ting knows what you need,” the small man said quietly. “Now, the question becomes… will you take what you need from Mr. Ting’s store? And can I provide it?”

“And can we afford it?” Jordan added bitterly. “Do you like us enough to give us a reasonable price?”

“Aaah.” He took in air in a long sigh. “That is not how my pricing works, dears. Mr. Ting is not about like and dislike. Mr. Ting is not about profit.” He picked up one of the #^^#(275)^, the shiny silver pointed tubes. “Mr. Ting is simply about need.”

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Meeting Mr. Ting

For @inventrix’s commissioned continuation of

We were still staring at the tentacled thing – it was just a prop, right? Just something from some sort of Lovecraftian movie or game or… something, right? – when the building shook again. I caught one of the adzes as it swung uncomfortably close to Jordan, and thus was turned in the right direction to see one of the shelves… swing. Rotate, really, like a Scooby-Doo secret door.

Nobody came out or anything, though; we just got another shelf. This one looked like it was in the end of the alphabet, or, at least, the end of our alphabet.

Xylophones, first. A whole shelf of the things, big ones with wooden bars, tiny ones, a few glockenspiels thrown in, the bright kids’ ones. Then a few model yachts, some small enough to fit in my hand, one fitting half a shelf on its own.

I don’t know what the #^^#(275)^ were, but they seemed to be shiny silver pointed tubes with a lot of fancy scrollwork.

I was staring at them and trying to ignore the fact that half the yardsticks were neither a yard long nor marked in anything I recognized as numbers when a Jordan hissed. “JJ….”

I turned around, half expecting to see something with tentacles. Instead, I saw…

“Ah, hello. My apologies, I came in through the back door. You must be the guests Mrs. Gent was telling me about.”

“I think they’re in the front, actually?” I said uncertainly. He looked entirely like my seventh-grade shop teacher, if Mr. Daniels had been sporting seven-inch ears and ten-inch eyebrows on a five-foot-nothing frame.

“Mrs. Gent can handle the Delorians just fine. But she said you two were an interesting pair.”

Jordan coughed. “We are?” We were used to hearing that, fair enough, but not in a place like that. “In this place, in this time,” the quote was rather inappropriate, but sometimes Jordan is like that, “we’re interesting? Mister, we just want…”

“I am not about what you want,” he interrupted. “I am about what you need, and that, dears, I already know. Didn’t you read the sign? Did I get the language wrong again?”

I winced, worried that we’d managed to tick him off already too. Not what we needed. Definitely not what we needed. “I’m sorry, sir…”

“Why are you sorry for your friend’s words? There is nothing to be sorry for, and you are not responsible for other people.”

“Jordan is my friend,” I flared, suddenly irritated myself. “We came here together, so I can be sorry if I want to.”

I immediately regretted it – we really needed that AC – but the little man was smiling. “Indeed. Jordan is your friend. It is such a lovely, concept, isn’t it?”

“Why did you say we were interesting?” Jordan cut in. “I mean.. this store, this is interesting. All this stuff you have…”

“Stuff, as you put it, is here because someone will need it some day,” he answered calmly. “You two are interesting because of yourselves”


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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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Differences of Opinion

For @inventrix’s commissioned continuation of


Mrs. Gent was either very easy to flatter, or she simply liked to play the game. She giggled happily at me. “You’re too sweet, dear. Thank you so much.”

“Thank you,” Jordan tried, and, after another moment sipping lemonade, “I don’t see prices on anything?”

“Oh, Mr. Ting sets all the prices when he sees the customer,” she chuckled, as if Jordan had said something silly. “You can’t just write prices on a shelf and expect them to be right all the time. As it is, sometimes we have to change our labels.”

“The labels, really?” That startled me, and Jordan was still stewing over the price thing. “I see some of them aren’t in English.”

“But some of them are,” she snapped. I’d hit an invisible nerve. “And what you need will be labeled for you, and priced for you, by Mr. Ting.”

“He sounds like a very hands-on guy.” So now Jordan was pissed, and Mrs. Gent was pissed, and I was feeling under fire for no good reason, which, yes, I’ll admit it, made me feel kinda pissed off too.

“He is,” Mrs. Gent answered coolly. “He prefers to handle each of his customers with the individual attention they deserve, whatever language they speak.”

“So, wait.” The language thing had clearly tweaked her, but I really didn’t understand why. “You’re saying that the signs are in the languages of the people who might need them? Ma’am.” I didn’t want to get kicked out before we’d had a chance to ask Mr. Ting for an air conditioner. I really, really didn’t want to go home without one.

“Yes, exactly. How else would you do it?”

“Uh…” Jordan frowned. “Generally, stores that we go into around here – that is, in this city – have signs in the language of the neighborhood, or just in English, or both. And the price is the same for everyone.” That part was added sharply. None of this “pricing for the customer.” I think it stunk of prejudice for Jordan; I know it smelled a little bit like that for me.

“What a strange way to do business,” Mrs. Gent complained. “But then, if you don’t read English, or whatever this language of the neighborhood is, then how do you shop?”

“With practice?” I spent a lot of time shopping in Asian food markets; I knew how this worked. “Or buy pointing and gesturing.”

“It seems very inefficient. And the prices?”

“The same for everyone,” Jordan repeated.

“So for you two and, for example, a … what is the word… fat-cat businessman, the same price for a radio?”

“The same.”

“That doesn’t seem right,” she frowned. “When Mr. Ting returns, perhaps I shall go looking at these stores. But in the meantime,” she said firmly, “you are in our store, and our store does not work that way.”

“I see.” Jordan looked with a frown at the lemonade. “We are.” We exchanged a short glance: we were, more or less, stuck with this. We needed that air conditioner.

Next is The “A” Shelves!

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Mrs. Gent’s Lemonade

For @inventrix’s commissioned continuation of


“Lemonade sounds nice, thanks,” Jordan said, and stepped out of my way, finally letting me see the shop. Shop? This place was a space-time warp. This place was unbelievable. This place was…

Okay. Imagine the estate sale of the most obsessive hoarder you can picture. Then imagine this being curated by the most OCD guy you know. There was everything on those shelves, shelves filling up all but the center of the store, and every single thing was labeled. Everything.

There were labels in English, labels in foreign languages, labels in foreign ALPHABETS, labels in bar-code and a few in what I think was binary. There were labels over totally ordinary things – crock pot, circa 1970. Boom Boox, Magnivox, 1980. There were labels over things that belonged in a museum, and over things I’d never heard of or seen before. And, in the center of this archive of… junk. Stuff, we’ll say, because most of it looked useful. In the center of this stuff, there was a table with a ruffled tablecloth, four chairs, and an icy pitcher of lemonade.

“Lemonade sounds great,” I agreed, with feeling. It looked like the best stuff in the world right about then, even with the strange dress-up dance.

“Then come in, sit down, and enjoy some while you wait,” she encouraged us. “I’m Mrs. Gent, by the way, pleased to meet you.”

“I’m Jordan, and this is J.J.,” Jordan took charge again. “Pleased to meet you as well, Mrs. Gent.” I trailed along behind them, reading the labels, looking at the things on the shelf, trying not to be rude but wow, this place was a treasure trove.

Canned SPAM, 1937-1997, about a cubic foot of the stuff, in at least seven languages that I could see, and, yes, one of them looked like the original can (don’t ask me how I know, okay? I have some weird hobbies).

Radios, small was right next to Radios, tiny but three shelves above Radios, large (no mediums). The small ones looked mostly like antiques, although I’m not sure a 1991 Sony Walkman should count. (I had one of those, damnit. Nothing I owned as a kid should count as an antique yet!) On the other hand, the “tiny” category, I might have needed a magnifying glass to really see properly.

“Here, you sit here, and you, dear, sit here.” That set us with our backs to the door, Jordan facing – I checked – Teapots, unusual, which included one shaped like a rooster and another one I would have pegged as a bong, and me facing документы, which appeared to be stacks and stacks of ledger books. Mrs. Gent, in turn, sat facing the front door and poured us lemonade as if it was a high Japanese tea.

“This seems like a very interesting store,” I tried, yes, after saying thank you, I’m not a total jerk.

“Oh, Mr. Ting handles all of the business,” she pooh-poohed. “I just watch the store while he’s out. And make the lemonade.”

That was a hint even I could pick up. “It’s very good lemonade, thanks. It’s just what we needed.”


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In Mr. Ting’s

For @inventrix’s commissioned continuation of Burning Summer Quest (LJ); Part 1 of ?

“Mr. Ting knows what you need.”

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Okay, no, I know what I was expecting – Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, or Egg Shen from Big Trouble in Little China, or Lu-Tze from Thief of Time. In short, I expected a sterotype.

I know better. But it was really, really hot, and my brain was frying like an egg.

So into Mr. Ting’s we went, feeling a little jittery, a lot sweaty, and a tiny bit hopeful. If he didn’t have what we needed (despite the sign), well, we were down to leaving the fridge open or buying ice in giant bags. Or dousing everyone in water every four minutes. I didn’t think the cats would like that.

The store windows had been covered over with paper, so walking in, we were going in blind, accompanied by the sound of loudly jangling windchimes hitting the back of the door. Jordan headed in first; I took up the rear, nervously-if-ridiculously checking to see if we were observed. We weren’t; nobody else was dumb enough to be out in weather like this.

So at first, all I could see of the store was Jordan’s paused, tense shoulderblades sticking to the thinnest T-shirt possible. I wondered if we were going to have to make a hasty escape, and grabbed the door handle in preparation. I wondered if someone was going to shoot at us. Like I said, my brain was fried and I was feeling rather silly.

Then I noticed that the store was comfortable. Not freezing, like a lot of stores, but a nice pleasant temperature, just cool enough that we weren’t dying. And Jordan still wasn’t moving. We were getting to the shoving stage.

“Come in, come in, kiddos, let me pour you some lemonade. Take a load off your feet.” That was, I presumed, not Mr. Ting. For one, the accent was local. For another, the voice was female, or, at the very least, in a traditionally female register.

“What…” Jordan finally managed, and stumbled forward one step. Not enough for me to do much except look at the floor, which was blue-and-white tiled and prettier than anything else in the neighborhood except, possibly, one of our roommates. But Taylor was a special case. “What…” again. Broken record time; I gave a little shove.

“It’s all right, kids, I know, it’s hotter than hell outside and you’re got to be dehydrated. Here, have a skirt, dear, and here’s a vest for your friend, and there you go.” She bustled around Jordan, and then me, playing dress-up like we were dolls, and I finally got a look at her.

She was maybe late-fifties or a very nicely preserved late-sixties, her hair dyed improbably red, her eyes almost black. She had a lean figure not in keeping with that mother-of-the-world voice, and a lipstick smile the same unbelievable color as her hair. She caught me looking, and winked.

“Mr. Ting is out for a moment, so you two just have a seat, have some lemonade, and wait,” she insisted.

Continued: Mrs. Gent’s Lemonade (LJ)

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Burning Summer Quest, a story for the Giraffe Call

For moon_fox‘s prompt

Probably goes with Strange Neighbors (LJ) [After the Fairy Road (here on LJ)]

It was the hottest summer on record. It may have been the hottest summer ever. The sidewalk was melting. The roads were sticky. Even the devout were wearing bikinis, and you don’t want to know what the sinners were wearing. Fry an egg? You could cook a roast on the hood of the car.

And our air conditioner was on the fritz. We had six so-called adults, two cats, three rats (the domestic sort), and one small child in a four-bedroom house, we had eaten all the popsicles, and our air conditioner was spitting out lukewarm air.

So Jordan and I went on a quest.

We went to Wal-mart: sold out. K-Mart: sold out. Target? Mobbed AND sold out. Ames, the corner store, the grocery store, the overpriced appliance store behind the carpet place. We drove around the city in shrinking concentric circles (at least the AC in my old Ford still worked), stopping at every place that might, possibly, in some universe, sell us an AC unit. I cried at the Rent-a-Center guy (he was unimpressed). Jordan threatened the pawn shop guy (likewise unimpressed); we offered to buy one off an old lady with three sticking out of her windows (in our defense, she was at least holding a garage sale).

And then, as we were heading home in defeat, wondering how we were going to tell the roomies (never mind the toddler, the cats, and the rats) that we had failed – Failed! on our epic quest! – Jordan slammed on the brakes.

There, right there in the heart of the third-worst neighborhood in town, in a place I swear was a braid joint just yesterday, was a small store with a smaller sign: “Mr. Ting knows what you need.”

“Well,” Jordan shrugged, “at this point, anything is worth a shot, right?”

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