Walter could hear his daughter’s shouted argument as his work-weary arm pushed open the front door to Best Suds. The shop was his pride and joy, his third ulcer, his polymer kneecap, twenty years his business. Shouting was just part of the day, like inhaling the scorching steam or his constant running nose, caused by some unpronounceable chemical used daily and with little ventilation.
Compared to those issues, a few shouting matches with the occasional duh hwoon dahn were tiny pimples on an acid-burned face. An annoyance. Occasionally a pleasure to pop.
Sari’s english was better than his, and her temper worse, so he let her do most of the yelling. Today it was about some suit. Yesterday it was a dress. Tomorrow, sheets. As he passed the two, the man reached out and grabbed his shirtsleeve. The intrusion was so unexpected he kept moving for a second, and he heard the underarm stitching rip. The man- elf, he noted (not cared), shouted something at him, the strange accent further camouflaging his already-complicated english.
He looked at Sari. What does he say?
She crossed her arms. His clothes aren’t ready, he can’t wait, he saw this one was overdue. He wants it instead.
So sell it to him. It was on the rack, no?
No, she shot back, suddenly hesitant. It’s Mr. Ken’s
Oh. This was turning into something worse than a pimple.
Tell him it is for an important customer.
I did. He says he needs a suit now, and if we don’t sell him this one, he will make trouble. Corp trouble.
Already seething with impatience, the elf stepped even closer to Walter, towering over him and looking about as angry as a singed dragon. The man shouted three words at the top of his lungs.
“SUIT. RENRAKU. FORECLOSE.”
Spittle flew from the shouter’s mouth, stippling Walter’s face, who was struck silent for a few moments; aghast at this man’s- elf’s- creature’s audacious insolence. Then Walter spoke in english.
A few days later Walter found himself starting aghast at Mr. Ken, who had passed a bundle of dripping bloody clothes over the counter to him, his face betraying no unusual emotion other than the facial tics that were common to Seattle junkies. He spoke at length, but his english was even more indecipherable than the rude elf’s. Walter found himself sweating even more than the usual heat of his store normally brought on.
The front door chimed as Sari came in, carrying plastic bags of soynoodles- Walter’s lunch. Ken turned quickly to her, his hand dropping-lightning quick-into his jacket. She froze, half inside. Walter froze, not daring to blink. Slowly, Mr. Ken removed a credstick from his jacket, dropped it on the counter where a respectable pool of blood was forming, his eyes still on Sari, looking past Sari. Through her, almost.
He said something else, but Walter didn’t catch it. Obviously Mr. Ken was expecting a response; he turned back to the shopowner and repeated, this time in Mandarin.
Walter nodded, his face sweaty, his throat dry. Then he thought a little harder about the blood, and felt a little better.
After all, it was sometimes a pleasure to pop pimples.