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Paul in the costumverse emptystar emptystar emptystar emptystar emptystar

Paul groaned as he heard the squabble erupt somewhere in the store, angry voices echoing over aisles nearly devoid of customers. They nearly drowned out the rising voice of the sales associate who was trying to calm, he thought it could be Carla. Her voice, though loud, was not angry. Rather it sounded increasingly nervous. Paul sighed, she was frightened, that much was obvious. He needed to get her out of that situation.


He hurried along the front, searching for the source of the disturbance. He found them all near the center of the store, by the comforters and pillows. Mousy little Carla cowered slightly from the towering wrath of an elderly couple that stood with a single pillow in their hand that they were pointing at. They were haranguing her about—Paul squinted to get a better look—a stain? He felt his anger rise. They were abusing his people over a stain?


He knew now that they had to be shameless bargain hunters determined to beat the store into submission and achieve a better deal, or worse they were con artists and the pillow was simply an opening gambit to some lawsuit or other.


“What seems to be the trouble here?” he asked, steeping fully around the corner now and walking forward briskly. He kept his features composed, trying to appear professional as possible.


“Oh, Paul!” squealed Carla, viewing him with relief. She seemed to slump slightly, overcome with happiness at seeing him approach, but perhaps feeling a tinge, as if she’d failed him somehow. Paul would deal with that last later, for she hadn’t failed in his view.


The couple, Paul noted, looked nearly as eager for him as Carla, though it was obvious they thought it well-hidden beneath a mask of righteous indignation. So, not only con artists, but inept ones as well. What a Saturday, Paul thought to himself. He forced himself to listen as Carla explained.


“Mister and missus McDool here would like this pillow at an extra five dollars off for a small stain, but it’s already marked down twenty percent for the clearance sale and…”


“That’s right.” Broke in the old woman. “This here stain will be an eyesore ‘less ‘n I manage
somehow to git it out. Prolly cost more than a new piller to do so too. I’m doin’ y’all a faver
heyr, sim’ly out of the goodness of me ‘eart.”


Paull throttled a desire to mock the woman. The accent was ridiculous, he had no doubt she was probably well educated. Yet all she could do with her life is try to rob stores. Sad. Yet, would he care to fight them just over a lousy pillow? It was twelve dollars now, but five extra would take it down to a mere seven dollars.


First thing is first, he decided. He needed to get Carla out of the line of fire. “I can see that this might take a few minutes to sort out.” He kept any trace of inflection from his voice. “Carla, why don’t you help a lady down Aisle 7 while I take this one?”


“Thanks Paul. I will.” Carla breathed and scurried off.


Happy to see her go away and even happier to see the couple exchange nervous glances, Paul decided to take his time with them. If they thought he was stalling until the police got there, they’d be much more likely to simply leave.


“Now then.” He smiled at them. “Why don’t we go to my office and discuss this? It will be much more comfortable, I assure you.”


He felt rewarded to see beads of sweat pop out on the man’s brow. His accomplice was made of sterner stuff however.


“We don’t need ‘ta see yer office. We don’ need ‘ta go from this spot. All we wants is you folk ta see sense.”


“Very well.” Paul replied. “As my colleague already explained,” Paul spoke unperturbedly, “this pillow is part of a sale already. We cannot lower the price further.”


“But the stain—“ she growled.


“Comes with the pillow ma’am. If you aren’t sure about it, why don’t you think about these here?” Paul gestured to the bin bulging with pillows. “They have fewer stains on them. I’m sure you’ll be satisfied with any of them. Or, if you’d prefer, I believe Big Al’s Clearance House is also having a sale on pillows.”


“But they’re nearly to the big city!” the woman snapped, quite forgetting her horrible accent.


“Still, if we cannot meet your needs…” Paul began.


“Look, you yellow-bellied pirate! I’m going to complain to the owner! To the FTC! I”ll get your license revoked, you low-down mother—“ she continued to rant for some time, showing surprising ingenuity in it.


Paul, feeling tired of having his ears pierced and not wanting any more of his customers to leave, relented to get rid of them.


They left with their stained pillow and smug smiles while Paul watched them go.


As he watched, Joe came up and stood next to him. He had a blotch of dirt over one green eye and his black suit showed a hint of dirt or something on it. That seemed odd, but he spoke before Paul could.


“Well, that’s that for them, I suppose.” Joe remarked.


“Good riddance.” Paul replied absently. He pondered the meaning of the dirt, for some reason it seemed important. “You can’t argue with all the fools in the world, and if we tried to report it we would have seemed the bad guys. It hurts, especially considering that we are only one small store in a tiny town, but we can survive without a couple of dollars. We wouldn’t survive bad publicity at all though.”


“Hmm.” Joe rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well, they won’t be coming back anytime soon.” He smiled mischievously.


“What did you do?” Paul groaned, seeing visions of lawsuits suddenly piling up in front of them.


“I thinned the gas mixture in their old jalopy.” Joe’s smile was a fully-fledged grin now. “I guess they’ll make perhaps five miles before their engine craps out.”


Paul sighed. “You know they’ll come right back to complain. We’ll have to bloody replace the fuel and the car.”


“They’ll never know.” Joe told him. “I meant to tell you a friend of mine called from the General Store. They were in there as well, and made off with several things there under the man’s coat while the woman threw a hissy fit about the state of the bathrooms. It’ll serve them right, and chances are they’ll be picked up by the police anyway. John’s going to press charges for thieving.”


Now in a much better mood, Paul returned to the office and finished going through his reports. Night was falling when he put his pen away and stretched, working the kinks out of his lower back. It was past time to go home, and he thought fondly of his dinner tonight. He’d gotten a large chicken from the store the other day, and now it sat in his fridge, ready to cook.
The phone rang, jarring him from his daydream. He hesitated, looking down at the key in his hand. The second ring decided him. He picked up the receiver.




“Paul! So glad I caught you.” It was Old Tom, the owner.


“Good to hear from you sir.” Paul said politely.


“Listen, I’ve managed to wrangle an invitation to a costume party being thrown by the business leaders in Rollsdale.”


Paul arched an eyebrow. That was bigtime!


“And it’s tomorrow night at eight. I need you to come with me so we can make a good impression. You’re the man on the ground, the manager. I need you there Paul.”


Paul protested, he didn’t realize he had so little time! “Sir, I won’t have time to tell people, find someone to manage the store, to get a costume!”


“Work it out.” Tom said cheerfully. “You’re wily, I know you can lick this! Take tomorrow off. The party won’t be until the evening, about six I’ve been told, and its two hours to get there. Plenty of time to find a costume. Got to run Paul, last minute details to work out with the missus!”


The line went dead. Paul stared at it a moment and replaced it with a sigh. Tom was a nice old man, but so absent-minded as to make him scream! He’d have to check with someone in Rollsdale to find out if the party really was at six, arrange for Joe to mind the store tomorrow while he searched for a costume, and then go pick up Tom before he tried to drive. Otherwise,
who knew where’d he’d actually wind up?


Paul sat down to make some calls.


Paul walked out of Martha’s Bitty Costumes feeling disappointed and a vague sense of panic. It was already two and he still hadn’t found a costume he’d liked. There had been the usual selections of fake pirates, cheap vampires. And superheroes. He just didn’t want to try any spandex, and he really didn’t want to dress up as some lame pirate!


He brooded while he walked, and so nearly missed the sign to a small little hole-in-the-wall costume shop. He went inside, barely registering the sign that read; WELCOME TO THE ENCHANTED THREADS: COSTUMES SO REAL, IT’S JUST LIKE MAGIC!


Once inside the shop, Paul stopped and looked around in amazement. Every type of costume imaginable seemed crammed in this little room. They all seemed in perfect condition and of very high quality. Paul smiled a little; he wasn’t a poor man by any means, and this time he’d decided to treat himself a little and get a top-line costume. He hoped it would look good on him of
course, but also he wanted to show that the company was doing well, and that it (his company) would be worth doing business with.


As he walked through the shop humming to himself, he came across an old woman at the counter. She seemed to be knitting something and talking softly to herself. She stopped and looked up as he drew near.


“Well, good evening dear. Find something you like?” Her voice was warm and grandmotherly, and Paul found himself instantly liking her.


“Not yet.” He told her, “But I’m sure I will find something soon. You seem to have every costume imaginable here.”


The old woman chuckled. “Not quite dearie. I’m afraid my little shop wouldn’t hold so many! I still have some costumes in the back that I haven’t the space to put out. I’m not sure if I’ll ever sell those this year.” She sighed. Her movement brought a small gold nametag to bear that read, Roland.


How odd. That’s a strange name for a girl. Paul tried to keep his thoughts hidden, but obviously
failed. She smiled.


“My father wanted a boy, and so when I came along he couldn’t come up with any other name but the one he’d already picked. So I was placed with it. Not that I’m complaining mind you.” She laughed. “It’s always so comical to see those nice gentlemen try to sell some razor or shop tool to ‘Mister Roland’.”


Paul couldn’t help but laugh a little too as he thought about those looks!


“Well,” he told her when his mirth settled. “I’ve got an important party tomorrow and I need to look my best for Tom, my boss.”

Written by Snore23 on 07 May 2017


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