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Shelf Price

by Peter Nicolas about a year ago in fiction
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What’s it worth?

The fluorescence that poured from the shop windows coated a figure in its cold warmth as he inches closer toward the shop door. A bell that echoes of minimum wage alerts the lonely clerk behind a dingy fibreboard counter of his presence. A jolt of life journeys from the clerks leant arms on the counter and activates his autopilot greeting “gday mate how r ya?”

The figure now fully submerged in the cheap light gives a chirpy response “not bad mate, how about yourself?” The clerk tiredly responds “good thanks” before reassuming his position half fallen on the prickly wooden bench the store called a counter. The chirpy figure waded through the ice cold air as he followed the water droplets on the hard wood from the cooler which housed cheap wine to the cashier. There was little in the way of conversation between the two as they both pondered what had brought each other to that dodgy store on that brisk night. The cashier lifted his limp arms to accept a $10 note which crumpled in his weak hands. He averted his gaze to the figure and was informed by his eyes of the deep lines which denied the light sovereignty over the figures face along with a heavy brow and sterling hair which detailed a man possibly in his late 50s. “$4.75 change, have a good night”. The former figure now an old wine enjoyed replied with a warm smile before he darkness slowly consumed his figure once again. The night was once again lonely as the cashier allowed his tiredness to once again take over him as he dropped elbows first to the counter. He was however startled back to his feet as an opposing light poured into the 3inch thick glass behind him. The figure had entered a strapped up 4x4 looking as if it had been packed for a camping trip, this was unusual to the clerk. “Who camps out here this time of year, he’ll lose his toes for sure. Or get bashed by a roo”. The 4x4 soon roared past the doors which had just minutes earlier given life to the figure that had just now left this place in its dust. It was as the lonesome clerk traced the vehicle with his bloodshot eyes he noticed something on the empty shelf he was supposed to stock 2 hours ago. Something small and black which seemed to call him to investigate it. With a new found burst of energy the clerk swung to his feet and took the ever tiring steps toward the cooler retracing the path the figure had followed toward him. The shelf that read the names of cheap vodka presented the clerk with a small black book. Upon further investigation of the book which ready $32.99 on the shelf it appeared to be a book. Of exceptional quality it appeared to the clerk. Stained leather cover which sandwiched thick hand pressed paper all tied together with thread at the spine. It had a title which was unfamiliar to the ex student who was currently admiring its text, thinking back to a simpler time before the four walls he drowned within every day. He inspected the gold Inlay which communicated the title ‘Dance of Duncan’ to his half shut sight eyes. The clerk took no time whipping his phone out and searching for any information on the book which had captured him in its elegance. 39,000 results in 0.23 seconds which widened those half shit eyes revealing bloodshot capillaries a plenty. The book it said on eBay was worth $20,000. The clerk was quite bothered by this, he checked website after website. They all confirmed what the first pixels had told him was true. He pondered his next move. If he could sell the book he could easily quit his job, go on a vacation at least until he found another four walls, another room of who’s light he could submerge himself in. He racked his brain is it right, was it karma, did he deserve it? He deliberated for some time with the jury who lived just behind those bloodshot eyes, they however were heavily biased. He took one last look the the walls of gin and rum and blueberry schnapps and one leg after the other, for the last time he walked to the creaking door, to ring the bell one last time. He moved faster and faster as the reality set in his scowl began to shift the look of his face until a gentle smile had graced his face for the first time in a long time. He thought of taking his girlfriend out for a nice dinner, sparing no expense, fixing his shoddily repaired Volkswagen, buying new shoes that don’t have holes in the soles. Plans rushed in and out of his head almost as fast as his feet were moving. He hit the door at full sprint fully ready to leave this dead end job behind. At that moment he had all the motivation in the world to change his life until he burst through that door. The hinges almost gave way as the glass panels cracked over an old man in the doors path of destruction. He fell to the ground with a loud thud that echoed of pain. The clerk had an immediate rush of guilt as he dropped to his knees and attempted to aid the ailing man. The man a figure on the ground with a heavy brow and sterling hair. A figure which fell to the ground one book lighter than it should be. As the man demanded his feet regain footing he also demanded his book back from the clerk breathing heavily with it clutched between his bones fingers. With adrenaline pumping his fight or flight kicked in, he spent 1000 years in his own head making the decision which seemed to the man only 2 seconds as he continually demanded his book back. His arm began speeding toward the clerk who was watching as if in slow motion. Counting each millimetre closer the hand got. To run or not to run. The hand inched closer. To run or not. He noticed the sweat of his palms against the leather outer of the text. To give or grab. Eventually against his own will his arm began outreaching book in hand toward the racing old timer. Their hands met on the book and with pain in his eyes he weakened his grip of the book and with it, his $20k. The figure once again jumped in the 4x4 and was no more. The clerk stood for a second frozen in disbelief. He looked at his hands, still shaking from the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He collapsed to the gutter and lit a cigarette, albeit not very efficiently. He pulled his phone back out from its home by his side and unlocked it. He closed all the tabs of research he did on the $20k. He had one last order of business at this point. Internet banking the next stop for his fingers and the pixels beneath them informed them that he had been paid. $627.75 not a bad pay. He stayed outside for a while longer pondering the book, it wasn’t his book to sell he told himself, it wasn’t right, but a piece of him regrets not running.

- [ ]


About the author

Peter Nicolas

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