The Strange Case of a Temporary Cure
“I’d like a bottle of Sympathy please. Actually two because my mother’s coming next week and she still hasn’t gotten over the death of her cat. And do you have a vial of Patience?”
Mr. Kommoto peered at the woman from behind his place at the counter slowly before answering.
“Yes, I suppose so,” he said, slowly, as if talking meant that every word must be spoken with the delicate grace of a painter placing the final strokes on his masterpiece.
The woman waited in hesitant expectancy, adjusting her felt hat on her curls, as the refined gentleman eased himself from his stool near the cash register and made his way over to the numerous jars and bottles that lined the shelves from the slatted wooden floor to the high ceiling above. A ladder was in the corner to help reach the very highest of emotions that swirled around in their mystical captivity.
The woman, Ms. Alberdine, wasn’t the cleverest of people. To her, these bottles were the solution to her problems, and when she found herself in want, this was the place she would go to ease her ailments. The 1920s had meant the revolution of medicine in the world, and the most respected of scientists were calling these “Bottled Emotions” the cure to everything. There was Happiness for when her husband left her and her world seemed to be crashing down around her. A little jar of Tears was so people would see her in grief, yet she wouldn’t be required to feel it the pain. Enthusiasm was for when she went to work. She always kept a few drops of Respect when the executive manager came by.
“It’s the most useful thing,” she had told her sister, “You can appear to have the perfect emotions for the moment, but inside, you feel great. It’s perfect.”
“But what exactly does it cure?” her sister had asked.
Ms. Alberdine hadn’t really had an answer for that, but they cured something. She felt just right, whatever that meant.
At eye level, Mr. Kommoto looked carefully before making his selection. He’d seen Ms. Alberdine before, and he knew her specific tastes. There was Sympathy for those who were dead and dying, there was Sympathy for those who were frustrated and struggling, and there was Sympathy for those who had no real problems but demanded to be noticed anyhow. Today Ms. Alberdine needed Sympathy for the Attention Getting, one of his personal favorite blends, as he quite often found himself using it when his more troubled customers dropped in to his unique store.
Mr. Kommoto placed the two bottles of Sympathy on the counter and the smaller vial of Patience beside them and prepared to ring up the items in his old iron cash register.
Ms. Alberdine sniffed at the bottles with a grimace. “You wouldn’t happen to be able to inject the Patience straight into my veins would you? The taste is just so bitter to swallow.”
Mr. Kommoto smiled thinly and shook his head with his practiced grace. “I’m afraid there’s no way to bypass the taste of Patience. It loses its potency when injected.”
She shrugged. “Oh well. Small price for a cure I suppose.”
The man behind the counter raised an eyebrow. “Speaking of payment, Ma’am?”
“Oh yes, yes, here it is.”
She reached into her bag and pulled out a paper parcel. She unwrapped it carefully to reveal a handful of fresh dirt and a few dandelion heads.
“From 13th Avenue West in Brooklyn, exactly 6 paces from the café and two steps into the garden beside it,” She recited. “For a garden so well-tended, I’m surprised that there would be a dandelion at all. But they were there, just like you told me they would be.” She fingered her long skirt anxiously, waiting for his sign of approval.
Mr. Kommoto sniffed very carefully and sprinkled a bit of the dirt in his hand, swirling it carefully with his fingertip before tasting it. Nodding in satisfaction, he wrapped up the parcel gingerly and placed it beneath the counter.
As Ms. Alberdine placed her acquired goods in her bag, she asked “You never tell me what you need the dirt and flowers for. What’s so special about the dandelions in Brooklyn?”
Mr. Kommoto looked up from his register where he was carefully punching in records. “Oh there’s nothing special about the dandelions in Brooklyn,” he answered, the same cold smile on his face.
Ms. Alberdine shook her head and bid good day to the mysterious owner before turning to go, her heals clicking on the wood floor as she swung the glass door to the bustling streets outside.
When she had gone, Mr. Kommoto reached back under the counter and pulled out the parcel of dandelions and laid them out on the counter again. There was an excited glint in his eyes and his fingers tingled as he reached for a fresh empty bottle.
“Talk to me, 13th Avenue,” he sang as he began to grind the flowers, mixing dirt and flowers together, “Who was there last night? What did he feel? What are his dreams? What does he do? Who does he hate? What does he love?”
Deep into his work, he scarcely heard the swing of the door and the sound of heavy footsteps in his store.
A heavy package dropped before Mr. Kommoto, nearly upsetting his work. He looked up slowly. Interruptions upset Emotions.
The newcomer was tall, so tall he must have stooped to enter the doorway. His eyebrows were deep set and furrowed in a perpetual scowl and his mustache was overgrown, like a hairy caterpillar had taken over his upper lip.
“Yes sir?” Asked Mr. Kommoto in his same, unhurried manner.
“A gallon of Hate,” he ordered.
The store owner raised an eyebrow. “Hate? Is that really what you need? It’s not known to cure much, you know.”
The man bent down to reach Mr. Kommoto’s eye level. “I said a gallon of Hate. And I need it now. To hell with cures.”
Mr. Kommoto stood unintimidated and squinted at the man carefully. “Do you have payment?”
He smiled but it appeared more like a sneer and nudged the package closer to Mr. Kommoto. “See for yourself.”
The store owner ripped the paper off the top and folded the edges down gently, peering down into the dark recesses of the container. He breathed deeply into the box, eyes closed in contemplation.
Suddenly, he looked up, grinning.
“A mere gallon of Hate?” he chuckled, “I’ll get that right up for you.”