A Customer in Need is No Friend Indeed

A small man walked into my shop this morning. He had a limp which inclined his gait somewhat to the left. In order to compensate he faced to his right and proceeded toward me much like a crab would.

A small man walked into my shop this morning. He had a limp which inclined his gait somewhat to the left. In order to compensate he faced to his right and proceeded toward me much like a crab would.

He had a cheery face that still bore the morning’s stubble. His clothes were of good quality, though looked slightly dirty. I noticed that his boots lacked laces and that his pants were hanging a bit lower than modesty would dictate appropriate.

I caught my guard’s eye and nodded to him as a signal to be alert. I do believe that “a stranger is just a customer you haven’t met before”. However my experiences as a shopkeeper have jaded me somewhat. Even the city guards who wander into my shop steal my customers goods. Thus I am ever watchful.

The customer limped through the shop towards my apprentice. His eyes twinkled behind a pair of rose-coloured glasses that only partially concealed an eye that was bruised blue and beginning to puff out.

He lent forward to speak to my apprentice. He grinned impishly and asked “Do you stock boot-laces”. He spoke with a foreign accent that I have heard often in my travels on Wysoom. His voice was soft and beneath his words I could hear the laughter of children.

I stepped forward and suggested he try Bob’s shop on Silver Street. He smiled so genially at me that I felt compelled to ask of him his story. I quickly cast a spell to create some food and drink for my visitor and fetched him a seat.

He politely accepted my hospitality and sat down with the air of one accustomed to telling tales. He said “No doubt you are curious as to why I am in need of boot laces? And perhaps why I am unshaved and a little unkept?”. I quickly nodded assent and he continued with his story.

“I have spent the night in jail”

He paused maybe for effect, but probably more to judge our response to that dramatic statement. I made no movement, though my guard shuffled a little awkwardly.

“I am charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice by trying to bribe a sentinel. Last night I tarried a bit too long in the casino in Sauronan. I suffered some losses and went to drown my sorrows in the pub. Of course, where there’s drink and song there have to be women too. Sadly I am a bachelor”.

I began to dislike this grubby little man. A drunken sot arrested by the sentinels had no place in my social calendar.

“You may be aware that there is a house of ill-repute behind the casino in Sauronan. I am not sure why the sentinels tolerate it, though I have every reason to believe that they themselves make use of it”.

I wanted to shout at him that some of my best friends are sentinels before I booted him unceremoniously from my shop. How dare he impune the honour of my friends! The nerve!

“It was after several drinks that I staggered back to the casino to retry my luck. It was dark and through no fault of my own I found myself in the most disreputable area of the house of ill repute”.

A likely story indeed I sarcastically rebuked him in my mind.

“Suddenly there is alarum! Somebody shouts ‘THIS IS A RAID’ and storm into the room. I was innocent I tell you, I did not know she was only thirteen. I was drunk and she said she was 18, um 16 at the youngest”.

My skin crawled and I wished this insipid man would crawl back under his rock. The customer laughed and cracked his knuckles. His cheery face now had a disturbing quality to it. I was being confronted with somebody whose lascivious hedonism had resulted in his arrest and detainment.

“You’ll never guess what I said to those sentinels”, he stupidly bragged, “I said to them”

I rather hoped that the sentinels were the reason his eye was blackened.

“I said ‘Hey my dad owns a donut shop, if you let me go I’ll give you some free coupons’ to those fat pigs”.

I winced inwardly at that. I’m guilty of hiding donuts in sentinel castles myself.

“I woke up the next morning with a headache and a fine to pay. The pigs took my shoelaces and my belt. They said it was to stop me from hurting myself, but I think it was just to humiliate me”.

I wondered how this wretch believed that he could be degraded further. I showed him the door and suggested he try Bob’s store for shoelaces.

My belief is that a stranger is just a customer you haven’t met before. I don’t think I could meet any customer stranger than this one.

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