Here comes The Turn…Make that, the first Turn…
NOTE: If you are not up to date on the story, the first two novels have been run in their entirety at revolutionsf.com.
The Transformation of Lawrence Croft: http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.php?id=1827
Chance of a Lifetime: http://www.revolutionsf.com/fiction2/condorks2/condorks2_00.html
- Read Chapter One here
- Read Chapter Two here
- Read Chapter Three here
- Read Chapter Four here
- Read Chapter Five here
- Read Chapter Six here
- Read Chapter Seven here
- Read Chapter Eight here
One in a Million – Chapter 9
New Comic Day 2
Wednesday brought forth its usual glorious bounty in stapled, fully-colored booklets (along with trading cards, books, statues, toys, games, and a wide smattering of gewgaws and tchotchkes with some vague and tangential relationship to a TV show or a thirty-year old-movie. D.J. manned his usual post at the front counter, but his mind was a million miles away. Jane Callow was coming here! To his store! In two weeks! It was a Christmas miracle come early.
He’d spoken to Hazel Medrick last night, when she called the store two minutes before close. She didn’t seem to remember him, when he’d tried stalking Jane Callow over a year and a half ago, prior to her MagicCon appearance. D.J. had spent several nights online chatting up Hazel, in an effort to get some sort of inside information he could use to start a conversation up with Jane. His plan worked, all too well, but D.J. lacked the social acumen to pull off such an adroit maneuver and he’d embarrassed himself royally in front of Jane.
And now, all this time later, of all the comic book stores in the Bay Area, she was going to walk into his. It was much too good to be true. This was his domain, his gin joint, and he was king of the castle here. For her to come to his store, and see him in his environment…well, there could be no doubt that D.J. would be able to talk to her, and maybe even flirt with her, without fear of losing his train of thought or wanting for something meaningful to say.
Still, he reasoned, it couldn’t hurt to have a little back-up. He called Leslie and convinced her to come work the store during the signing, so that he’d have someone to fall back to if he did get stuck. She told D.J. she’d do it for store credit, which suited D.J. just fine.
He’d spent two hours last night designing a flier to promote the event, and got up early this morning to have them copied so he could stuff one into everyone’s bag during the rest of the week. Only when he got to the store did he realize he’d forgotten to clear the event with Justin, the owner. Worse, he no sooner had walked in the door but Justin was pitching one of his legendary fits about the size of the invoice. “Are you stupid fuckers trying to bankrupt me?” he shouted as D.J. entered.
Justin was disheveled, wearing ill-fitting baggy jeans that could have stood up without the support of his elephantine legs. His once black-now gray T-shirt carried the remnants of some distant meal eaten the way a duelist would show off his scars. His beard and hair were unkempt, in the precise way that ninety percent of the rest of the world expected a comic book store owner to look. While others might not honestly see what’s wrong with looking like a shaved sasquatch, and others might still wonder idly what to do about it, Justin wore his lack of hygiene and fashion sense like a badge of honor, a deliberate choice designed to forever set him apart from polite society.
He rounded on D.J. as soon as he entered. “And where the fuck have you been? Have you seen the invoice? Jumping Jesus Christ!”
“Hey, Justin,” D.J. said, “we open in, like, thirty minutes. If you have any hope of getting us to actually sell all of this shit for you, it’s probably in your best interests to leave us alone and let us go to work.”
“Goddammit, D.J.—“ Justin began.
D.J. threw his hands up in the air. “I know, I know, we suck, this isn’t a clubhouse, blah blah blah, we get it. But if you scream at us, we’ll spend the rest of the day getting even with you by not talking up everything. So let us get the store ready to open, and if we underperform, you can bawl us out at the end of the day, okay?”
“Look, you can’t possibly…”
“We do it all the time, Justin! Now please, go play City of Heroes on your computer or whatever it is you do in your bedroom slash office and let us get to work!” D.J. could sense after all these years exactly where the line with Justin was. Usually it ran right up to where Justin would have to do work in his own store.
Justin pointed at D.J. and scowled. “You watch it, Deej. You’re on thin fucking ice right now.” So saying, he stormed off.
The rest of the staff turned to him, their eyes shining and grateful. “Go on, dammit,” said D.J. “let’s not get an ass-chewing today. Upsell Marvel, if you can. We’re overstocked on X-Men…again…”
With the rest of his minions running hither and yon, D.J. broke out the fliers from his messenger bag. Stuff now, ask for permission later. And sell a bunch of shit so that Justin’s in a better mood. That’s the ticket.
Now it was four hours later. The guys had come and gone, lunch was over, and D.J. was barely conscious. So much so that when Stevie Fleckner walked in, he didn’t even notice him. Fleckner was one of the guys who put on MagicCon every year, and was fairly highly placed in Bay Area Fandom. It wouldn’t be such a big deal except that Stevie had never been to Comix Cubed before in all the years that D.J. had worked there. Only after Stevie had been in the store for about a half an hour did D.J. spot him, and for half a second, there was panic in the pit of his stomach. Larry had gotten banned from MagicCon for his Stercutus rampage, but no one had been able to confirm that Burt, Turk, and D.J. were involved in the act with Larry, so they managed to escape banishment. Stevie Fleckner had been the one, in the end, that got Larry banned.
“Trevor, take over,” said D.J. He waved Trevor off his semi-permanent position at the vintage comics counter and said, “Don’t forget to tell people about the signing. One flyer in every bag.”
“Ja whohl,” Trevor said, clicking his heels together. He actually meant the gesture as a sign of respect.
D.J. smoothed over his T-shirt and flannel as he approached Stevie. Had this been a public meeting, he would never have ever attempted this. But in Comix Cubed, he had the home court advantage.
“Hey, are you finding everything all right?” he asked.
Stevie turned, and D.J. saw that he was with someone. They both looked a little guilty. Oh ho, D.J. thought. Trash-talking my store, huh?
“Oh, um, we’re just looking around,” Stevie said. He was holding a hardcover collection of Spider-Man comics.
“Okay, well, if you need any help, just let one of us know,” D.J. said. And then he added, “And if you like this classic Spider-Man, we’ve also got a Best of Steve Ditko collection that is dynamite.”
Stevie looked surprised. What, D.J. thought, did you think we wouldn’t have the Ditko hardcover? You’re sorely mistaken, Pale-Face.
“Actually, I was looking for that,” said Stevie. “Where is it.”
“I’ll show you,” said D.J. motioning with his head. As Stevie and his pale, thin friend fell into step behind him, he said, “You’re Steve Fleckner, right?”
“Yes,” Stevie said, reddening visibly. “I didn’t think you’d recognize me.”
“Well, I know of you,” D.J. said. “You’re part of the MagicCon staff.”
“And you’re D.J., right?” Stevie said hurriedly.
“Yeah, call me Deej,” he replied. They shook hands awkwardly, unsure of where to grip or for how long. “Well, here’s the Dikto,” he said. “This shelf here is for artist collections, and it’s alphabetical by last name.”
“Cool, thanks,” said Stevie.
“No problem,” D.J. said. He stood in front of the two and counted silently to himself. When he got to “7” Stevie broke the awkward silence.
“Oh, uh, this is my friend Jerry,” he said.
“How’s it going?” D.J. held out his hand.
“Fine,” said Jerry, his face beet red. Jerry’s handshake was firm, bordering on vice-like.
“Okay, well, anything else, just ask,” D.J. said. “Oh, and grab a flier on the way out. We’re having an in-store at the end of the month. Jane Callow is going to be here, signing books and comics.” He moved away, smiling, convinced that he’d done his alpha male duty for the day.
Twelve minutes later, Stevie Fleckner and Jerry Markham spilled out of Comix Comix Comix, walking rapidly down the street. At the end of the block was a Starbucks and they ducked inside as if they were being followed.
Inside was crowded and noisy as everyone not typing on a laptop or listening to an MP3 player was happily and loudly discussing something fabulous from their life.
Jerry rounded on Stevie even as he tried to walk up to the counter. “What was that? Huh? What the fuck was that?”
Stevie was baffled. “What?”
“You introduced me?”
“Dude, he didn’t recognize you,” Stevie said. “I figured as much.”
“But now he’s got a name and a face, you asshole! Now is anyone asks if someone suspicious has been in the store, he can say, ‘Well, there’s Stevie and his pal Jerry.’”
“Will you relax?” Stevie signaled for a cup of coffee. “Leave room for cream,” he called out. “You want something?”
“’You want something?’” Jerry mimicked. “When did you become all cool as a cucumber?”
“Isn’t it obvious,” Stevie said. He reached into his bag and pulled out an orange flier. “Jane Callow. Signing in two weeks.”
Jerry took it. “But that wasn’t part of the plan. The plan was…”
“So, you alter the plan,” said Stevie. “Think about it: extra traffic, a crowded store, tons of extra sales and shenanigans going on…”
Jerry smiled. “Nice, Stevie. Very nice.” He chucked Stevie on the shoulder. “Dude, I apologize. It’s genius.”
“Yep,” said Stevie. He paid for his coffee and took an appreciative victory sip. “Oh, needs cream.”
“Yes,” said Jerry, gazing at the flier. “We move everything back two weeks. We’ll rob the store on the night of the signing.”