All Breakages Must Be Paid For.
I brush past an overstuffed armchair in the overstocked antique store, taking care to squat down so my head does not smack into a Murano chandelier hanging from the rafters. This is more of an obstacle course than a shopping spree. Apparently you should take army basic training before negotiating the maze of booby-trapped aisles in Blue Cockerel Antiques and Collectibles.
Please Ask For Assistance Before Touching Merchandise.
Indeed, the ceramics for sale seem so fragile that they might shatter if you simply say the word 'Wedgwood' in a louder than normal tone of voice. And some of the metal curios are so rusted at the edges I wouldn't dream of touching them without a recent tetanus shot.
How much is this wooden duck decoy thing? I ask the owner, pointing towards a fine example of hand carved shooting memorabilia incongruously balanced on top of a tower of old hat boxes.
It's priced on the bottom, he replies, without looking up from his book.
I thought I wasn't supposed to touch anything.
You can touch that, he sniffs.
So I do. There was a tiny sticker just barely clinging to the base of the duck with a trio of inky squiggles scrawled on it. After a few minutes of scrutiny and deliberation, I decide these squiggles indicate a price of $145. Not cheap, but despite my better judgment I am resigned to paying such an unreasonable sum for an antique wooden duck decoy thing. It is a birthday present, after all.
I begin to turn towards the cash register, wooden duck decoy in hand, and immediately notice another sign.
Cash only? Who the hell carries around $145 in cash these days? I flip open my wallet, nevertheless, just in case. I haven't investigated the cash compartment since last year's Christmas raffle. Who knows what forgotten currencies lurk within its leathery folds.
The answer is two ancient dollar bills that looked like they've spent more time going through the laundry than in financial circulation. Cash only? My wallet contains more credit cards than actual bucks.
Is there an ATM near here? I ask the owner.
Used to be one at the gas station about eight miles down the road, he says, still more engaged by his book than his customers. Probably two or three over in Wadville. I take personal checks with a valid ID.
Ah yes, personal checks. I have a checkbook somewhere, but the account associated with it is older and more obsolete than these antiques. Perhaps the owner might consider a barter deal? My genuine Bank of Constantinople checkbook with intact deposit slips for his old wooden duck decoy thing? Never mind. There are no doubt cheaper and easier to buy ducks on eBay.
Does the Blue Cockerel Antiques and Collectibles store ever sell anything, I wonder. Perhaps it used to be called just Blue Cockerel Gifts, and only became an antique store by default when the gifts never sold, the stock turning into antiques over time because nobody has ever bought anything. This is obviously what happens when your business is in the back of beyond and you don't accept modern methods of payments.
So I place the wooden decoy duck back on top of the hat boxes, bid the oblivious owner farewell and thanks with as much theatrical irony as I can muster, then inch carefully towards the exit, my eye briefly catching the words of yet another store sign as I do so.
You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Work Here But It Helps