Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Action Men and the Great Zarelda, Part 5

Continued from Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4

As I entered the shop, I wore the spy glasses, carried the spy camera pen in my front shirt pocket and carried the spy coffee cup, which was, of course, empty of any actual coffee.

The young Asian man behind the counter eyed me curiously when I told him I had come to pick up an order for Zarelda. The first words he said to me were, “You're not Rodrigo.”

I wanted to ask him, “What gave it away?” “I don't look like much of a Rodrigo,” I told him. “A Quinn maybe, possibly an Erik or a Vincent.” I was thinking of the redheaded Van Gogh with the last name listed.

“So, which are you, Quinn, Erik or Vincent?”

“None of the above. I'm just Andy … Andy Westin.”

His companion behind the counter with a name tag announcing himself as Kumar, said to him, “Don't you know? He's the new Rodrigo.”

I had heard about pink or orange being the new black, but, apparently, I wasn't entitled to my own identity. I was simply “the new Rodrigo.” I didn't know if Jack's or my suspicions were founded or not, but I wanted the camera, one of them, to capture their names and faces, and although I think Jack's a genius, wasn't really sure of the quality of the images any of these cameras could capture or from what distance. I thought I could stretch out one arm with the coffee cup and the other arm with the pen, but wasn't sure how I could do that without looking like I was signaling in semaphore … with stranger objects. I pulled the pen from my pocket with my left hand, although it seemed I had no immediate use for a pen.

“Rodrigo. Yes ...” With the “yes,” I pointed the pen towards Kumar. “I've heard so much about him.” I hadn't, of course, but I was hoping these guys had and would open up.

“He was good,” said Kumar. “He'd swing his whip and hit, say, that box over there … “ He pointed to a box left of the counter. “And things would appear.”

I nodded. “And yet, as the new Rodrigo, I have no talents whatsoever.”

Kumar's partner, whose tag, I saw, identified him as John, was eying me strangely again, and I thought I should tone down the smart alec a bit … if I could help it. “Except picking up packages. I'm excellent at picking up packages.” Again, I used the pen in a pointing gesture for what might be an overly dramatic way of emphasizing the word “excellent,” this time pointing it towards John. At this rate, I would never work my way free of the strange looks he gave me.

“Come with me to the back,” he said. He led me past bookshelves full of instructional DVDs and displays with hanging trick card decks, magic wands and hats. Kumar accompanied us.

The “back” was separated from the front area with a red velvet-like curtain hung over a doorway. The song that came over the sound system just then was America's “You Can Do Magic” which seemed appropriate. The “back” seemed to be a sort of jumbled stock room filled with large boxes, cardboard shipment boxes as well as the multi-colored magic prop sort and a desk with a computer which was piled high with crooked stacks of spread sheets, paper corners pointing in all directions. It also looked like it belonged on the TV show Hoarders and was a neat freak's or a claustrophobic's nightmare. I was getting palpitations.

John and Kumar seemed to me to be at least ten to fifteen years younger than I am and were as thin as fettuccine and, apparently, just as pliable. I watched as John and then Kumar slithered their way sideways through a narrow space between the corner of the desk and a giant box the height of Jack and the width of a wardrobe. Maybe this was how they managed to be thin. They passed themselves through this pasta press every day. They really were magicians or contortionists or both.

“I can't do what you just did,” I said. “I am not liquid. I have these things called bones.” I shifted myself to the side so that I could better see over the stacks of papers into the space where they now were. I thought this might put me in a good position after all since I was so close to the desk overflowing with their business transaction records. If I could scan it with one of the three secret cameras, I could have evidence of their business, the legitimate one or, perhaps, anything a little less legitimate.

“Uh … I guess you can stay where you are for now,” said John.

I switched the coffee cup to my left hand and the pen to my right hand. “It's quite some place you've got here.” I said, moving both hands in wide circles to either side, with the pen camera sweeping over the top of the desk. I decided not to move the coffee cup in this manner over the desk, lest I should make them nervous I would spill coffee over their important papers.

The two rolled out a dolly from a space just slightly aside from my line of vision. Propped on the dolly was a large box the length of a man but a little too high and much too colorful to be quite coffin-like. I found a little stool poking out from below the desk and stood on it. It seemed a better option than standing on one of the boxes of questionable strength and vanishing into the surrounding debris. The box was painted with a galaxy design with a black background splashed with swirling clouds of purple, blue and pink and dotted with tiny points of light.

I wondered if my hand gestures were too fast for the pen camera to catch a clear image. “Walk Like an Egyptian” came on over the sound system, and an idea struck me. I turned profile, put out my hands Egyptian-style, my hands flat and pointing forward and back. “The '80s, you know … I can't resist the beat,” I said. I pulled my pen hand, the right one, forward and back in the Egyptian dance move, and afraid to go too fast, I did my own artistic slo-mo version of the '80s trend dance, which probably seemed to demonstrate I had no concept of the beat I supposedly could not resist.

I could see from the look in John's eyes I had graduated in his opinion from merely odd to borderline lunatic. “You're very right when you say you don't have that sort of talent,” he said.

“Thanks, Simon Cowell.”

Kumar turned his attention from the galaxy box to me. He folded his arms and tilted his head to one side as if thoughtfully assessing my dance skills. “I don't know. I could see him as a clown … a kind of clown dance.”

“Well, that's what I was going for, a clown dance,” I said, turning profile the other direction.

“Funny dude … in a sort of deadpan way,” said Kumar.

When “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” came on next, I switched to a different '80s dance fad, the sprinkler, putting my right fist, clutching the pen, forward, swinging it to the right and pausing in jerky motions until I reached the side, then pulling it swiftly back to the center. John and Kumar watched my madness for a second or two more before turning their attention back to the box.

When I saw the two turn their attention once more to the box, I turned forward. I watched as they opened up two swinging doors on the top of the box over the half closest to me and opened another hatch on the side facing me. There were two compartments in the box, and, through the open hatch, I could now see the dividing panel at the halfway point. John flipped this panel like a revolving door, and when it rotated so that it was parallel to the two sides, I could clearly see there was nothing but an empty chamber behind it. So, maybe this was it. There were no magically manifesting macaws. There was just a magical illusion box with escape hatches similar to the one used in the final vanishing act, just the sort of equipment you'd expect this shop to sell to someone like Zarelda.

To be Continued ...

© 2016 Susan Joy Clark


  1. Awesome part! It is getting me sitting at the edge of my seat!! It is certainly a mystery!! I love things with spies and gadgets too. :P
    Lauren xx

    1. Thanks so much, Lauren. I always love hearing from you.

    2. Thanks so much, Lauren. I always love hearing from you.