by Dave Edie
The bell above the door jingled lightly signalling customers. Mr. Henry calmly moved from his stool behind the cash register and straightened his suit. Rows of bottled spirits all evenly spaced stood at attention, like soldiers on a parade. The two rough-clad men wandering towards him were out of place in this elegance.
Probably here for beer or cheap whiskey, he thought to himself, slipping on his concierge smile. “Gentlemen, how may I serve you this fine evening?”
“Uh…we’re kind of just browsing.” The larger of the two said. His boyish face did not fit his large body. Curly brown hair spilled from under the baseball cap he wore. His baby blue eyes darted nervously around the room, as if he expected his father to catch him in such an establishment.
“Possibly underage,” Mr. Henry thought to himself continuing to smile. “I will definitely card this one.”
“Yeah,” said the other. Mr. Henry did not like the looks of this man. Smaller than his companion, he was dirty and rat-like. “We are just lookin’ around. We want to get something special tonight. A little change of pace if you know what I mean.”
“We do have a wide selection Gentlemen. Please browse and ask if you have questions.”
Mr. Henry kept a close watch while they moved slowly through the aisles. The ratty one stopped and stared at the bottles of sake on display. He picked one up for a closer look as Mr. Henry glided next to him.
“Good choice. That is Juyondai, possibly the most popular brand in Japan. ”
“What is it?”
“That is sake, sir. A fine rice wine that has an unusual fermenting process. The rice is first polished to remove the outer layer of bran. Then as it ferments, the rice transforms from starch to sugar then into the wonderful clear liquid you have before you. It is more along the lines of brewing rather than normal wine making. The Juyondai brand has a remarkable taste to it as well, a wonderful fruity concoction.” Mr. Henry’s eyes closed as he pictured the spirit being poured from a porcelain bottle into several small cups. Elegant people kneeling around a small table, enjoying the drink. He opened his eyes and saw Ratty looking intently at him.
“You’re an okay guy,” Ratty said, reaching into his jacket. Pulling a snub-nose revolver from his pocket he gestured to the cash register. “Give us the money!” He thought for a second then added “please”. He tried to mimic Mr. Henry’s concierge smile, but the jagged teeth made it more in lines with a shark than Mr. Henry.
Mr. Henry swore under his breath opening the till and watching the large one quickly stuff the cash into a small cloth bag. Ratty continued to smile. “That was some story about the sake. We’ll take a bottle of that too.” Grabbing the bottle of Juyondai, they sprinted from the store.
“Shit,” Mr. Henry calmly said, dropping decor. He dialed the police, knowing that he would never recoup his loss. Hanging up the phone he moved from behind the counter, as the bell above the door tinkled again. Putting his concierge’s face back on, he moved to help the new customers. Showtime again.
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Dave Edie retired from the U.S. Army after 22 years of jumping out of planes and blowing stuff up. He currently works as an Adjunct Professor of History when he is not trying to write the next Great American Novel.