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Harold’s pout didn’t last long, though his silence did.  Harry had long abandoned him to go and surf on the internet, or at least, swim on it.  Alone, Harold thought about travel.  Going to another country would be difficult, but they could take a long road trip  travel to some more tropical state, like Florida.  If they were frugal, a weeklong trip would be simple and provide them with new and amusing things to do instead of sitting around the house or puttering around the various local strip malls.  It was not hard to long for a life more meaningful than this:  for a life that was more than waiting for something to happen.  In many ways, the monotony provided Harold a shared perspective that their previous shared life could not.  Now, he understood the reason why the others had felt so caged before; without any aspirations or dreams, he could not calm the scientist within.
Being a great asker of questions, the bearer of a curious mind, would not have been such a burden if he were not also a great finder of solutions.  If there was one thing he was good at, it was research:  both theoretical and physical.  If he wanted a needle-nose plier, he would ask himself what color he would like, what material he would want it made of, what the overall length and widths should be and so on and so forth.  Each question took hold in his mind and demanded an answer, regardless of how long it took for him to find one, the question in question would niggle him occasionally, sometimes early in the morning, sometimes late at night.  If he relaxed, a question would poke him in the temporal lobe.  More and more frequently he was fixating on inconsequential things.  A pair of pliers are inconsequential.
Harold was determined:  he had to find a new distraction, a new obsession.  As a young boy, science and math had been his favorite toys, he loved to play with them as much as possible.  At an older age, he had discovered biology and  the experimental method.  Cloning had become his obsession: had taken over his life and filled it with never-ending paths to take.  When that had finished, he had all the Harolds and covering his tracks.  With everyone safe, he had no larger arc to his life, no . . . passion.  Spinning his wheels was undesirable.
Sadly, he could not undertake such a large task alone.  Accustomed to the same three people always in his life, of course he wanted to take the other Harolds, and they would welcome the distraction of something different, he was certain.  This time when he told them . . . or rather, talked with them about a change of life, a vacation . . . he would ask for their opinion and try not to guide them to exactly what he wanted.  

Once Hare had parked the car, he and Rold had wandered about the strip mall.  They had taken to returning later and later from their trips, often not completing an errand for hours.  As long as they were not using a lot of gas, Hare felt that it was fine and not really cheating in any sense.  Harry and Harold certainly knew how long the little tasks would take; their nonchalance about the whole time issue reinforced Hare and Rold’s behavior.
Out in public, Hare could feel eyes on him, as if they were boring little holes into him.  He had gotten better at acting less paranoid, but he could still feel it, that at any second someone would come up to him and ask him some easy question, look into his eyes and know that his license wasn’t real, that he didn’t really exist.  Suppressing the urge to flee when interacting with strangers, he stiffened physically, but kept smiling, the grin becoming more of a rictus than a genuine grin.
Rold was much better at blending in.  A typical teenager with what looked like a disdain for mainstream fashion (Harold’s fashion sense from his younger days faded in and out of popularity with the times, currently they were out, so yesterday and old news) could easily get away with acting uncomfortable around strange adults, not giving out a name or even ignoring a stranger altogether.  Often while standing in a line with Hare, Rold would not even be talked to, teenagers being, apparently, not only dangerous but volatile, a shunned minority during work hours on a work day.
A new hardware store had opened at the strip mall a month ago.  Kobbe’s Shop was similar enough to all of the other shops, stores and offices, but the Grand Opening! sign still hung in its front window, a little more tattered and worn, but nonetheless cheery.  One would not realize it was a hardware store if not for the A-board proudly declaring the sale of high quality tools in THIS ESTABLISHMENT set smack dab in the middle of the breezeway practically daring one to enter THIS ESTABLISHMENT OR ELSE.
Rold pointed to the video game store (arcades being a thing of the past) and sauntered off to gaze at the well-designed backs of game sleeves and wondering what to pirate next.  In some ways, his research was illegal, in others, it was the only way for him to amuse himself and it was harmless enough in his own limited worldview.
A bell suspended near the door rang as Hare walked into the hardware store.  Glancing around, he noticed how well organized the space was: shelves up to the ceiling filled to the brim but never overflowing, colorful pegboards loaded with heavy tools yet not sagging or in danger of folding, aisles that seemed too narrow but actually could fit two people back-to-back.  There seemed to be no people around and no harm in Hare wandering around.  Tools that he had never seen or known the uses for were placed just within his reach and he took some out and felt them, testing weights and balances.  
“If you break something, you’ll have to pay for it.”  The voice of an old man stated in a dry tone.
Startled, Hare nearly dropped the stainless steel thingamajig.  “Oh, I’m sorry.”  Carefully, he placed it back on its spot on hangers on the pegboard.  Turning, he faced the direction of the voice which happened to be at the till.  “I don’t even know what its for.”
The wisened old man, dressed neatly in a white long-sleeved shirt and a pair of ill-fitting engineer’s pants, scratched his whiskered chin.   “Well, myself, I call it a plumber-thingy since plumbers use it.  Think its called a die stock.”  After a bit of a pause, he continued.  “Thats the only size we carry.  Its the only size I was told people needed, so its the only size we carry.  Sorry if you want something brand new, its reconditioned and good for using, I’d use it myself, but then I couldn’t sell it.”
“I see.  Well, thanks.”  Internally kicking himself for his bad manners, Hare turned tail and ran into another aisle.  He spotted several sets of needlenose pliers near the cash register and the apparent minder of the store.  Sighing, Hare visually picked out one that Harold would probably approve of, one with a long, narrow point that could also be used for other applications besides working on tiny mechanical wheels.  Once he decided, he headed towards them with determination.
Picking up the set he had chosen, he gave it to the man at the register.
“Whoowee.”  The register man whistled.  “This one is one of the more expensive ones.  Plus, I look at your hands and you ain’t got little bitty lady hands, buddy.”
Turning red, Hare said, “Its for a friend.”
“He got little bitty lady hands?”
Hare’s hands were actually larger than Harold’s, but how much bigger remained to be seen.  Holding a hand aloft, he indicated with the other hand an estimation of how large Harold’s hands were.
“I got just the thing.”  Scampering out from behind the register desk, the tiny old man strode down an aisle and came back.  “Here we are.”  He held aloft an older-looking, dinged up version of what Hare currently had.
Placing the newer needlenose pliers back with their shiny friends, Hare took the ones the man held.  The weight felt right in Hare’s palm.  “I’ll take it.  How much?”
“Its reconditioned, so it ain’t brand new.  I’d say its five dollars.”
Hare handed over the money.  “Thank you.”  Noting the name on the man’s nametag, he added, “John.”   He placed his purchase in his back pocket.  
“Thanks for coming to my store.”  John grinned, showing a set of even, if somewhat discolored, teeth.  “See you next time.”
On impulse, Hare blurted out the first thing that came to his mind.  “You own this store?”
“Yessir.”  John nodded.  “Not my first store.  Or rather, I’ve been owning Kobbe’s store on and off, you know, on and off.  I used to sell only at swap meets.  People know me if you ask around.  I don’t sell crap, that’s the trick.”
“Do you need an extra hand?”  Hare waited for what seemed like an eternity while John mulled the idea over.  “I’m sorry, I was, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, I’ll go.”
“Now, wait up.  I’m a man and I’m a man who’s thinking about you asking and I’m thinking hard about what you’re saying and what you’re asking.”  Shaking his head, he rambled, “That’s the problem with you kids today, never can wait.”  Leaning against the counter, he poked a finger against it emphatically.  “I think you’re asking because you need a job, is that right?”
Embarrassed, Hare nodded morosely.
“See, I figured.  Here’s a man who picks up a fancy-dancy pair of twenty dollar pliers that won’t even fit him right and leaps at a five dollar pair that work good and look like shit.  Pardon my French, but they do look like shit, don’t they?”
Hare chuckled.  “Yeah.  They look like one of my old used ones.”
“The old ones work the best, that’s another thing.  Used to be, American made was the best, was the golden standard, still are, if you ask me, but there’s a reason.  Those suckers work the best and still work, can hand them to your grandkids no problems.”  He paused.  “What was I saying?”
“They look like shit?”
“Right, look like shit.  But you, you can tell they work fine, because you put your hand on them and fiddle.  The fiddling’s important.”  Squinting at Hare, John tapped a finger against his own upper lip.    “I think you have what it takes.  Sure, I’ll give you a job.”
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puffy_wuffy: bunnytongue (Default)

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