Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Kino's Journey V: Chapter 3


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<<Chapter 2

Chapter 3: The Story of a Store
-For Sale-

Manager’s log vol. 25

Day 3,094 (Sunny)
No customers today, either.
The ‘pumpkins’ from a customer long ago finally ripened. Never seen them before, but carefully carved one up and steamed it, as customer said to.
Pumpkin was sweet. Delicious enough to plant again. They say pumpkins are quite good fried, too.

Day 3,095 (Sunny, then cloudy)
No customers today, either.
Sat around minding the store and reading.
Finished ‘The Melancholy of Ulericks’ today. Good read.

Day 3,096 (Rainy)
No customers today, either.
Couldn’t do the laundry because it rained all day.
The steamed pumpkin in the pot has started to go bad surprisingly quickly.

Day 3,097 (Sunny)
No customers today, either.
In good spirits thanks to sunny weather.
Did the wash and hung up the clothes to dry, but dropped a shirt and had to wash it again to get the mud off it.
Considered paving the strip under the hanger, but the moles and the worms wouldn’t appreciate that.

Day 3,098 (Sunny)
No customers today, either.
Did the usual rounds, checking the merchandise. Everything in order. Store is always ready for customers.
Read to pass the time afterwards.

Day 3,099 (Cloudy, then sunny)
No customers today, either.
Put up the ‘PLEASE RING BELL FOR SERVICE’ sign early on and went to the river behind the store to do some fishing.
Hauled in five, including both small and large. Loosed the small ones back in the river.
Had meunière for dinner for the first time in a while.

Day 3,100 (Cloudy)
No customers today, either.
Fixed up the generator (acting up all morning) and cleaned the store as usual. Must always keep the premises spic-and-span.
Thought to smoke the rest of the fish from yesterday, but not enough left. Had leftovers for dinner instead.

Day 3,101 (Cloudy)
No customers today, either.
Did regular checkups on the instruments. Tilting slightly to the minus side, but decently within range. Will do another round in 40 days.
Thawed out a chunk of meat from the fridge.

Day 3,102 (Sunny)
Had a customer for first time in 79 days. Record today will be long for once.

Excellent weather all morning. Hung up the sheets to dry and opened shop with a smile.

Had the feeling someone might show up today. Maybe it’s a sixth sense. Will test out later.

The customer came in just before noon, while I was wondering what to have for lunch. I heard an engine getting closer and closer and rushed out the door.

It was a young traveler on a motorrad passing through the plains. I called out and the traveler stopped, curious.

Traveling on a motorrad sounded fascinating. A flying motorrad might be more comfortable, but an overheated lifter means certain death for anyone without the right know-how. A regular motorrad is safer.

The traveler—named Kino—was in a white shirt and a black vest. It was a strange ensemble. Kino told me that the vest was actually a jacket with detachable sleeves, and could be worn in all weather conditions.

I nodded. It was certainly important to travel light.

I invited Kino and the motorrad—Hermes—into the store. I offered a seat and some tea.

As expected of a seasoned traveler, Kino asked what was in the tea. I drank it first to prove that it was safe.

Kino apologized for being suspicious, but I did not mind. I’ve heard about thieves who spike drinks to rob travelers of their valuables. You can never be too careful.

“Welcome to my store,” I said. And I asked Kino and Hermes if they wanted me to describe my merchandise.

“Before that, could I ask you a few things about the store?” Kino asked. I nodded. I was happy that someone took an interest in my establishment.

“Thank you. Why did you set up shop in a place like this?”

“Yeah. You won’t get a lot of customers smack-dab in the middle of an empty plain. We were surprised when we saw this place.”

Kino and Hermes were right to be curious. There is nothing around here but plains and woods and lakes. It takes more than a few days to reach the closest country, no matter what vehicle you take.

“And are you the only one who works here? No one else?” Hermes asked.

I answered the questions one by one. I explained that I set up shop here because I love the location. I had always wanted to live in my own store, so I wanted to find a place I wanted to live in, which turned out to be this area. But I did not tell them that I had no home to return to because the bullheaded folks there were completely opposed to this shop.

I explained how I had brought in my precious merchandise and tools by truck and built this building and set up shop. That I had no family, and that I had no idea what my parents were doing now.

I don’t know if Kino and Hermes understood me completely.

“Do you get customers?” Kino asked.

“Yes. About once every hundred days, on average. All travelers or merchants. My wares do attract a lot of attention.”

Which was not a lie.

“Have you sold anything so far?” Hermes asked. I did not lie this time, either.

“No. Not a single thing.”

People have conflicting philosophies about embellishing products to make a sale. I am a terrible liar, so I decided I would only tell the truth about my merchandise. And I will continue to do so.

“Let me show you one of my finest products,” I told them, bringing the smallest model I have—the No.5—to the table.

The best way to learn about an object is to see it right before your eyes. And the best stores are the ones that let customers look at and touch the products. So I put it on the table. I strive every day to meet the highest standards in customer service.

The hardware store in the eastern district back home was terrible, in that sense. With tools, you have to feel the balance in your hand to see if they’re worth the price. But everything there was in a glass case and the shopkeeper only took things out if you wanted to buy them.

I still clearly remember how I stormed out of these.

I also remember how I swore I would never do such a thing if I had a store of my own, but how it all seemed so far away at the time.

If Kino doesn’t feel the same frustration I felt back then, it means I’m capable of taking away lessons from bad experiences. That thought made me a little happy.

“What is this?” Kino asked, examining the product.

“What does it look like?” I asked, showing just the right amount of playfulness so as to avoid annoying the customer. There is nothing more fun than presenting a product you’ve personally made.

“A normal navy-colored suitcase. It doesn’t have any buckles, but it has a switch,” Hermes said.

“Precisely. It looks just like an ordinary suitcase, which is the point. But actually—” I paused. Hold the pause too long and the customer gets impatient and leaves, but a short one creates dramatic tension. “It’s a high-power bomb.”

As expected, Kino and Hermes stared (although I wasn’t sure with Hermes, as he has no eyes) in utter shock.

As the book says, ‘Products that function differently from the way they appear are perfect for attracting attention. Develop items that can capture people’s imaginations!’

“A bomb? You mean you sell bombs and weapons here?” Kino asked.

“Yes. I sell high-power bombs, and nothing else. This is a high-power bomb specialty store. And let me tell you, you won’t find products like mine anywhere else. Just in terms of raw power, even just one of these bons—”

I was getting tongue-tied. I was anxious because it had been so long since the last time I had a customer. After all that practice, too. It was a little embarrassing.

“Pardon me. Even just one of these bombs could level the biggest of countries. The heat and energy it releases will disintegrate, break, and burn everyone and everything aboveground. It also releases a powerful poison into the air that will take care of all survivors and people who happen to visit the blast site. It guarantees a slow and painful death.”

“How does it work?” Hermes asked.

“Just like the sun, essentially. Nuclear fusion.”

I had the answers memorized.

Hermes was the first customer to ever understand from that explanation alone. I simplified it a little more so Kino would also understand. Although I’m not sure how much Kino took away from it.

In either case, Kino made sure to remember the names of the products, if nothing else.

“And you mean that you made this ‘hydrogen bomb’ that can level an entire country in one blast?”


“On your own?”

“That’s right.”

I answered every question without a moment of hesitation, as a good shopkeeper should. I was on fire. I decided to get a little more in-depth.

“I thought up the concept when I still lived back home, and gave the concept a whirl. I succeeded, but no one in my home country wanted my inventions. So I decided to leave my country to set up shop. Today is the 3,120th day since I opened this store.”

“Have you ever thought of using these yourself?” Kino asked.

“Never. There aren’t any countries or people I want to get rid of. I’m just happy to be able to make the things I want. It’s only natural for people to make things they want to make or use the things they want to use, don’t you think? As the maker of these fine products, I would be very pleased if someone who wanted them were to purchase and use them,” I replied. The same answer I will always give when someone asks me this question. “Kino. Hermes. What do you say? This hydrogen bomb will prove immensely useful to you in your journey. For example, you could annihilate a country that displeases you, or you could create a new lake out there in the wilderness. You could even drag in innocent people and animals if you ever felt like committing suicide.”

As the book says, ‘Honesty is key to building good rapport. If you are confident in your products, promote them with your head held high.’

“They’re on sale at the moment. Buy one, and get another product of the same or greater firepower for no additional charge. Both products come with timers with a range of three seconds to a hundred days. I also offer a free paint job and a name engraving service.”

As the book says, ‘Add value to your product to give your customer the last little push they need to be convinced that this is the product for them.’

“I have full confidence in my range of products, and I test them out regularly. If one or both units are found to not be in full working order, or if you’re not satisfied with the scale of the explosion, you can get your money back.”

As the book says, ‘Customer care is essential to breeding trust.’

Kino fell into thought.

“How much?” Hermes asked. An understandable question.

I gave the usual answer. “You name the price! I even accept bartering.”

For some reason, Kino seemed to be deep in thought. But with a shake of the head, Kino eventually replied, “I’m afraid that we don’t need a hydrogen bomb at the moment. I’ll have to decline.”

I admit, it was disappointing to hear.

But I reminded myself that the best thing for the products is for them to be purchased by someone who truly wants them. It is only natural that someone who does not want a product does not buy it.

Afterwards, Kino offered to buy or barter for food. I offered what I had for no charge. Vegetables that kept for a long time, jerky from the ox I butchered, and sealed containers of boiled water. It was only a fraction of what I had in the storehouse, but Kino thanked me profusely.

“Not at all. It’s the least I could do for someone who’s come to browse the store,” I said. And I added, “If you ever need a hydrogen bomb, you’re welcome to visit any time.”

Afterwards, I told Kino about the countries in the area and the road there.

It was just about lunchtime. I asked Kino and Hermes to join me for lunch. I grilled the meat I set out to thaw, and shared it with Kino. It had been a long time since I ate with someone else.

After lunch, Kino thanked me again for the food I shared and headed west on Hermes.

Once they were gone, I cleaned the store and moved around the displays while I was at it.

What if I put one of the units on an eye-catching shelf? That way, anyone who sets foot inside will see it immediately.

Then I’ll have to reinforce the shelf. I’ll do that tomorrow.

It has been a long time since I wrote such a long log entry. My fingers hurt from all the typing.

Today was a fulfilling day. It’s sad that nothing sold, but there was nothing I could do to change Kino’s mind. Getting a customer is in and of itself something to be happy about.

All I can do is hope the next customer decides to buy something.

Addendum: Boiled the remainder of the meat. Was delicious.

Day 3,103 (Sunny)
No customers today, either.
Never had customers two days in a row. Never will.
That is not reason enough to close shop.
Reinforced shelf and displayed No.3 painted in favorite color—blue.
Putting products on shelves makes store layout appealing. Will keep this arrangement for time being.

Had meat-and-vegetable stir fry for lunch. Ate leftovers for dinner.

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