The sales girl was generally pleasant, mild-mannered and dainty. Coming from a long line of sales clerks she had a genetic disposition for friendliness, but strange muscles growled at the back of her neck whenever the sea captain entered the store. There was something about the man that turned all her pink nerves to red and her blue ones to black. His wheeze alone as he counted his change before dropping it on the counter was enough to cause a strange and disconcertingly visible cramping along her forhead.

It was something personal, but she could not say what. The sea captain had never done anything personal to her or anyone she knew. He only bought his ranch dressing, his copper kettle, his poultry. Sometimes he would FedEx a three day old mackeral to an old flame a few cities over. “Love is just a dead fish that hasn’t happened yet,” the captain said and no one quite knew what he meant.

The store manager, coming himself from a long line of store managers, noticed the change in his sales clerk whenever the captain entered and would poke at her shoulder with his bamboo cane out of concern. “What’s with you and the captain,” the store manage said one day after the captain had left with a mysterious and nearly troubling purchase of a gallon of gasoline, a pound of allergy medicine, and a dozen poison-tipped arrows.

The sales clerk looked away as if guilty of something more than her inexplicable feelings. “Nothing,” she said.

“Nothing is the speck that big something’s shed like dead cells,” the store manager said.

The clerk frowned and said: “That sounds like something the captain would say.”

 “That’s where I heard it,” the manager said, now looking guilty of something himself. “I wonder what it means.”

Grant Bailie is the author of the novels Cloud 8 and Mortarville, as well as numerous stories online and in print. His latest novel, New Hope for Small Men is available in e-book form under the auspices of Necessary Fiction, where it was first serialized. His book TomorrowLand--an illustrated novel of sorts--is due out in the fall through Red Giant Books Mr. Bailie currently lives in Lakewood, Ohio, which is a stone’s throw from Cleveland. He knows this because sometimes the people in Cleveland throw stones.

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