He stared at it for a long time. But when he looked up at the huge round clock, incongruous analogue, mocking the digital revolution below, only seven minutes had elapsed.
Now that the man had finished reading the label on it and his son had stopped pushing his face, chin first towards it, his daughter refused to go. The girl stood in front of it, revelling in the way it made her t-shirt crease and lean into her chest, her short sleeves shaking and sharing her delight.
“Mieke! Kom op!”
She ignored her father and spoke into it. The sound of her voice breaking and quivering cajoled her brother to let go of his father’s hand and join shoulders with his sister. Their voices trembled together, gibberish to others but holding meaning for them both.
And he remembered what it felt like to have someone whose voice rose and fell in cadence with his. He should not have let her go.
“Dani!” their father called, securing the box in a tighter embrace before turning and walking away.
He measured the angle formed by tracing the son’s head up to the father’s and down to the daughter’s. An obtuse angle, the geometry of his life. He must have looked at their backs for too long, because when he turned around to move closer to it, two girls were already there. Their legs, as yet, insufficiently kissed by the sun, stretched long from the edge of their bum shorts to their ankles. They wore black flip-flops decorated with neon flowers, which would glow in the dark.
The first girl raised her arms and let her mid-riff enjoy it and although it teased her crop top, it could not lift the blouse higher. The second girl used one hand to plunge her neckline so that it could find more places to affect. They giggled. Then they were gone, as quickly as his youth, hobbling as they shared the weight of the box.
The whirring noise coming from it reminded him why he had come.
The boy who addressed him wore a red shirt with a name pin on the front pocket. The boy was leading a man with an open collar and rolled-up sleeves to it. He wanted to say he was not done yet, but moved aside instead.
He watched the boy, nineteen perhaps, summer job maybe, gesturing with his hands as he explained what it could do. The man nodded and rubbed his neck. He imagined that this man wearing a striped shirt sat in an office from nine until five, getting up for coffee every hour, and sending emails every other hour. The man’s torso had made peace with that kind of life.
The man must have asked how much and then asked for a discount because the boy told him 50 Euros. The boy said it was the last one but since it had been on display, the man could have it for 45. The man shook his head as if he could bargain on a day like today. The boy suddenly seemed older as he explained capitalism to the man.
“Tomorrow, we will get more stock and sell them for 70 Euros and people will still buy. We could have sold this one, but we needed a demo.”
He saw an opportunity he had not known existed and fingered the money in his pocket. But the man nodded and pushed his glasses up his nose. Then the boy bent down and got to work.
He watched the boy break it in parts and steady the blades before pushing its head into a rectangular carton. He folded the cord in 4 cm strips, securing it with a string. Then the boy hoisted the box and walked to the counter where the man was taking out his credit card.
He swallowed his anger like saliva that gathers in one’s mouth from inactivity. He recalled his last night with her. She had asked him what his plans were, if he was going to drift forever. Her parting words, the patient dog never eats the fattest bone; can’t you be crazy for once, galvanized him to action now.
He dashed to the counter and snatched the box. He made for the door, pushing languid bodies with the box. The alarm sounded but the heat had humbled the security guard in a navy blazer who possessed neither baton nor gun.
Only when he reached his apartment door did he stop looking back. Inside, the open windows yawned and wished for something to do. Sweat gathered around his neck then slithered to his chest. He opened the box and put the parts together, steadying the blades as he had seen the boy with the red shirt do.
Finished, he admired his work and waited for it. After two minutes, he rechecked the parts and fumbled with the cord. He searched the box, moving his hand from side to side. He let out a deep sigh and banged the wall. Then he dropped on his bed and cursed the heat while his sweat seeped into the hot sheet.
The infrared sensor on its sleek black panel glowed and turned to an eye that grew and grew. Then the boy with the red shirt emerged from the eye. The boy shrugged and gestured with the remote in his hand, “It is the heat; it makes people crazy.”
He blinked and looked away, fear creating tremors in his heart. When he dared to look again, the glow and the boy were gone. He groaned. Was there no more room for analogue in a digital world?
Tomorrow he would return to the shop wearing a baseball cap. Tonight he would wrestle the heat. He picked her wedding invitation from the bed and began to move his hand from side to side, rewarding himself with hot air. He imagined the card was made from steel and black plastic, like the fan on display in the shop.
©Timi Yeseibo 2015
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