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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 28 page 09

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“Or, maybe,” Walt raised his finger, “maybe you’re all those things.” (Walt was the sort of man who believed one had to tell imbeciles what they were — for how else would they know?)

The boy was still staring at him though his face had turned red as a raspberry.

“Tell me, do you like walking back and forth umpteen times? — Are you a mouse on a wheel running round and round in circles? Well?”

“I-I—”

“I?”

“I’ll get the manager.”

The boy disappeared.

“I need to have a word about these muffins,” Walt told the manager. “I didn’t realise, and others might not realise either” — he gestured toward the café patrons — “I didn’t realise that you literally mean one blueberry. I assumed there would be an even blueberry-to-muffin mixture ratio.”

“That’s just how it’s done, sir.”

“That’s just how it’s done, is it? What are you? A mouse on a wheel?” Walt made a gnawing sound. “And the boy’s hand on the rim of the cup — that touched my lips — and the muffin without blueberries, and the saucer — the dirty serviette! — the five trips to complete the most basic order — running round in circles — trying to save on his gym membership — or — or is he just glad to see me?”

“Excuse me, sir. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Leave? Leave? The only person that should leave is your waiter. The customer spends more time waiting than your waiter spends waitering! No, I’ll finish my slop because I paid for it. Shan’t take long.” He put a half blueberry in his mouth.

Walt Bugleman picked up his Steinberg’s bag, brushed the crumbs from his shirt, and left, walking down Main Avenue to Steinberg’s, stopping at a bin to throw in the serviette he was still carrying. Since the blueberry incident, his temperature had risen two degrees, putting him in the mild fever category.

For germ-protection he pulled his shirt sleeve over his hand and pushed through the Steinberg’s revolving door. Hand still covered, he took the escalator to the men’s department on the second floor. He put the Steinberg’s bag on the counter with more force than intended, resulting in a thump. The lady looked at him with surprise.

“I recently purchased your Days of the Week shirt pack only to find there was no Monday but two Sundays. Now, I’m no expert, but obviously someone who purchases said product is a little obsessive-compulsive, or at the very least is located on some sort of cleanliness spectrum. This brings me to my next point. Is this two-Sunday thing a way of trying to unhinge the already unhinged? Or do you simply loathe Mondays — understandable but not acceptable to the Gregorian calendar — or – or,” he pointed his finger at her, “is this some sort of religious statement?”

“Um...I’m, I’m sorry, sir. I can see if we have another pack available.”

“Is it going to have two Mondays and no Sunday?”

“I’ll check for you, sir.”

The lady disappeared to the shirt section and emerged a minute later with a new pack of shirts.

“We appear to be out of the solid colours but we have the stripes pack left.”

“Stripes?”

Walt avoided shirts with stripes because it was difficult to find one where the stripes lined up properly at the seams.

“I’ll have a refund,” he said.

“We can’t give you a refund but you’re welcome to exchange the item for something else.”

“You can’t give a refund?”

“There’s nothing wrong with the shirts.”

“They have the wrong day on them!”

“But the quality of them is fine. Can you go pick something else out?”

“I don’t want anything else. I want a plain shirt with Monday on it!”

“We could give you a gift voucher.”

“Fine. But don’t say “we could” like I have a choice in the matter because evidently I don’t. I either get two Mondays, stripes or something I don’t want so please don’t make it sound like you’re doing me a favour, and don’t say ‘gift’ because to me it is not a gift, a gift would be giving me the shirts at no charge for my inconvenience and then giving me a $100 voucher — that’s a gift! — so don’t say ‘gift’!”

<CONT...>