Now that I knew the identity of the man who purchased “The Street of Crocodiles”, I had to remember the name of the restaurant in Shelburne he owned and give it a call. I was in the process of doing this when the door to the store opened and a gentleman entered. He approached me with a sense of urgency that told me he either had an important matter to discuss, or an overwhelming need to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the former.
“Hello,” he began. After some deliberation, he had settled on what he believed was a strong opening.
“Hi,” I responded, matching him step by step.
The initial volley being accomplished, we went into the second phase of our interaction, one characterized by a long silence during which I was witness to what was referred to in the silent film era as a “slow burn”. A very slow burn.
“You don’t recognize me, do you?”
‘I’m afraid I don’t.”
“You should be careful. I know where you work.”
“So does anyone else who walks through that door. And many who don’t.”
“My name is Chuck.”
I introduced myself.
“But you might know me as Banksty.”
“That’s right. I designed the front of your store.”
“As in Banksy, the British street artist?”
“It’s an homage. Besides, you wouldn’t want to have the front of your building designed by someone named Chuck, would you?”
I could see my opportunity to call that restaurant in Shelburne slipping away if I didn’t take control of this conversation. All the same, I had wondered what kind of individual might propose the colour scheme that currently adorned the front of the store. Perhaps it was the black leather jacket with neat matching pants and brand-new sandals with the price-tag still on which covered Justice League of America socks. It might also have been the six-foot chicory-coloured boa wrapped a few times around his neck. (Tip for aspiring writers: attention to detail always helps). It resurrected a look I hadn’t seen since I watched a Carol Channing retrospective on Turner.
“How might I be of help, Chuck? I should warn you, I’m in the middle of writing a story about hunting down a book I sold for a particular client, so I don’t have a lot of time to spare. I’ve got limited space and there are readers waiting.”
“Well, you should make some time for me. I’m here as a professional courtesy to let you know that I’ve instructed my lawyer to take legal action against you and your store.”
“What for?’ I asked incredulously.
“Thanks to you, my business has gone in the toilet. Your posts have gone viral and even eclipsed cat videos. I’ve become a laughingstock in my profession. The work has dried up. I’m being boycotted.”
“I guess the Florida ice cream parlours and the Saskatchewan candy store empire don’t appreciate the work you do in the Netherlands,” I surmised.
“No, they’re good with it. I don’t think the owners even read. If they did, I’m sure they’d feel the association is a good one. After all, they’re in the confection business as well. Unfortunately, it’s the Dutch. They don’t want their design to have anything to do with industries that promote diabetes. Now, no self-respecting brothel in the Netherlands will touch me. They’re all rebranding. I couldn’t even design a lemonade stand in that country.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I’m a pariah overnight, thanks to you and your posts. Although I am somewhat heartened. I just heard from a chain of Swiss brothels who might want me to create a new look for them, but they want me to include a drive-thru. I don’t even know what that looks like. If they do hire me, I swear I’ll stay away from the chocolate market there. Once bitten.”
“Then there’s some reason to be optimistic.”
“Don’t think you’re going to wiggle out of this that easily. I’m going to shut you down. I’m going to ensure that no customer ever walks through that door.”
“Too late for that.”
“You have been dutifully warned. Heed my words. You will be hearing from my lawyer. Mention me in one of your posts in the future and you do so at your own peril. Act accordingly.”
With that, he turned and left the store, dragging his boa behind him (more detail). I watched him depart, stunned and wondering when he might next enter my life again. I was about to return to the story of my pursuit of the restaurant owner in Shelburne, when I realized I had run out of space.