Good morning sir, how can I help you?
I'm interested in the poetry of Thomas Hardy.
The poetry of who, sir?
The poetry of Thomas Hardy, yes.
But this is a stationery store, sir.
So I observe. What of it?
We dont have any poetry books here, sir.
I should think not. No room for that sort of thing here. Not with your groaning shelves so full of all those envelopes, punched pockets and lovely rigid box files, eh?
That's right, sir. So I'm afraid we cant help you after all.
Can't help me? You dont stock erasers, 26/6 staples or A4 2-ring binders then? That's odd.
Sorry sir? Well, yes, of course, we do stock those.
So you can help me after all.
Er, yes, if that's what you're looking for.
That's what I'm looking for, yes.
Not poetry, no.
Not Thomas Hardy.
Thomas Hardy? Good grief, no, why would I be looking for Thomas Hardy in a stationery store? That would be ridiculous.
It's just that you said...
What? What did I say?
You said you were interested in the poetry of Thomas Hardy.
I am interested in the poetry of Thomas Hardy.
I am also interested in the influence of Buddhism and Shintoism on the Japanese architecture of the Asuka period.
Right. That's very, er...
And I correspond with a lady in Jutland who shares my passion for the Baroque motets of Jean-Baptiste Lully.
Indeed, sir? That is interesting.
Are you familiar with the work of Jean-Baptiste Lully?
Well, to be honest, no, I cant say I am, sir. Er, 4-ring binders, was it?
2-ring binders, as a matter of fact.
Ah, yes, that was it.
Yes, thank you, sir. That will be...
Erasers and 26/6 staples.
Very good, sir. I can show you where to find all those, if you'd like?
Of course I'd like, my friend. Lead the way, honest yeoman.
Here we are, sir, the staples.
Excellent. Quite the thing.
And the binders are just over there, past the box files, I...
Only it's important, I find.
Important, sir? What's important?
It's important. Nay, i'd say it was absolutely vital.
Vital, sir? What is? Getting the right staple? Ah, yes. of course. The wrong size of staple will render even the very best of staplers redundant. We always recommend...
No, no. It's important to show people that you have interests in life.
Lest they think you a poor sort of fellow.
Lest they look askance at you, and mark you down as a very forlorn class of wretch, one whose miserable life is measured out with 26/6 staples and medium 32mm paper clips.
Oh no, of course not...
Lest they look down their noses at you, and have you classified as a shuffling nonentity whose most intimate friends are the C5 manilla envelope and the A6 laminating pouch.
Oh no, never, sir. On the contrary, I can see that you are a very interesting person, with all your, er, interesting, er...
Interests, yes, that's it. Er, and how would you like to pay for your stationery today, sir?
Cash. On the nail. Here.
Thank you, sir.
I suppose you must have the same issues yourself, immersed, if not mired, as you of necessity are in the seemingly drab milieu of stationery products?
Me, sir? Oh, I wouldn't know about all that, I never think about it.
Come now, I hope by now you know you can confide in me. Kindred spirits, eh?
Of course, sir. I know that, and I am grateful, but you see I only work here one day a week.
Really? And what do you do the rest of the week? Unemployed, I suppose, poor fellow. Well, at least this is something, eh?
Oh no, sir, I'm a mercenary by trade.
Yes. I get paid to fight for foreign powers. I do most of my fighting in the third world. They pay best, you know. It's amazing how much money they'll pay a willing mercenary these days.
Well, I never. I...
Of course, it's dirty work, slaughtering civilians, massacring innocent women and children on behalf of crazed dictators, destroying whole communities in the service of psychopathic despots, but, as I say, you can't turn down that kind of money.
But why do you work here one day a week?
Well, it's something to fall back on, isn't it? I mean, the politics of the third world is such a flux. It's so volatile that you can never make long-term plans. That's why they pay you so much. And when I get too old to go gallivanting off through darkest Africa or the tinder-box that is the modern Middle East, well, there'll always be a job here for me. Alan, the manager, told me that. 'There's always a job here for you', he said.
Well, that's nice.
Oh yes. They really look after a mercenary here. You see Rodger over there, replenishing the mouse mats? He used to work for the Saudis. They keep on at him to go back, but, as he says, 'the way things are, that regime could collapse any day, whereas folk'll always need their stationery'. And he's right. As long as we move with the digital times, we'll always have a customer base. You can't say the same for Robert Mugabe or this Arab Spring lot.
No, I suppose not.
So there you have it. Well, if that's all, I'll thank you and wish you good day, sir. Take care now.