Eglantine wandered into the poorly lit store that she’d never noticed before. It was squeezed between a coffee shop filled with scruffy people and a grocery store that had closed nearly a decade ago. She would normally never even look twice at anything along this street, but her car had a flat tire and her phone died, so she needed to find a way to call a tow truck.
There was no one at the counter. Eglantine looked around and couldn’t find a bell to ring either. “Hello? Is anybody there?” she said. She looked around. It certainly was a strange store. I was so dimly lit that it was difficult to see what was on the shelves from here.
“Can I help you?” a low, crackly voice asked. Eglantine nearly jumped in surprise. She hadn’t heard anyone come in.
She turned and faced the young man standing behind the counter. He was tall and thin and pale with dark hair and a bit of an overbite. He seemed harmless. Eglantine smiled. “Do you have a phone I could use? My battery died and my car has a flat tire.”
“Just a moment.” The young man reached under the counter and picked up an old-fashioned phone that he set down at her elbow.
“Is that a rotary dial? I haven’t seen one of those since I was a little girl.” She smiled and carefully dialed the number. She arranged to meet the tow truck driver in front of the grocery store in twenty minutes.
Task done, Eglantine looked around the store again. “What do you sell here?”
“Sweets for monsters,” the young man said. He looked completely serious. Eglantine looked at his black clothing and pale appearance. The store must cater to teenagers who liked dressing up as vampires and such.
Eglantine had always had a bit of a sweet tooth. She didn’t mind playing along with the theme, as long as the candy tasted good. “What would you recommend?”
“What kind of monster are you?” the young man asked.
Well, that was hardly helpful. “Does it matter?”
The young man looked confused. “Of course it does.” He waved towards a dark shelf that looked like most of the others. “Just look at the lollipops. Vampires like blood pops, werewolves like meat pops, and zombies like brain pops.”
Those were terrible flavor names. And they didn’t really hint at what the flavors really tasted like. Kids and their strange obsessions. “What’s your bestseller?” Eglantine asked.
The young man pointed to a box on the counter filled with bland looking packaged bars of some type. “This far from Halloween we sell a lot of spectral energy bars.”
Ugh. Protein bars. “Do they taste good?”
The young man blinked. “They don’t taste like anything.”
Eglantine laughed. “I believe it.” She checked her watch. The tow truck driver would be here in a few minutes. If she was going to buy herself a treat, she’d need to decide on something soon. “So, what do you think I would like?”
“If you like jam, we have a new shipment in,” the young man said.
“Sure,” she said. “I’ll get a baguette on the way home and have toast and jam and hot cocoa.” She smiled. She could already see herself curled in her favorite chair watching the weather channel and enjoying her treat. “Pick out two. Surprise me,” she said.
“All right.” The young man walked around the counter to a nearby shelf and picked up two little jars. He put them into a little plain paper bag with handles and set it on the counter. He rang up the purchase on an old-fashioned register. “How will you be paying?”
“Cash.” She handed him a bill that would comfortably cover the cost. “Keep the change,” she said. “Thanks for the help.”
She hurried over to her car. Just as she arrived, the tow truck pulled up. In all the hassle of dealing with the tow truck and the repair shop, she forgot all about the jam until she was driving home that evening. “Oh, I need to stop at the bakery.” She was able to just make the turn in time.
Before going into the bakery, she decided to peek at the jars the young man had picked out. Lizard Scale Jelly and Banana Peel and Parsley Jam? What did they really taste like? They sounded terrible. Well, if they tasted bad, at least the jars were cute. She could put them on her desk and use them to hold paperclips and stamps. Really, teenagers these days were so strange.