It was only after their nice conversation and Herman’s reaction to it that Mr. Horner realized the impression he had given. Apparently Herman thought of him as either the owner of the home or the real estate agent. This seemed unprofessional on Mr. Horner’s part, for he didn’t want to be untruthful. It seemed this could cause some complications if it carried on. It was nothing to worry about now, though, because Herman was had gone out for a smoke. Mr. Horner had decided to join him to explain the situation, despite his aversion to all things that involved smoking. He peeked his head outside the front door, but only after seeming to excuse himself from the rest of the group, who were not necessarily watching him as much as they were following his lead, you could say. He looked outside, and Mr. Bernstein was gone. It had started to drizzle, and Mr. Horner stepped outside and shut the door behind him. He hadn’t noticed on his way in, but there were a few spider webs in the corners where the front door was set in about six feet. There were no spots on the concrete from the rain where he was standing, and he stepped out and turned in each direction to see if his acquaintance was standing in the rain somewhere. He was nowhere to be found.
Mr. Horner walked back inside and most of the group had gone upstairs. Only three had remained on the main floor, and were still in the library when Mr. Horner came back inside. His initial reaction was to leave the house and be about his business, but he was spotted. A gentleman in metal-rimmed spectacles came toward him and had the Aeneid in his hand. He was clearly interested in Latin, or was a teacher of some sort. They had a brief conversation. Mr. Horner saw no gain to this conversation, but did not want to be rude or dismissive, so they talked briefly, and he eased the man’s inquiries about his own interest in the language and its history. In a calculated, but not even in the slightest bit noticeable, move, Mr. Horner rather interrupted and suddenly acted as if he had just remembered something very important. He asked the man, Mr. Garland, as he then found out, if he had four quarters in exchange for a dollar. He shook the man’s hand warmly, gave commendation about their brief discussion, and with a hearty wave and a goodbye to the other visitors, saw himself out the front door into the steamy street the rain shower had created.
For a brief moment, he had forgotten what he was going, and paused to see that he had just missed stepping in a puddle. He hovered his foot over the surface of the water until he just felt it touch, and then he moved away, and dropped a penny in the water; he waited for the distinct plink of the coin hitting the surface of the water and the concrete. He walked south, the direction he was heading before he stopped to see the home. He reached the intersection and quickly scanned it for anything of consequence. There was nothing, but he saw some phonebooks at the corner of the street. These were of consequence, though. He looked at them. They were clearly the new phonebooks, because they were still wrapped in plastic bags. He repeated “phonebooks, phonebooks, phonebooks…” and walked on.
He needed to get to the corner opposite him, so he first had to cross heading south, then, waiting his turn again, walked east to the corner drugstore. It was still a little too early for lunch, not because of the time; it was almost noon. It was only because he wouldn’t get home (hopefully) until around five o’clock, and he didn’t want to have to get something else between lunch and dinner. It would ruin his appetite.
He had some business to take care of here, though. He had read about it in the paper, and now was a good time to take a good look at it. He went up and down the aisles, giving only brief glances to the billboards that hung above each of them, stating the contents. He found the pharmaceuticals, and went through eyes, ears, nose, throat, but couldn’t find what he was looking for. He went to the cash register, and no one was there yet. He saw the new phonebooks behind the desk here, too. Mr. Horner helped himself to a peppermint out of a jar that lay on the counter. He put a dime down in front of him and rang the bell. The cashier, a stout German-looking man with thin gray hair rushed to the counter and greeted Mr. Horner. Mr. Horner told him he had taken a mint, and wanted to pay for it before he forgot. They were five cents for two, so he grabbed another, and then a third, and put those two in his pocket. He slid the dime across the counter and was given three pennies in change.
“How else can I help you today?” said the clerk.
“Well, I saw an ad in the paper for some non-smoking product. I’ve been told by my wife that I need to leave cigarettes, or she’s leaving me. I haven’t been able to quit, and I saw your ad in the paper for a medicinal aid of some sort. It’s not on the shelves, though…”
“Well, yes, sir,” said the clerk, with an air that he was confident of his answer. “It’s meant to take the place of the need for cigarettes with natural substances, and slowly break a smoker from the need to smoke. The only problem is, it’s being shipped from California, and it’s late. It should come in some time later. I could…”
“I see.” Mr. Horner interrupted, which was very unlike him. He started almost confrontationally by saying “Here’s the problem,” as he leaned on the counter.
“I’m going to be out of town all of next week, and I don’t know how long it takes something like this to work, but I’d like for it to be at my house by the time I get home. I won’t have time to come by and get it when I get home because, you see, I’m down here today on business. Can you ship it? I can pay for it all now.”
The money exchanged hands, and it came time to get the name and address the clerk would be sending the product to. Mr. Horner tore off part of a napkin and wrote down a name in bold letters. He handed it to the cashier and explained:
“I’ve just moved into the area, and don’t know if my new address is being used yet. Here’s my name. Look it up in the new phonebook and use that address to ship it. It’ll get to me that way. If not, you can call my number. It’s on there, too.” Mr. Horner handed the napkin to the cashier, and bid him goodbye with a wave. The cashier did the same and said “thank you, Mr. Bernstein! Have a nice day!”