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Sunshine and Tolstoy

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Sunshine, Bernard decided, was created by the devil. That was the only possible explanation for why it came so early in the morning, waking a man up and ruining a perfectly good dream. It sneaked in through the window like a customer, got all over the books and in his face. It created sweat and burns and that horrible tan that Fran kept going for every summer but always failed miserably at because sunning and a bottle of wine were the worst couple ever.

"Manny!" Bernard tugged a book over his face, discovered that Wodehouse made a terrible sunhat, and flung it across the room where it knocked over the photo of daisies that Manny claimed brightened up the shop. Manny also claimed that Bernard had given permission for the photo to be brightening, but since most of November was an empty space in Bernard's brain, he suspected that was a lie. He scrabbled on his desk and pushed a stack of Tolstoy onto the floor. Sunhat. He needed a sunhat and wine. Especially the wine. If he had enough of that, he'd forget there was sunshine. "Manny! Where are you?!"

Ah, cigarettes. He shredded the packet, dumped all the fags into the ashtray since that was where they'd end up anyway, and stuffed one lone survivor between his lips. "Manny, if I don't have a drink in the next five seconds--"

A bottle appeared in front of him and Bernard flinched, sun glinting off the green glass and burning his eyes. "It's not in a glass," he muttered around his cigarette.

"No. And it won't be, for we are out of glasses." Manny's beard leaned down into Bernard's face. "We are also out of mugs, cups, beakers, bowls, basins, saucers, tureens, ramekins, and porringers."

"Stop yer noise," Bernard said, then tipped his head back and raised his brows. "What's a porringer?"

"Oh! Well." Manny's hands started fluttering like the moths that lived in the cupboard. "It's a shallow metal bowl, usually with a handle. You eat things out of it. Like soup. Or porridge. Or--"

"Shut up!"

"You asked." Manny picked up the Tolstoy and restacked it on the corner of the desk. When he turned around, Bernard pushed it all off again. "But as I was saying," Manny continued, picking up the Tolstoy and moving it out of Bernard's reach. "We are out of every vessel that could possibly have any liquid poured into it. Either we have to do the washing up or we have to go purchase new ones."

Bernard crushed out his cigarette, lit another, and considered this. On the one hand, washing up was the last chore he wanted to do, below listening to Fran's latest failure in her unlovable love life and below removing lint balls from between his toes. On the other hand, going to buy new dishes meant stepping outside. It meant people. It meant sunshine. Clearly, this was an unconscionable choice and he shouldn't be forced to make it.

"Neither," he announced. "I have a much simpler solution. I shall rip off your head and use your skull to hold my wine in punishment for being such a fool as to let the dishes get into this state."

Manny tried to give him a look of cunning, but the caterpillars that were Manny's eyebrows were far too distracting. "Wouldn't work," Manny said. "You'd have to plug up the eye sockets with putty and then the wine would taste like ... putty. And skull."

Bernard sucked at his cigarette and did his best not to look as though Manny had made a good point. It didn't do to encourage him. If he thought he'd said something intelligent, he'd try to do it again and that would only lead to heartbreak and possibly customers. "Fine," he said. "You may go buy some dishes. Glasses. Loads of glasses. Glasses for wine. But, and this is very crucial," he added as Manny started to look gleeful. That had to be nipped in the bud right that second. No glee in the shop. "Absolutely no porringers. Not a single one." He got out of his chair, found the Tolstoy stack, and pushed it over again.