The tingle of bells signifying a customer makes your head swivel in the direction of the door. Almost eagerly— if "eagerly" could be used to describe the calculatedly cool manner in which you do anything.
And then the part of your brain which deals with facial recognition stops taking a coffee break back behind the dumpster and slaps you in the face.
And pumped full of smiles and energy, no less, much like one of those cheap $2 balloons you can buy from the supermarket as an afterthought. Happy birthday! Congratulations! I'm so proud of you, I decided to take some precious time from my schedule to get you this cheap foil sleeve full of helium. I hope your life has been made significantly more cheery!
He waits for a reciprocal greeting, as always.
You don't give him one.
Instead, you flick your shaded eyes back down to the magazine that had your attention before the bells roused you from the neat little columns of Cosmopolitan sex tips. You've made it a habit of highlighting the more hilarious ones, then going home and cutting them out and pasting them onto a board you keep in the kitchen. Sometimes, even the temptation of freshly brewed coffee wasn't enough motivation to leave your bed in the morning. Thank God for Cosmo.
"I see you're as amiable as always, then!"
The familiar itchy tendrils of irritation are beginning to gnaw at you. You very subtly raise the magazine another inch or two. Even though you know the flimsy paper isn't enough to block him out entirely, maybe you can pretend for a few more minutes.
Right before your man is about to climax, sprinkle pepper underneath his nose to make him sneeze.
"Got any new flowers in since the last time I dropped by?"
Keep on a blingy necklace during sex. It’ll draw extra attention to your girls.
Some rustling noises. He's poking around the shop.
"You know those treats you used to find at the bottom of a cereal box? One morning, I hid the new finger vibrator I’d just gotten in my guy’s cereal for him to discover."
Now wouldn't that be an awfully interesting breakfast.
Chill a bunch of marbles in the fridge. Toss them on the bed and make him lie on them while you straddle him.
"C'mon, Mr. Strider, you should treat your paying customers with more respect, you know. It's not good for business! And also, impolite."
You cringe inwardly— nothing showing on the smooth surface of your deadpan, of course— not only because lying on a bed full of cold marbles seems like it would be uncomfortable as fuck, but also because you hate it when he calls you "Mr. Strider".
You hate it a lot. You hate everything he does, actually. Somewhere amid the many days of him wandering in and idly loitering around your shop, attempting to make conversation, mild annoyance blossomed into something more deeply rooted. No pun intended. (Or maybe it was. This was a plant shop, after all, and puns did have a certain ironic charm to them.)
The sudden crash of terra cotta against linoleum yanks you from the seat of your relatively peaceful thought train about where puns rank on the irony meter.
You could scream.
Without so much as the faintest twitch of your jaw, however, you lay your magazine down on the counter with surgeon-like precision. You stand up and go grab the broom and dustpan from their respective racks on the wall.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to, Mr. Strider, I can help..." he trails off. The tiny smirk that pulls at the corner of his lips— he's bad at hiding it— tells you more than you could care to know as you start sweeping clumps of soil and broken pot bits into a pile.
"Asshole," you reply, curse dropping off your tongue like a fish sinker.
"Rude," he retorts, without missing a beat.
He nonchalantly leans against an aisle of pansy window boxes (don't, you think) and watches as you with what could only be amusement as you clean up the mess that he made.
"So, how's business?"
"Somewhere between the avenues of Fuck Off and Not-Your-Goddamn beeswax."
"Beeswax? That's a new one. Are those the avenues in the new part of town? I haven't been over there yet, maybe you could give me directions."
"Nah. Next town over. You know, the one full of grimy old guys whose hobbies involve hassling good-looking young men while they try to make a living for themselves as a small business owner of America. You're not familiar with it? I thought that's where you were born. You've gotta at least have relatives living over there." You scrape up the larger clumps of dirt and deposit them into a plastic bag, a crinkling noise following your movements.
"As a matter of fact, I do! Several cousins. They've got no choice other than torment crabby little florists in their rinky-dink flower shops. It's that, or slowly become consumed with ennui as they watch paint dry. The boredom rates there are quite criminal. They're in good need of Netflix." He finishes the statement with a slight bob of his head, as if he was nodding affirmation to himself. His many quirks— like everything else about him— also annoy you.
"At least the flowers cover the smell of their horrendous body odor. Or attempt to, anyway. Nature doesn't work miracles."
"Comments like that can really hurts someone's self esteem, Mr. Strider!" he admonishes, but he can't keep the grin from his face and it completely ruins the effect. You hate him for ruining humor, too. Which is a shame, because he really has so much potential, if he could only pull it off. Like you do.
"Do you see this bag?" You finish gathering the larger pieces of broken terra cotta into the plastic bag, then straighten up, holding it out a few inches from his face and giving it a good shake.
After a long pause— which you drag out for dramatic effect— you continue.
"These are all the fucks I give."
And then you walk across the room and dump it in the trash.