Manny was cleaning. He did that. It was a bad habit, Bernard said, but he hadn't been able to break Manny of it and the whole shop smelled a little better after he got it out of his system so Bernard hadn't put much effort into it lately.
Fran watched him for a while, nodding and murmuring vaguely in response to Bernard's running critical commentary on Manny's efforts. Not that she was listening. There was no point to listening. And the wine she'd brought was actually halfway decent, so that was something to be distracted by.
A few customers came and went. Whether they were helped or bought anything was anyone's guess. It was entirely possible that they'd merely pocketed some books and left, though Bernard did tend to perk up for thieves. He thought it great sport to hunt them through the shop. You wouldn't think it possible in a shop that size, but he managed.
"What's this?" Manny said after a while, holding up a small locked box. Fran and Bernard looked over and shrugged simultaneously. Manny was tugging at the lock. "Is there a key somewhere?"
Neither Fran nor Bernard moved while Manny came around behind the desk and started to dig through the drawers for the spare keys that seemed to breed, producing new keys that went to nothing anyone had ever seen.
"Do either of you know what it is?" Manny asked. "Or where it came from? It wasn't here last time I cleaned. Do you think someone hid it? Is it one of those treasure hunt things?"
"Where would it have come from?" Fran asked, curious now. "It's not like we usually have things just appear here. Or well, we do, but not interesting things. Once, someone had left an entire basket of beige yarn, and Bernard had once come across two blank pads of paper tucked between Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Fran had found a six unopened boxes of toothpicks on the empty Tempocalypse display once. And of course there were the stray books. Books neither Manny nor Bernard remembered ever ordering or buying but which existed for a while on their shelves before disappearing just as mysteriously. But they didn't talk about those. Okay, so maybe they did have things just appear. But not locked boxes. Nope.
Manny had pulled several keys out of the drawers in the desk, moving Bernard around to get at all of them. There were ten in all. Manny eliminated three at the outset for being too big, then two more for being too small, then tried the remaining five one by one. Of course it was the fifth he tried that finally worked. The lock popped open and they all started at it.
"You know, I didn't actually think that would work," Fran commented, reaching out to open the box. She had a bad feeling about this box, but she couldn't quite put her finger on why.
Inside the box were three pieces of paper, all folded and folded again.
"Manny," Manny read off of one piece. "Fran," off another. The last was labeled "Bernard" in Bernard's own chicken scratch handwriting they all knew and hated.
Manny unfolded his own.
"New Year's Resolutions," he read out loud. "We made New Year's resolutions?" he asked the others. "When did we make New Year's resolutions?"
"Not this past year or the year before," Fran said firmly, taking her own piece of paper. "I know I didn't. I resolved to not make resolutions and I kept that one. I sent myself several texts to that effect."
Manny was reading his own.
"I resolve to not let Bernard push me around," he read first.
Bernard snorted into his wine glass. "Good going on that one."
"I resolve to support Fran if she wants to quit drinking."
Fran snickered. "That's sweet, Manny. Never happen."
"I resolve to work more on my beard care."
Bernard and Fran both took a good look at Manny, then at each other, then they nodded.
"Count that one as a success," Fran advised Manny. "Your beard is looking very nice."
Manny preened for a moment before continuing.
"I resolve to make certain that the shelves stay stocked year round."
They all looked around the shop. The shelves weren't entirely full, but they weren't empty either.
"I'd call that a success," Fran said at the same time as Bernard pronounced "FAILURE!"
"That's the lot of them," Manny said, folding up his paper. "Maybe two out of four? Fifty percent's not bad, I suppose. What about you, Fran?"
Fran looked down at her paper. It wasn't terribly legible, which suggested she had been drinking rather heavily at the time. She peered closely at the first line and frowned.
"I resolve to drink… I don't know if this says 'more' or 'less' here," she muttered.
"If it's the former, count it," Bernard advised. "I've been tallying our consumption and we're up by 5% this year."
"Success it is," Fran decided. "Next, I resolve to get a new job. I've had three new jobs. Another success!"
Neither Bernard nor Manny seemed willing to argue that point with her.
"And finally, I resolved to, hmm. I resolved to tell Bernard about that thing Manny said and tell Manny about that thing Bernard said." She looked up at the two of them and shrugged. "I haven't a clue." She handed them the paper and they both examined it, then shook their heads.
"Right. Bernard," Manny said after handing Fran's resolutions back to her.
"Nope," Bernard said, pouring himself more wine and lighting a new cigarette. "I don't do this nonsense."
"Oh come on," Fran insisted. "Both Manny and I did it! At least show us what you wrote!"
Bernard shook his head and took a long drag of his cigarette before blowing the smoke back out at Manny and Fran. "Why do things like that? It's ridiculous! No one ever remembers what they resolved, unless they do remember and then they feel guilty about it. Why bother? It's rubbish."
Manny sighed. "Fine. Suck all the fun out of it. You probably couldn't keep a resolution if you tried."
"Not going to work, Krampus, you can't shame me into it. I have no shame."
"That, we all knew," Fran commented as she reached over and swiped the paper from Bernard's hand. He made a half-hearted grab for it, but really everyone knew not to get into a fight with Fran. She went for the eyes.
She unfolded the paper and stared at it, then turned it around for both of them to see.
Written on the paper in bold block letters was a single word: NO.