“Excuse me, sir?” Annette called from the counter. She could see the man beyond the door sitting at a table. He had ignored the bell on the counter twice already. “Can you hear me?”
“I can hear you fine,” the man grumbled, “if you’d hold your damn horses, I’m in the middle of-son of a bitch!”
Annette watched the man leap up from his table suddenly with his arms in the air. He shook his right hand as he turned to look at her. His eyes were the deep gray of stormy skies set beneath his unkempt eyebrows, which seemed to reach down over them.
“What do you want?” he asked as he lumbered through the door, shutting the curtain behind him. Annette caught a glimpse of an old camera sitting on the table in pieces.
“I’m sorry if I-”
“Don’t be sorry, just do your business and get out,” the man said, his eyes not meeting hers.
“Okay, then. I need a camera for my son. He’s interested in photography, and I wanted to get him-”
“You can pick any of the ones over there,” the man said, pointing over her shoulder. “The Nikon and Canon work just fine.”
“I looked at those,” Annette said. “I was hoping for something more special. Those are expensive and have a lot of things they can do, but I was hoping something older and more-”
“Quaint?” the man asked, lifting an eyebrow. The word was right, but the tone was mocking
“Yes, actually,” she replied, pulling her purse onto her shoulder.
The man pinched the bridge of his nose as he shut his eyes. It reminded Annette of her grandfather when he would feel at a loss with her grandmother but didn’t want to fight about it.
“Get out,” the man said, turning away from her.
“Excuse me?” she asked, feeling her heart begin to race, and her hands began to shake.
“You heard me,” he replied, “I don’t sell cameras like that to people that don’t understand them. They aren’t trinkets. Now, if you’ll excuse me-”
“I came here because of a very high recommendation on your selection and knowledge on the subject. My son has had modern cameras for the last five years, and I can’t go home and gift him yet another. He loves photography, and he has been remarking on older cameras for the last year. I will not leave here-”
“You say your son has been doing photography for a few years now?” the man asked without turning around.
“Yes, and he is very talented,” she replied. She hoped that her tone was firm enough that he would believe her. She knew that there wasn’t another shop for a hundred miles that carried anything as old as she wanted.
“Do you have any of his work with you?” the man asked, looking over his shoulder.
“Always,” Annette replied, feeling her cheeks flush. She pulled her purse off her shoulder and fumbled through it until she found the small photo album he had given her for Mother’s Day.
The man meandered back to the counter and gently picked up the album. He opened the cover to the first picture and studied it for a solid three minutes before turning the page to the next. After the sixth, he looked up at her, his expression softer.
“Your son took these?” the man asked, looking down at the next photo.
“Yes. I told you. He’s very talented,” she replied.
“What’s the boy’s name?” the man asked.
“Samuel,” Annette said. “He’s seventeen, and already he’s better than most photographers I’ve seen.”
“No doubt,” the man replied, closing the album after the final picture. He looked up at her with a warm smile that, once again, reminded her of her grandfather. She felt a little confused at how the man could be the same person with how kind and gentle he looked. “I’m afraid we got off on the wrong foot. I’m Albert Kennison. Owner of this establishment.”
“I know who you are, Mr. Kennison. That’s why I came here,” Annette replied. “I didn’t want to get just any old camera for Samuel’s birthday this year. It has to be-”
“Special, yes,” Mr. Kennison said, nodding as he bent down and picked a card from under the counter. He held the card out to her. “Give this to your son, and have him come in whenever he’s ready to receive a camera.”
“I’d love to wrap it for him, though,” Annette pressed.
“That’s not how this works, Miss,” he paused.
“Potenia,” Annette finished.
“Miss Potenia,” Mr. Kennison said, his smile becoming more sly. “I could show you a hundred cameras, but in the end, you wouldn’t be able to pick one for young Samuel. Though I suppose when you bring him in, he’ll be more a man than a boy. Eighteen is such an important time for a young man. You bring him in, and I’ll be sure he gets that special camera.”
“Should I pay now, or?” Annette asked, pulling her wallet from her purse.
“No, no, no,” Mr. Kennison said, waving her off. “As I said, eighteen is a significant age for a young man. He and I can work it out when he comes in. Don’t you worry a bit.”
“Could you give me an idea of how much it’ll cost at least?” she asked.
Mr. Kennison pressed the card into her hand and closed her fingers gently around it, “just bring him in. Trust me. I’ve been doing this a very long time.”
“O-Okay,” Annette said as she placed the album and her wallet back in her purse before slinging it over her shoulder. “His birthday is next month, August the 4th.”
“I’ll be here. Open from 8 am to 6 pm every day,” Mr. Kennison replied, nodding. “Don’t you worry one bit, Miss Potenia. This will be a camera he’ll never let go.”
Annette nodded and walked out the door. Somehow she felt both enraged and confused by Mr. Kennison. She got in her car and realized she still had the card in her hand. It was an old piece of paper. It was yellowed, and she could feel the imprint of the letters set into it. The edges of the card were slightly frayed as well. She set the card down on the passenger’s seat, started her car, and drove home, wondering what would happen on her son’s birthday.