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Post 1

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

It was the morning of November 29 ("Black Friday"), 2019. The Sun wasn't up yet, but Arsenio had urgent business to attend to.

He put his robe on as he was descending the stairs, then stopped in the office only long enough to summon some coffee from his new vending machine. Wait, he would need a *second* cup to fortify him for the coming holy rituals.

His next stop was the function room, where he drew the drapes and pushed the chairs and tables against the wall. Why the secrecy? Arsenio loved the shopkeepers on either side of him, and he didn't want them to worry about the magic that was about to take place.

Now he was ready. With a thick piece of chalk he drew a pentagram in the center of the floor. Within each of the star's points he drew the logo for some great manufacturer of china -- Wedgwood, Spode, Lenox, etc. Finally he drew a circle conneting the points of the star, and arranged 13 candles evenly along its circumference. Solemnly intoning the words "Council of dinnerware spirits, I summon you."

A fine mist sprang out from the circle, and Arsenio could see faces forming. Arsenio recognized the Two Great Josiahs (Spode and Wedgwood). The dapper, mustachioed figure of Walter Scott Lenox was there as well. What warmed Arsenio's heart the most, though, was the sight of N.O.Bull and Aunt Aganista. There they were, holding hands, allowed to do in the afterlife what propriety would have frowned on when they were alive.

"Great spirits, I strive to serve you all through the year," Arsenio continued, "but I am also a businessman who can be wiped out by random misfortunes. I need to make 40% of my yearly profits during the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Please forgive this fallible mortal for asking such a thing, but if you would open a portal from your world to this room, my customers would find their hearts' desires here. Just be sure not
to harm the other shopkeepers in downtown Hooverville. Shop Til You drop is another story, though. They're a conglomerate that could ride out just about any recession. I'm just sayin'."

Suddenly a glowing mist filled the entire room. Arsenio stepped into the main section of the shop. Looking back, he saw a tasteful sign with the legend "Holiday Annex" over the function room door. Now the entire shop was bathed in light that seemed to come from heaven itself. The doors to the outside unlocked themselves, and Arsenio found himself dressed in an elegant maroon and gold outfit that would have done credit to N. O. Bull himself.

Despite the early hour, many shoppers were driving past on their way to Shop Til You drop, but Arsenio's shop was so inviting that most of them parked in front so they see what he had to offer. The Holiday Annex seemed to have just what many of them wanted. if they wanted books or breakfasts, however, there were signs along the walls directing them to the bookstore or the Waffelhaus.

It would be a long and busy day for Arsenio. Thank heavens the great dinnerware spirits were there to support him! He could feel their presence. On January Second, though, he would need to thank them, ply them with gifts, and send them back to the Great Beyond. Finding appropriate gifts would be the hard part, of course. A late-December quest through the dangerous reaches of the underworld would be de rigueur. Arsenio knew some
wise spirits here and there -- if he could get past Scylla, Charybdis, Loki, and many other treacherous entities. Last tear he had almost perished as he sought what he needed. But, it had to be done. No one else could understand his plight, not that he ever felt sorry for himself. He wanted to be a fixture in downtown Hooverville for as long as Fate allowed.

He was pretty sure that he had not sold his soul -- at least not yet -- but who knew?


Post 2


May the ancestors of Noritake guide you!smiley - applause


Post 3

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

smiley - snork

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