He opened "Harold's Hardware Store" twenty years ago, hoping to pass it along to his offspring. But Katy could never carry a child to full term. He urged her to give up after ten years of trying. It was torture to watch her go through one loss after the other. Their losses, but he understood she paid the most. The many miscarriages, and other pregnancy complications, had worn down her body and her soul. They resigned themselves to being the favorite aunt and uncle to Lisa's three children. Lisa was Katy's younger sister by ten years. Her arrival surprised their parents. It was almost like it was a second family because of the huge age gap between the two girls.
Harold opened the shop after a few years slaving away at a corporate desk. It had been his dream to sell things he loved, hardware, and be the boss. The reality? Owning and operating a small business became his entire life. It stole all the hours he imagined he would fish and spend with Katy.
The bell, on top of the door of the shop, loudly rang and startled him. It irritated him someone dared to enter a small business right at closing. He glanced at the clock. The clock mocked him with the time of 5:59PM, reminding him the shop was still open. Harold dressed up his face with a polite, well-worn smile before he faced the customer. Years of practice.
A woman had been the one to scare away the quiet. She looked anxious and energetic all at once.
"Welcome! How can I help you?", Harold asked her.
She had been wildly looking all over the store with her eyes and had not left the front entrance. His words broke her search, and she saw Harold for the first time.
"Do you have the magic hammer?", she said with all the normalcy of someone asking if he carried screws.
He must have heard her wrong.
"Excuse me, ma’am? Would you repeat, as I didn't properly hear you.", he explained.
Impatience fell over her face with a look of exasperation at his request.
"The magic hammer! The magic hammer! You know, the one you take on adventures with you?", she explained.
'What in the world was she talking about?', he thought.
"Ma’am, this is a hardware store. Not a camping store. 'The Camping and Wilderness Emporium' is two blocks down. They carry that gear," he said with the hope she would give up and leave.
"Look, my son wants the magic hammer for his birthday. He specifically asked for it. You sell hammers, correct?", she asked him with growing annoyance.
The entrance bell rang out again, startling them both. They whipped around in unison to see who had interrupted their conversion.
Harold completely forgot his nephew, Tommy, was picking him up at closing time. The lad was 16 years old and driving. He used any excuse to do so and insisted on driving Harold to his baseball game.
"Hi Uncle Harold! You ready to go?", he cheerfully exclaimed.
"Sorry, Tommy, it'll be a minute. I'm helping this lady out.", he explained.
The woman turned back to Harold and ignored Tommy.
"You sell hammers and I need the magic hammer for my ten-year-old son's birthday! How can you not carry all types of hammers?", she demanded.
Tommy started chuckling. It developed into him belly-laughing and he had to bend over to catch his breath.
"What's so funny, boy?", the woman demanded while she glared at him.
Tommy finally got control of himself with a final big, deep breath. He was ready to leave. The only way to do so was to help her.
"Ma’am, the 'Magic Hammer' is a Nintendo 3DS game. I'm sure that's what your son was asking for. Does he have a Nintendo 3DS?", he inquired with a smirk on his face.
She closed her eyes, and her face glowed with heat. Her embarrassment calmed her down. She stood there for a moment, eyes closed, and took measured breaths.
"I am so sorry, sir.", she mumbled. Her eyes opened but found a fascinating spot on the floor. She could not muster up the confidence to look Harold in the eyes.
Harold wasn't mad. Or even annoyed anymore. Relief flooded his body as the interaction was about to end.
"No worries. It happens to the best of us. Anything else I can get you?", he kindly offered.
She shook her head with eyes still looking at the floor. After only a few seconds, she turned and left the shop, never making eye contact again with Harold or Tommy.
Harold never loved Tommy more and wondered if he might pass the shop along to him in a few years. He looked at his nephew with a knowing smile. Tommy glanced at his uncle, perplexed by his uncle's weird smile.
"What?", Tommy demanded with uncertainty. He wondered what his uncle was up to.
"Nothing. Only thinking about how much I appreciate you. Now...let's go to your game!", Harold insisted.
He put his arm around his nephew with fresh energy for the shop he hadn't felt in years. It amazed him how his day turned around in a moment.
Author’s Note: The Magic Hammer game is a real thing. : )