Saturday, December 5, 2020

Chapter 6. Do you take Visa?

"Don't move, vandal! I saw you break that figurine, you will not get away with it!"

I turned around slowly, raising my arms in a sign of surrendering. I didn't know why that was my first instinct, since it had been an accident. However, my mother used to say, if you want to convince someone that you are right and they are wrong, it is better to cooperate and be polite, rather than rude and brash.

To my surprise, the owner of the voice was no towering, menacing security guard, arm at the ready. Instead, it was a short and stocky... man? woman? let's say person, dressed in a guard uniform and without a weapon, but still shooting poisonous arrows out of their eyes. Figuratively, of course. What they lacked in physical presence they more than made up for in psychological power to intimidate.

I stuttered: "I am very sorry, Sir!" the guatd's eyes narrowed, so I redressed "Ma'am!" the guard's eyes narrowed further, so I gave up guessing their gender. "I am very sorry, but I hadn't meant to break the figurine. It was an accident! You see, the clock rang so suddenly, that I was startled and..."

The guard had been slowly approaching me while I was stuttering, their expression becoming more and more dissatisfied. I would have drawn backwards, if I hadn't been afraid of knocking something else off the tables. Finally, they were right in front of me, staring menacingly up at me. I swallowed my words.

"So! You think your excuses can exempt you from your punishment, vandal! You have seen the sign at the entrance: 'You break it, you buy it.' So let's see, inventory number 47334, one porcelain sparrow, cca. 20th century... It is worth 20000 units. Well, let's have the money!"

I take out my wallet and produce a few bills. "I have some dollars... a few euros too. Erm, what is the conversion rate here? Do you take Visa credit cards?"

I could see from their expression that my interlocutor was not happy with the options I was offering. I guess they weren't taking Visa... "Um, ma- maybe I could donate something to the museum as compensation?"

"I do not believe you have anything of value to this collection. It is carefully curated and nothing you have could possibly do!" They scoffed at me and I decided against trying to offer anything from my shoulder bag. It was true... I was a simple girl, with minialist tastes. Nothing I had on me screamed avarice.

"No, I see we have no choice here. You will have to work to repay your debt! Fortunately for you, our archivist has fallen ill and we need someone to fill in for him. Can you read and write?"

I felt insulted. "Of course I can!"

"Well, had you known how to read, maybe you would have had better sense than to go around breaking community property."

I was boiling with rage, but tried to calm down. Remember Mom's words! I pointed at the nearest label and read it aloud. The little guard seemed satisfied.

"Good, you can read. Follow me to the archive room, let me show you what you need to do."

I started behind them, but stopped. The little porcelain figurine was still on the floor, in pieces. "Um, excuse me, about the figurine -"

"Oh, take it with you. You can keep it after you have repaid your debt. You break it, you buy it, it's yours. It would be worthless to us anyway, since it is just a pile of shards."

I took out my handkerchief and carefully placed all the pieces on it, knotted the corners and put it in my bag.

Then I hurried after the security guard.

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