The Inimitable Convenience Store Bag
I put the goods in a bag and accepted a piece of gold.
“Your change is, um… Hey, Idiot Elf, how much is this again?” I asked, turning a fearsome look toward C-Mart’s one and only employee, the idiot elf. Like a gangster demanding a quick reply. But I kept smiling when facing the customer.
“As I keep telling you, Idiot Master, one gold is twelve silvers. The total is four coppers. And you took one gold. So change is eleven silvers and eight coppers.”
“Oh, right, right. So, eleven silvers and eight coppers. — OK, here you are.”
I sent the customer on his way.
The customer headed home smiling cheerfully, the white convenience store bag with his purchase in his hand.
I was smiling, the customer was smiling.
That was C-Mart’s motto: “Win-Win”
I gazed after the customer until he had completely disappeared.
Then I turned a rictus grin on the idiot elf next to me.
“Why don’t you use the decimal system!? Why twelve silver per gold!? Why not ten!?
“Because it’s a nice round number?”
“Say what!? Ten is the clearly superior round number!”
“I don’t knoooow. I have noooo idea what Idiot Master is saying.”
“Did you just call me an idiot?”
“But, Master, you keep calling me ‘idiot’ this, ‘idiot’ that. It’s only fair.”
“It’s OK for me to say that. You’re not allowed to. And that’s why you get called an idiot: you don’t know even that much.”
“You’re an idiot if you call someone an idiot.”
“Why, you little…. I’m reducing your pay! You only get six cans.”
I had hired the elf to be my employee for seven cans of food per day (one of them fruit).
“That’s a breach of contract, Master! You said you’d give me seven! You said, you said, you saaaaid!”
“Exactly when did I say that!?”
“If you’re mean to me, I won’t take care of you when you get old, Master! I won’t change your diaper!”
“You’re going to work here forever!? And threaten me with abuse!?”
Like in most fantasy worlds, it seemed the elves of this world had fairly long lifespans.
Maybe to an extremely long-lived elf, the time it took me to get old would feel like no more than a month.
That was a little creepy.
“Hold on. You, um, don’t have to take care of me. Though, if it came to that, I’d be honored if you’d do that for me.”
“Why are you so polite all of a sudden?”
“Oh, be quiet, Idiot Elf. You wouldn’t understand.”
“You said it again!?”
A customer arrived.
The idiot elf and I instantly turned our matching expressions of disgust into wide smiles.
C-Mart, the shop I’d opened in this other world, was really starting to draw in customers.
Apparently handing out candy to children had been a great way to advertise.
First the kids talked to their parents.
Then the parents came to thank me.
That they would come all this way just for that was amazing.
The other world was amazing.
Really, really amazing.
It was amazing how a tiny bit of kindness could start off an explosive chain reaction.
The way the rules differed from the modern world was amazing.
When the adults came, they would just happen to get a look at my merchandise.
The other world’s…. No, wait.
Actually, the ‘other’ world was currently my ‘real’ world.
Lately, the world I’d come from felt more and more like ‘another world.’ This gentle world brimming with human kindness felt ‘real’, and over there with its convenient but stress-laden modern civilization felt ‘fake’.
But I didn’t need to worry about that.
The kids didn’t make me money, just held out their hands begging for candies.
But the adults became good customers.
Once I had gotten them interested in my stock, it was time to research how much they wanted to pay.
The idiot elf was standing ready by my side, price tags and marker in hand, stealthily writing down eighty percent of whatever amount the customers mentioned, then immediately sticking the tag onto the item.
The customers made spectacular purchases.
I was happy. The customers were happy. Everyone was all smiles.
The idiot elf smiled too. But she smiled the most when eating meat, so who knows what that meant.
As it turned out, there were things in the real world that had the opposite value here.
There were certain items that I could lose money on. For instance, when I brought over some chintzy brand name bag, the going price had been two coppers. Just because something was top of the line over there, that didn’t mean it would be please anyone here.
But I wasn’t too worried.
If I could keep up with purchasing and sales while considering the shop as a whole, things would be fine.
That might look stupid from the perspective of a business guru or the profit maximizer type.
What was wrong with making everyone smile?
Anyone who’s against that, show yourself.
It appeared the customer had decided what to buy.
“OK, your total is… Hey, Idiot Elf! How much is this?”
“Could you at least learn to do arithmetic? It’s four at four coppers each. You can’t do multiplication that easy? See, that’s why you get called Idiot Master. OK?”
“I can do multiplication! What I can’t do is read these numbers!”
“Then could you at least learn how to read numbers, Idiot Master? — OK, sorry about that. It’ll be one silver and four coppers.”
The customer was smiling.
I didn’t know if slapstick comedy duos were a thing in this world, but that’s probably how we came off to the customer.
Not that I would ever choose to be paired up with this idiot elf.
“Pardon me, but that wasn’t part of the purchase, was it?” said the customer suddenly as I was trying to bag the items.
“Huh?” I replied without thinking, not understanding what the customer meant. “What wasn’t?”
I looked around, checking everywhere.
I checked the back wall. There wasn’t anything on it. Ah, I thought, I’ll hang a picture there later. And put it up for sale.
I searched hard for whatever the customer was referring to.
But I didn’t find anything.
“Master, doesn’t she mean the bag?” pointed out the idiot elf.
“Are you being retarded again?”
“Not right now, no.”
Come to think of it, she wasn’t.
“The bag? You mean this?” I tried asking the customer.
It was the white plastic bag I had just been putting her purchase into. What I was calling a convenience store bag.
Believing them essential for business, I had bought packs of 100 for 183 yen (after tax) at a home center.
“So this bag is available when you buy something at this store? How much is it?”
“Um, it’s not for sale. It’s free when you buy something,” I explained in confusion to the customer, whose fixation on the bag seemed a bit odd.
It was just a simple bag. The kind you’d get whenever you shopped at a convenience st—
Although. There were those supermarkets with signs offering shopping bags for two yen each if you didn’t bring a reusable one. And I had gone to the trouble of procuring bags for 1.83 yen each at the home center.
Meaning this bag wasn’t technically ‘free’; it cost about two yen.
I just got it! What a shock!
“Are you selling them?” asked the customer, getting more aggressive her odd fixation.
“Well, I could sell them, I suppose. In units of one hundred or something.”
“How many do you have?”
“I have, uh, six packs? Of one hundred?”
At the time, that was all I had bought, thinking it would be sufficient for the time being.
“Could I take them all?”
I was shocked. The customer wanted to buy them all. In bulk. All six hundred.
“This bag! It’s great! Really great! Light, thin, not bulky; you could fit several into one pocket! And yet it’s strong! Know what else!? You could fill it with water and it wouldn’t leak or tear! What an amazing bag this is!”
The customer emphasized the bag’s amazingness with an odd intensity.
“Er, um. Well. I—I guess?”
I had to take several steps back.
“Um. In that case…,” I said and pulled the idiot elf over by her long ear for a consultation.
((Oy. Two yen each for one hundred is two hundred yen. What would that be!?))
((Don’t make perverted noises, Idiot Elf.))
((Dunno. Wouldn’t asking for two coppers be enough? I mean, I don’t know what this ‘yen’ thing is?))
“Two coppers per hundred!” I shouted at the customer.
“Why, I couldn’t pay so little! One silver each! Let me pay at least that much!”
Six hundred bags at one silver per hundred would be six silver total.
Of course, I still didn’t get what money was worth yet.
Whatever. It was all good.
“Oh my! I’m so glad I asked! I have to tell everyone that they can buy these white bags!”
The elated customer took her six hundred convenience store bags and headed home smiling cheerfully.
But she had completely forgotten her original purchase. It was still on the counter.
Had she been that happy?
Were convenience store bags really that great?
I pulled out my backpack and slung it over my shoulder.
“Huh? Going somewhere, Master?”
“Weren’t you listening? That customer said she was going to spread the word, right? I have to restock before we get swamped. If any customers come, have them wait. I’ll be back in about thirty minutes.”
“Understood. But, um, how many sempts is thirty minutes?”
“Damned if I know.”
I left the shop.
◇ ◇ ◇ ◇ ◇
I headed straight to the home center after transferring worlds.
I still couldn’t choose where I came out in the opposite world. It would be convenient if I could start appearing smack in the center of the sto— Oh yeah, that would cause an uproar, wouldn’t it? Maybe it would be better to appear down a back street out of sight.
I made my way to the shelves with convenience store bags.
And after a closer look at the labels, I saw they were called ‘shopping bags’, not ‘convenience store bags’.
That was just how I’d come to think of them, not what they were really called. Well, I guess they weren’t only used at convenience stores, after all.
But I’ll stick with ‘convenience store bag’. I can call them whatever I like.
I bought a massive pile of nothing but the convenience store bags.
The checker goggled at first, but then sedately rang me up with a kind of resigned expression that seemed to say, “Oh, this guy again.”
After leaving, I suddenly changed my mind and went back into the home center toward the canned food corner.
Being a home center, they didn’t exactly handle food items, but…
I had remembered there was a particular section stocked with plenty of cans of meat.
I bought a large number of the cans.
It was a present for the idiot elf.
◇ ◇ ◇ ◇ ◇
I returned to the other side and…
“Waah!” popped out of my mouth at the sight of the crowd in front of the store.
I couldn’t see the ground.
This had happened before with the children when the candy had gotten popular, but…
These were all older women. Housewives.
“Master! Master! Oh good, you’re back!”
The idiot elf, surrounded by women, spotted me and waved.
“OK, ladies!! There they are!! Go!!”
The women swarmed towards me.
I was completely overrun.
◇ ◇ ◇ ◇ ◇
“I can’t believe it. We sold them all.”
The women had snapped up the shopping bags like a pack of marauders.
Unable to fit that many people inside the store, we had ended up selling them out in front.
I couldn’t even remember the total number, that’s how many packs of bags I had bought at the home center. And they had all sold.
What was the saying? I had been ‘plucked clean down to the hairs of my ass’?1
Was that this feeling? Was it?
“Good job, Master.”
The smiling idiot elf proffered her hand to me where I was slumped over on the ground.
Wait. I shouldn’t call her an idiot. Just this once.
I extended my hand to the beautiful elf girl smiling with the setting sun at her back.
That reminded me. I had a present for her, didn’t I?
- “Plucked clean down to the hairs of my ass” is too hilarious not to translate literally. ↩