William Hardwicke bent low over the cigars he was placing in the display, fat, greedy brown fingers luring the customers into his little shop. His back was stiff and crooked, but he stayed as he was, spine curved, until every cigar was in place. Straightening up, he surveyed his handiwork, sighed, and exited the window. Climbing through the little doorway, he swung his shriveled legs through the opening and slowly eased himself back onto the floor. He walked to the counter.
Raising the chunk of countertop that moved to allow people in and out, he slipped behind the long granite slab and perched on his leather-seated stool. William gazed around the shop, regarding each alcove with a melancholy look. The hand-carved pipes were placed just so under a glass case. Cigar and cigarette boxes were stacked high, in multitudes of sizes and colors. He let his eyes drift back to the ancient brass cash register in front of him, running his greyish fingers along the ornate spirals carved into its surface. His whole hand quaked as he pushed down the DRAWER key, and a black rectangle slid out with a tired clang. A much louder tinkling followed the sound, like an overbearing mother-in-law.
The bell startled William. It was rare to have many customers at all these days. What with all the KPD or LCD or whatever the kids are smoking now, who needs good old-fashioned cigars anymore? he thought. The man who had entered the shop walked briskly up to the counter and began tapping his fingers on the black stone.
“Do you have any electronic cigarettes?” He asked, his tone cold and unfriendly.
“Electronic cigarettes?” William repeated, curiously. “I’ve never heard of those. I can have them sent over, though, if you’ll just–”
“No, no. No need,” said the man. He smoothed his whitish-blonde hair back, stuck out his oxford-clad foot, and promptly left the shop, letting the door bang carelessly behind him.
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