The Ballad of the Cardboard Portman
A guy walks into the store this morning and asks me about the price of a cardboard Natalie Portman stand-up from Episode 2. It's up on top of a display case and the price is at the top, so I grab the stepladder, climb up there and--while feeling both high and mighty--tell him it's $24.95.
"I'll take it," he says. "Why not, right?"
Why not? Well, sir, allow me to explain.
For one, that particular piece of merchandise was once showered with bacon-scented kisses back when we kept it on the floor near the register. They came courtesy of an overexcited fat woman who came in one day and decided that it'd be a good idea to simulate sex acts with a a cardboard cutout that was on sale at a retail establishment. I wasn't at the store when it happened, which is good, because chances are you would've heard about my reaction on the evening news. My dragon punch is unstoppable.
So if I wasn't there, you might be asking how I know the offending customer was of sizeable girth. Well, because she left two greasy lip-prints on the stand-up, which, while faint, were still visible when I sold it this morning. One on the left breast, and one smack dab on the crotch.
You understand now why I hold so much contempt for the people who walk through the doors at work.
As for the other reason, ownership of a cardboard Amidala stand-up makes you look that much more like a sex offender waiting to happen. There's just something about Natalie Portman that breeds this sort of maladjusted behavior, and I'm pretty sure it has to do with the phrases "Pretty Girl" and "Star Wars." Even so, it's a dark place that you don't want to go, and it's all personified in a customer we had that was only known as Creepy Natalie Portman Guy.
I call him a customer, but the truth is I never actually saw him buy anything. Mostly, he just loitered, looking twitchy and occasionally taking a sip from the Starbucks cup he always carried, which I'm pretty sure was actually the same cup every time he came in.
He was one of those guys that always looked like he'd just been in a fight. His wrist was always in a brace, and there was a mark on his face that made it look like he'd been busted open by someone's left hook. He dressed fairly well, but his clothes were always dissheveled. He had a pretty creepy vibe to him just standing there, and that was before he started talking about breeding Natalie Portman Sex Clones.
I'm dead serious.
He would go on about the subject at length, explaining the cloning/brainwashing process and asking if we sold them. I told him we didn't, and he told me he'd heard we had some "in the back."
If he was joking, the guy had a stone face Medusa would've been proud of, deadpan like Jack Webb on quaaludes, but with an undercurrent of excitement like he really expected us to lead him to our Illegal Sex Clone Farm behind the dollar books. Me, I favor the more likely explanation that this dude was bat-shit insane.
I came to this conclusion because when he wasn't telling us about his highly disturbing Amidala fetish, he'd tell us about how he'd set up his Star Wars figures on top of his Playstation and play through VR Missions in Metal Gear solid while pretending to be each action figure in turn, competing in some grand bounty hunter tournament.
Let me break that down for you: The dude was playing video games while pretending to be IG-88 competing against Zuckuss, whom he was also pretending to be.
Those tiny little pops you hear are my brain cells exploding one by one.
I haven't seen the guy in a while, which I'm pretty sure is my own fault. Last time I saw him, I made sure I was ready. It was the day I'd made a flail out of a toilet plunger handle, a couple rubber bands, and a Spider-Man Mini-Basketball, an act which--now that I think of it--seems about on par with pretending to be 4-LOM while playing video games. I caught him out of the corner of my eye when I was testing out the tension on the rubber bands, and as soon as he came up to the counter, opening his mouth for some stalker-ish nonsense about Natalie Portman, I slammed the flail down on the counter and did my best to look menacing.
He shrank back like a wilting flower, and I haven't seen him since.
Score another one for the good guys.