SEEN IN A THRIFT STORE • by Nancy Pazner

A back room in a thrift store, apparently used as an all-purpose office. Small, furnished with the obligatory grey metal desk, a few filing cabinets, three non-matching, dinged-up metal and plastic chairs. Although the front part of the store is scrupulously clean and well-lighted, this room, while not exactly dirty, looks as though it may have missed a few cleaning cycles. And it smells like the whole rest of the thrift store, that second-hand clothing smell that is unmistakeable.

Behind the desk, a forty-something man wearing dress pants that don’t quite fit and a pale-blue shirt, open at the neck. In front of the desk, on one of the chairs, a twenty-something woman, wearing jeans, several layers of t-shirt, an excess of eye makeup, and a defiant expression. On the desk between them, a t-shirt sporting some kind of slogan and a long streak of glitter, a fat marker pen with neon lettering down its length, and a form, probably a seventh or eighth generation photocopy, with the heading, “Incident Report.”

The man gestures toward the shirt, looks at the young woman. “Okay. You want to run that by me one more time?”

The young woman looks at the shirt, at the man, back down at the shirt, and the words, “Not really,” hover between them, not quite spoken. Then she grimaces. “I said I’d buy it.”

“I know you said you’d buy it. I want to know why you pulled this stunt. And no,” as her head rises and her expression changes, ”it really doesn’t make any difference why. I’m just curious and it’s a slow day and I’ve never seen somebody pull something like this.”

“So, read the stupid thing.”

His eyebrows go up, both questioning, and somehow, threatening.

“Okay, okay.” She spreads out the t-shirt so that the slogan is visible to both of them. In a totally artificial and stilted voice she reads, ”If the ice melts you are drinking too slow.”

The silence stretches. Finally he breaks it. “So?”

“Slow. Slow is an adjective. It’s meant to modify a noun. Drinking is a verb. Do you get it?” Her voice rises on the question.

He visibly takes hold of his temper, then something clicks for him. “This is about grammar?”

“Yes!” The force behind the single syllable seems to surprise her more than him. He smooths out the offending shirt and they both look at the glittering “L” just after the word “slow,” and the “Y” that follows it, its tail trailing down the front of the shirt.

“You were correcting the grammar on a shirt that somebody was going to wear to go drinking?”

“Yes.” This time she sounds a little abashed.

“Spend time in bars, much?” Now his expression hints at amusement.

“No.” Definitely abashed.

More silence. He seems to enjoy it.

“Okay. Buy the shirt with the grammar. Don’t even think about doing it with your good customer points. Do. Not. Ever,” and here he picks up the fat pen sitting on the desk, squints, and reads the neon letters, “bring a ‘Marvy Uchida Deco Fabric Glitter Pen’ — or anything like it — into this store. If you even have the guts to come back into this store.”

She stands and gingerly picks up the shirt, then starts edging toward the door.

“And, lady.”

She looks at him, apprehensive.

“Find a twelve-step program somewhere. They have them for everything else, they’ve got to have them for grammar.”


After several decades of technical writing, Nancy Pazner is now enjoying learning how to write fiction.


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 average 4 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Are we sure ‘drinking’ isn’t a gerund?

    • S Conroy

      Guilty smirk. I felt the challenge to finecomb, but resisted! – Had a feeling someone might find some grammatical flaw in there somewhere.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Are we sure ‘drinking’ isn’t a gerund?

    • S Conroy

      Guilty smirk. I felt the challenge to fine comb, but resisted! – Had a feeling someone might find some grammatical flaw in there somewhere.

      [Edit: Sorry if this comes across as snarky. Maybe it is, not sure… It just what the story did with me. In real life too when I come across a self-appointed grammar expert, my instinct is to see if I can be even holier than the holier-than-thou.

      Should have added that I really enjoyed the set-up in the first few paragraphs. It made me think of stage directions. Perhaps it’s why I was expecting something deeper. As it stands, it’s well written and I can appreciate the lighthearted fun-factor.]

  • I need the 12-step program, too, because I’m itching to grab a glitter pen and add a comma between “melts” and “you”!

  • I need the 12-step program, too, because I’m itching to grab a glitter pen and add a comma between “melts” and “you”! (EDIT: I didn’t mean this in a snarky way, at all, and hope it didn’t come across that way! I enjoyed the story and just meant I was getting into the spirit of it and sympathized with the glitter pen girl!)

  • Concept was amusing, but I really didn’t like the first two paragraphs as it seemed too info-dump heavy. It felt like having to eat your way through an appallingly heavy and over-fried fritter to get to the light creamy center.

    I also didn’t like some of the sentences.

    • monksunkadan

      That’s okay Brian. I didn’t like some of the complaints.

      • The author can take the criticism or not, their choice. I still gave it three stars

  • Concept was amusing, but I really didn’t like the first two paragraphs as it seemed too info-dump heavy. It felt like having to eat your way through an appallingly heavy and over-fried fritter to get to the light creamy center.

    I also didn’t like some of the sentences.

    • monksunkadan

      That’s okay Brian. I didn’t like some of the complaints.

      • The author can take the criticism or not, their choice. I still gave it three stars

  • Lenora Good

    I enjoyed it. A delightful interlude with my first cuppa of the day.

  • Lenora Good

    I enjoyed it. A delightful interlude with my first cuppa of the day.

  • For someone “learning to write fiction” I’d say this is quite a good effort. Keep at it…

  • For someone “learning to write fiction” I’d say this is quite a good effort. Keep at it…

  • Tamera Norwood

    Your story is solid, and very inventive, and the dialog is perfection. You’re a very good storyteller. Not sure how all the snarky comments are supposed to help you, but you bravely stated that you are learning to write fiction and I think this is a strong early work. Your technical writing experience shows by your reliance on clauses, rather than complete sentences, but rules for writing are easy to learn. If there are flaws in your technical framework, they don’t erase your achievement in writing a complete and interesting story, and not just anyone can do that. Keep writing!

    • MPmcgurty

      Many fiction writers use incomplete sentences in their works. She has potential. I hope she never learns the “rules for writing”.

  • Tamera Norwood

    Your story is solid, and very inventive, and the dialog is perfection. You’re a very good storyteller. Not sure how all the snarky comments are supposed to help you, but you bravely stated that you are learning to write fiction and I think this is a strong early work. Your technical writing experience shows by your reliance on clauses, rather than complete sentences, but rules for writing are easy to learn. If there are flaws in your technical framework, they don’t erase your achievement in writing a complete and interesting story, and not just anyone can do that. Keep writing!

    • MPmcgurty

      Many fiction writers use incomplete sentences in their works. She has potential. I hope she never learns the “rules for writing”.

  • monksunkadan

    Very nice piece of work Nancy !! I’m sure I am going to see a lot of your future efforts in many different venues. Don’t forget to stay with E D F.

  • monksunkadan

    Very nice piece of work Nancy !! I’m sure I am going to see a lot of your future efforts in many different venues. Don’t forget to stay with E D F.

  • MPmcgurty

    More of an anecdote. Decently written, with quite a bit to like. A little too much detail in the beginning, along with a mood setting that wasn’t needed for what followed. I thought the woman was an employee at first because of the incident report, but I think she turned out to be a customer. Can’t imagine customer going to have a sitdown with a manager over a damaged item. You either pay for it or the police get called. Am I wrong?

    I hope the author keeps writing.

  • MPmcgurty

    More of an anecdote. Decently written, with quite a bit to like. A little too much detail in the beginning, along with a mood setting that wasn’t needed for what followed. I thought the woman was an employee at first because of the incident report, but I think she turned out to be a customer. Can’t imagine customer going to have a sitdown with a manager over a damaged item. You either pay for it or the police get called. Am I wrong?

    I hope the author keeps writing.

  • I have been called a grammar Nazi before now which seems a little excessive. There are those who don’t like to ever split infinitives and there are those who know a preposition is not a thing to end a sentence with 🙂

    • S Conroy

      “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”

  • I have been called a grammar Nazi before now which seems a little excessive. There are those who don’t like to ever split infinitives and there are those who know a preposition is not a thing to end a sentence with 🙂

    • S Conroy

      “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”

  • Chris Antenen

    Of course we’re looking for others. I can buy ‘She looks at him, apprehensive.’ because apprehensive actually describes her not ‘looks,’ but to follow the story, there should be an ‘ly’ suffix on apprehensive.

    My real complaint, however, is the setting. I actually love settings for the reason that they ‘set’ the piece(duh,) but this one was too long, too boring, and didn’t really set the scene. I don’t know what an incident report is (makes me think of police reports) so putting me in the room with colors and scent doesn’t help me understand why these two people are here in this room with a T-shirt..

  • Chris Antenen

    Of course we’re looking for others. I can buy ‘She looks at him, apprehensive.’ because apprehensive actually describes her, not ‘looks,’ which in this case is a verb,’ but to follow the story, there should be an ‘ly’ suffix on apprehensive.

    My real complaint, however, is the setting. I actually love settings for the reason that they ‘set’ the piece(duh,) but this one was too long, too boring, and didn’t really set the scene. I don’t know what an incident report is (makes me think of police reports) so putting me in the room with colors and scent doesn’t help me understand why these two people are here in this room with a T-shirt..

  • Chris Antenen

    Boy, we had fun with that one. I reread it before rating it, and decided that, all in all, it deserved a four.

  • Chris Antenen

    Boy, we had fun with that one. I reread it before rating it, and decided that, all in all, it deserved a four.