“You’re looking for something,” Harry said, both a statement and a question, a lifeline for the newcomer who scanned the rows of shelves without seeming to see them at all.

The man blinked rapidly before focusing on the clerk in front of him. “Hello, yes. I need tubing and some compression fittings.”

Harry gave a confident nod and marched off toward aisle 3. “We’ve got a pretty good selection, all your basics. What’s it for. Air? Water? Gas?”

“Something like that.”

Harry paused mid-stride and spun to face the customer. “Something like that?” he asked arching a bushy gray eyebrow. “It makes a big difference. Are we talking about anything corrosive here? Or any high-pressure flow? Even if it’s just water, it matters whether it’s for drinking or not.”

“I see. Probably something for hydraulics then.”

“Probably.” Harry squinted at the stranger unsure if he was being evasive or just clueless. “Can I ask what exactly your project is?”

“I can show you,” he answered. Harry expected the man to withdraw a cellphone and show pictures or schematics. Instead, he unzipped his jacket. A chrome rib-cage. A tangle of wires, gears, and tubing.

“Oh…” Harry said. “You want Aisle 7.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox