Frank was the proud owner of a relatively successful shop that sold houseplants. “Frank’s Ferns” it was called, as it specialized in ferns. He had a salt water fish tank on the counter across from the register where he could watch his little octopus friend Oliver when the store was empty, which happened on occasion, but he didn’t mind because he made plenty of money.
He had noticed that the next storefront over, which had sat empty for almost two months had started undergoing a renovation. He had received a memo from shopping center management, that told him all about his new neighbor. He liked the idea of having someone in that spot, but he didn’t particularly care who it was, so he hadn’t read the memo. The memo had been filed away in the special filing cabinet that, at the end of every business day, he took out to the big green metal receptacle in the parking lot marked with three arrows chasing each-other.
Frank was watching Oliver creep across the bottom of the tank when the bell on the door chimed and he looked up to see a tall thin man in his mid-forties wearing flip-flops, a pair of cargo shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt.
“Good afternoon,” Frank greeted with a smile.
“Afternoon,” the man said, walking directly toward the register, glancing around as he did so, “cute store you have here.”
“Thanks,” Frank said, he didn’t like the man’s tone, he felt like the man was about to try to sell him something. “Anything in particular you are looking for?”
“Let me introduce, myself, I’m Martin,” the man said, sticking his hand out, “of Martin’s Sea Fantasy.”
When Frank didn’t show any recognition at the name, the man offered, “Your new neighbor.”
Frank smiled then and took the man’s hand. “Frank. Nice to meet you Martin. Welcome to the Green Mountain Shopping Center. What do you sell?”
The man nodded his head toward Frank’s fish tank and said, “Aquatic pets and the like, mostly salt water, some fresh. That’s a nice little octopus, you got there, Frank.”
“Thanks, I like him. Name’s Oliver,” he said.
Martin stopped for a moment and looked back at Oliver, a small amount of concern on his face, “him?”
“Hate to tell you this,” Martin said, pointing at Oliver through the glass and looking Frank in the eyes, “but Oliver is a girl.”
“Oh,” Frank said, not upset that Oliver was female, but that he had been calling her “little guy” all this time. Feeling a little stupid, he decided to change the subject. “Well, it’ll be good to have someone in that space again.”
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”
“So what can I do for you?” Frank asked.
“Well, I just moved to town, I could use some plants for my new apartment.”
Frank smiled, “You came to the right place, then.”
“Those are some nice ferns,” Martin said, nodding his head towards the ferns by the door.
“Ferns are my specialty here,” Frank said with great pride, “and to welcome you to the center, I’ll give you a thirty percent discount on whatever you choose.”
Martin’s smile was broad, “That’s very generous of you Frank, thank you. I was wondering, though, if maybe you would be interested in a trade.”
Frank suddenly didn’t feel so generous, “What did you have in mind?”
“Maybe we can get Oliver there a new friend, or some decorations,” he said, pausing briefly, but noticing that Frank didn’t seem to be interested, he continued, “I just got in a new shipment of beautiful sea anemones.”
Frank sighed, then gestured to his prized ferns and said, “Martin, with ferns like these, who needs anemones?”