I waited a few days before I went ring shopping again. When I did, I thought I could find security by taking it easy and visiting a Jewelry establishment inside of the mall. Zales. Zales came with no warning signs, much like a tsunami. As I peered around the well lit glass display case I felt safe. The sales people certainly looked happy and didn’t harass me at all, while I browsed. I continued peering, with the store all to myself. Eventually I did want to take a closer look at a couple of rings. I approached a normal looking man who wore a blue suit with a red tie and said, “hello”. He was already smiling. I said, “Excuse me sir.” He did not break his smile. I reached forward to touch his shoulder and he tipped over. Cardboard Cut out. They all were….
They all were cardboard cardboard cut-outs. Red tie guy, attractive older woman (who i accidently looked at, she seemed like she was looking at me though), scientist working in back and WAIT!? what the hell? There was then one of me, with my arm on red tie’s shoulder. Had somebody created cardboard ME and snuck it in during the short time I pondered A.O.W.’s intentions? These sales people have tricks and methods. I took a moment to assess the situation. I was in the mall, there were hundreds of people around, an easy witnessable escape was within reach, a plausible explanation may be found. As I turned around to leave; the retracting, steel, store front, cage door silently snapped shut. It was 1pm when I entered the store, I had not been in there that long. I put my hands on the steel cage and looked out over the mall. I could hear people, as if they were a floor below me, or off in the distance just out of site. I screamed, I pressed my face against the cage and screamed louder. I shook the cage with all of my strength. No options. I slowly turned around, perspiration now growing on my forhead. I knew what those models on 20/20 must have felt when they attempted to get on a Turkish/U.S. bound flight with all those kilos duct taped under their nylons. I made eye contact with myself, my cardboard self. There was a look in my nemesis’s eye. I wondered if I saw it in my own eye, vice versa’d. I tried to break eye contact, but the eyes of those cardboard demons took a lesson from George Washinton paintings, and I couldn’t escape their sneering glances. I did a right trigger juke, red tie burst into flames right in front of me. I did a circle spin move and stopped. I looked again and A.O.W. had betrayed her purpose, her glance was no longer on me but off somewhere else. I followed her eyes to a thin beam of light on the floor. Red tie and scientist were angry, I could see and feel the heat of real terror as their cardboard faces melted. A.O.W. streamed melted poly coat tears down her cheek as she burned. I tucked and rolled toward the beam of light. Cardboard Me was already there, I only could see his feet amongst the thick smoke, but recognized the shoes. He burst into thousands of shreds of paper. I thrashed my arms in circles, as if they each had their own motor built with the sole purpose of swimming through sharp fluttering shreds of paper. I thought of Kate, I must make it through this day! I snatched a sheet of paper out of mid air. It was the Zales guarantee and warranty. I casually read it over amongst the chaos. I declared that it was not good enough for my love. I ripped it in half. Through the torn paper my vision was redirected to the beam of light on the floor. I went to it. I realized it was coming from the door in the back end of the store. I leaped to the door and grabbed the handle. Locked. I grabbed another warranty slip from the air and jimmy’d the lock. I was now in the back maintenance hallway of the mall. The lights dimmed, I could hear all kinds of inaudible whispering around me. I was completely alone there. Those were the only sounds. I did not know my way through this maze and had to proceed slowly. I thought to myself, so many doors all of them locked. I wandered for hours in confusion, my nerves cooking and on edge for too long. I was losing my sharpness and spry. The first chance for a while, a fire alarm between two of the doors. I reached for it, hoping it would override the locking system. SCRATCH. Pain like I had never felt before. I knew where I was, the back entrance to Helzberg Diamond Store. This pain was unmistakable and would be forever. Diamonds! It was Warren Buffet, owner and investor in the store, wearing his coveted, “Diamond Hand, Kill Force Glove!” The glove was reason he bought the store, and the now consuming entity in his life. He was no longer Warren, only glove. He smiled. A clove cigarette hung from his mouth unlit and he said in a polished and practiced voice, “Welcome to my chocolate factory, Charlie.” I had no choice but to follow him in and sit down, his glove was gouged and anchored into the palm of my hand. He spent his time interrogating me about where else I had shopped. He demeaned his competitors claiming that he had slaughtered the real Jared decades ago in a parking lot in Sacramento. He boasted about his superiority and consumed a salad made of dollar bills. He released DHKFG from my palm and waited for me to congratulate him and provide tomorrows salad in exchange for my trust and business. I watched the blood drip from my palm and thought about his integrity and motives. I said coldly and firmly, “Your cheap! This ring means more to me than all the money salads you will ever eat and stands for something much more than you can offer Buffet.” He was shocked, for decades his sales team has successfully thrown his name around and sold diamond rings all over shopping malls, all over the earth (minus (really really) poor countries). In great anger and humility he spoke three words, “You won’t win.” I woke up one floor down in the mall, my pockets stuffed full of Helzberg and Zales brochures (Saturation Technique). DiCaprio has no idea what a blood diamond really is. I was lucky that Hardee’s continually ruins themselves by experimenatation food and didn’t even turn their ovens on that day. I took a nap there, on their cold unused oventops. I was very scared to shop for rings anymore, but knew that my will would never be beaten. In my dreams I heard a far away and soothing voice, it was Kate standing on top a a mound of defeated robots. I knew I would find the ring soon, but that diamond dealers are cunning and mean. I knew there would be one more battle, and I would be armed with ambition and purpose. My training was complete and I’d known that this would be right for a long time. Where will my journey take me?
To be Concluded….