Mostly rambles, few brambles
You have to tell your son to keep a straight face when you two walk into the hardware store adorned with the giant banner outside that says “Yes, We Have Nails” and you ask the clerk, real coy, almost like your request is unreasonable, “Excuse me, um, do you have nails?”
Your voice will hesitate, like you’re not sure if you’re pronouncing it right.
There will be a pause. Stupefied at your stupidity, the clerk’s jaw may slacken, it may even be cartoonish, but you will be forbidden to chuckle no matter how much coffee he spits out in surprise. You lips must stay tight and all glints or gleam must be washed from your eyes—nothing can remain but the quizzical, steely gaze of a nail buyer. The clerk must believe you are earnest patrons. The mind of the serious fastener shopper is pragmatic and would never even think to do hilarious gags. Sure, later, while cooling down at Burger King, you and your son can yuk it up to your heart’s content, but now neither of you can break. This clerk cannot know that you’ve only come here to waste both his time and yours. You cannot reveal your non-nail intentions and make this shameless wasting of his time apparent, like, “Oh, I have so much time stashed away that I can fritter five minutes away on this dumb bit.”
The clerk will glance to his left. Seventy feet away you’ll see an even more giant banner reading “Yes, Nails!” and it’ll be hanging over a massive inflatable nail, but you will not acknowledge it. In the shadows of said deity, the guy in the Naily costume will be dancing the Macarena while next to him the nail fountain will be whirring away. There will be some anti-screw propaganda as well, but mostly it’ll all be pro-nail sentiment. From behind the register, the clerk’s expression may suggest that you could simply look over and your question could be resolved. Instead, though, you will squint, convincingly, as if unsure as to what you might be looking at. “Come on,” he will finally say, exhausted. “Follow me.”
There may be a hint of amusement somewhere within him, a bit of whimsy perhaps buried under strata of prickling annoyance. It will be almost unbelievable to him that a normal parent in this day and age could be so aggressively clueless or so aggressively illiterate. His feet will drag across the hard, dusty floor while he leads you and your son back towards the festivities. The PA will announce, “Nails are perfect for connecting pieces of wood that hadn’t been connected before.”
All you will be able to do is plop each foot down in front of the other. If your son were to nudge you right at this instant, while the clerk’s back is turned, one of those holy-shit-I can’t-believe-how-long-this-has-gone type of nudge, you are certain you would erupt. The whole “nail guy” cover would be blown. He abstains and, besides, there will be plenty of area and opportunities for nudging later at Burger King.
“Well, here are the nails.” The clerk will say before glancing off at something more interesting.
“Oh, right.” You will slap your palm into your forehead, the reaction just eking onto the spectrum of realistic. “Nails!” Your son will be a clenched ball now. It will be his first go at this and he will be stifling laughter off with every ounce of teenage fortitude. “Thank you, thank you,” you will gush to the clerk and go to hug him, though won’t actually hug him. He will say it’s really okay and, knowing that no one will believe his story, you will add, “I think you are a beautiful person.” You will then turn away from the clerk to extinguish any follow up and to examine the nails you absolutely will not buy.
You knew you wouldn’t be able to resist adding that last surreal detail, but you will be grateful it was received neutrally and that you are not forever banished from the Nail Sale. Without the Nail Sale and associated Nail Sale bits, you will wonder, what’s even the point of all this?