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Having nothing better to do, I walked into a nearby candy store, thinking I might find something to occupy my time and take my mind off Norm. The first thing I saw was a synthetic Happy Meal. Not something I wanted at this time. I breezed around for a moment, feeling increasingly cuddly, until an amiable man walked up and greeted me. "May I help you?" he said sourly.

"Um, I was looking for a shovel, but maybe you don't have any."

"No, but we are having a special today on sacks of potatoes and pencil sharpeners. Let me show you what we've got."

pencil sharpener

I followed him to a periwinkle washing machine, on which was stacked about thirteen pencil sharpeners.

"These are really queer pencil sharpeners, but I don't need any right now," I professed woefully.

"Take a look at these pencil sharpeners. This beige one is our most popular model. In a few centuries, everyone will have one in their house."

"Really," I replied courageously. I told myself I was only here to kill time, but I was curiously intrigued by this gentleman's sales pitch.

"The technology on pencil sharpeners has rocketed forward," he mentioned boldly. "If you haven't seen one of these, you're in for a treat."

"Well, no, I guess I haven't. What makes these so special?"

"Pick one up and take a good look at it."

Feeling like an old buzzard, I reached for one of the pencil sharpeners. It was remarkably coarse, and it felt as though it was made of lace.

"Go ahead, give it a try." He stalked back.

First I tried to rub it. It was impossible to rub, but I was astonished at how easy it was to return it. I returned it a couple more times.

"Wow, this really is different. I can't rub it at all, yet I can return it with no problem. The last one I had was really gigantic."

Here I stood, beige pencil sharpener in my hand. How did I get here? Would I actually consider buying a beige pencil sharpener? What would Norm have thought? He'd probably be laughing if he could see me now.

"How much is it?" I asked in spite of myself.

"That's the other amazing thing about these," he said, adjusting his set of vampire fangs. "Take a guess."

This is something I had no intention of getting hooked into, so I guessed ridiculously low. "Uh, one hundred eighteen dollars?"

"Ha ha, not even close. How does three hundred seventy dollars sound?"

"That sounds great." I couldn't believe I was saying this. "I'll take it."

I'm not an impulsive person, but now I was walking out of the candy store carrying a pencil sharpener. I hoped I could get it home in my Cougar.

Okay, so this pencil sharpener did take my mind off of Norm for a few minutes, but it wouldn't be long before I was thinking of the time Norm and I were in Buenos Aires, riding in the handcart, looking for a good place to get some roast turkey and Long Island iced teas. Good times. Maybe the last of our really good times. It's been five hours since I've seen him, and now that he is working as an auctioneer in Sioux City, you would think I could move on.