The Relationship Store is a free short story. A work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are products of the author’s imagination… Obviously.
Copyright © 2021 T. M. Watson
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This short story may not be copied or redistributed without the sole written consent of the author.
The Relationship Store
Offering euphoria from out of this world.
As I observed the dismal, cold, rainy evening outside my window from my crappy duplex, I’m not looking forward to another day working at the shitty factory in this worthless town. I have yet to form a real friendship with anybody. It’s as if everyone here were too busy, inside their own lives, to form any sort of relationship.
Headlights appeared in the driveway. A taxi. Two men approach the front door. One carried a duffel, or an overnight bag.
The doorbell rings, I cracked the door open as far as the chain lock allows.
“Annabelle? I’m Benjamin. Uncle Bennie. Do you remember me?”
I smiled big. Feeling immediately at ease.
“I think so, um…”
“About ten years ago at your father’s funeral.”
I remembered. “Yes. Come in!”
I unhooked the door lock. Poor man was soaked. The taxi driver dropped Bennie’s overnight bag inside the door and departed.
Uncle Bennie is a diminutive man, not bad looking and I felt at ease right away. Downright comfortable and happy, actually.
I took his wet jacket and hat, hung them up to dry. Then, made coffee for us both as we chit chatted. Of course, Bennie is a relative, but he spoke as if we held a real friendship.
We sat at the kitchen table to visit over coffee and store-bought windmill cookies.
“I feel so happy you’re here. I’ve not been this happy in a long time.”
“I get that a lot. If business hadn’t been so great, I’d have visited sooner.”
“Really? I wish you would have.”
“Life has its regrets, Annie. Did you know we’re the last two in the family on your father’s side?”
“Until now, family hasn’t crossed my mind often. Not since Dad died.”
Our conversation went past midnight. I felt less tired, with no explanation as to why. Excitement ran through me like an electric current, in anticipation of another reason for Bennie’s unannounced visit.
And, there it was. A manila envelope, legal size, with important looking papers.
“You look content and happy, Annie. Radiant, actually.”
“Thanks. But, until you arrived, my life hasn’t been so hot.”
“It’s going to get better. I have something for you. A gift that nobody would ever dream of. It’s my business in South Central Florida.”
“I don’t understand, Uncle Bennie. Before I assume anything…”
“Oh, I understand your apprehension perfectly. It’s a great, lucrative, retail business. The store has operated in the black since the first six months I opened.. Every year gets better,” he stated, with a wide grin.
His excitement was contagious.
“What type of store?” I sat on the edge of the kitchen chair.
“It’s called ‘The Relationship Store.’ We sell adult novelties, instruments, toys, games and clothing…most things that make adults feel good.”
“Sounds like any other adult store, Uncle Bennie. But I am intrigued and can’t guess what makes the business successful as you say.”
Truthfully, I was feeling tickled to death.
“There is no downside. We pack in customers five days a week. Meet lot’s of new folks. Many of them are return customers. I replenish the stock every week.”
“Who else? You keep saying ‘we.’ Is there another person?”
“There’s no other way to explain, so you’ll have to believe me, Annie. I promise you, in no way will you be disappointed. In fact, I am positive you’ll form a real friendship.”
Bennie gazed around my filthy duplex, the dismal, cold weather revealed through the kitchen window, then continued. “Your life is about to get a lot more, um, beneficial, Annie.”
“Don’t keep me in suspense, Uncle Bennie.”
“The Relationship Store is haunted.”
Wow, that was direct.
“Really?” My jaw hit the floor in spite of my excitement. “How?…”
Bennie held up his palms to stop my questioning.
“Allow me to explain, Annie. Several years ago, I had a little money, bought the building. Dirt cheap, because it was in bad shape. The previous owner warned me it was haunted. Sure, I was skeptical and I didn’t entirely believe him.
So, I went in, gutted the place and fixed it up. Inside and out. Fresh paint, new facade, new plumbing, lighting and it has an apartment upstairs.”
“Okay. Please, go on. Is it really haunted?”
“Oh, it’s haunted, my dear. In a good way. My second day in the building, someone tapped on my shoulder. At first, she appeared as a beautiful woman. When she spoke, she introduced herself as a spirit. She thanked me for the wonderful job I was doing.”
“Weren’t you scared?”
“Not in the least. Quite comforted as a matter of fact. About as comfortable as you’re feeling right now. My fiance says there’s an aura that emits from me.”
“I think she’s right. You’re engaged? How nice!”
“That’s where I’m going, tomorrow. To see Margo. She’s in Denmark. We’re gonna set up another business. We’ve got a few spiritual leads…well, you grasping the idea?”
“Strange, but yes, I believe I am. Let me get a few things straight. May I ask?”
I leaned forward again.
“So, this adult business is a good money maker, nice location in Florida. You’re setting me up for a great life. Right now, I’m ready to sign those papers. But, I don’t understand exactly why I feel so…euphoric.”
Bennie nodded. He understood me. Looked me in the eye, rubbing his chin before asking me another question.
“Annie. Have you ever made love to a ghost?”
“A female ghost? Like the one I imagine you did? No. No I have not?”
“It is the ultimate experience, Annie. She can’t leave the building though. I hate to leave her.”
“So, I will get into a sexual relationship, a real friendship with a female ghost?”
“She has two handsome brothers.”
“Where do I sign these papers?”
Uncle Bennie was giddy with excitement.
. . .
For another free short story of the supernatural, try this one.