The shop window was tinted green. Glenn felt it was a peculiar thing, but couldn't find an explanation for this feeling. It was more of an intuitive thought, that shops with tainted windows hide trouble. He shrugged it off and went in.
"Welcome, welcome!", said the shopkeeper, a round man with a balloon-shaped face the color of flour, with hints of red on his forehead and cheeks, like rose petals. "Come in, look around, but please do not touch, and most essentially, do not sit on any of the chairs: they're antique."
"I assume everything in here is quite old" said Glenn. "It is an antique shop after all."
"The very best in town." said the shopkeeper. "I'm sure you'll find something to your liking. As I was saying, should you succeed, please let me know, and I will assist you."
"Will do" replied Glenn. He diverted his eyes and pretended to look at a desk near the counter. Take a little time, look around, he thought. Size him up. Maybe we can get a good deal.
"We just received a shipment of furniture, premium pieces, ", said the shopkeeper. "If you are interested, I can quote you some prices."
"No, thank you. I'll just look around for a bit, if you don't mind," said Glenn.
"Certainly. And, before you ask, the parrots are not for sale."
Glenn hadn't noticed the parrots until then. He looked up and saw at least five empty cages hung about from the ceiling in various places. There was a bird on the counter, a large Alexander, and a blue Macaw sitting on a computer monitor, behind the shopkeeper. Glenn turned to the window, only to find a couple of green parakeets hanging about on an artificial tree branch that was stuck to the wall. The birds were eerily quiet. Glenn felt the same intuitive shiver from before. Odd, he thought.
"Because they talk too much." the shopkeeper cut him off.
"Um, ok," said Glenn.
"Caw! Talk too much!" said the blue Macaw.
The shopkeeper busied himself on the computer. Glenn looked around at the old tables and chairs, bookcases and lamps, piles of old books, various decorative objects, and couldn't find anything interesting.
"You were saying something about new furniture?" Glenn asked.
"Indeed", said the shopkeeper. "Some baroque armchairs, a gas streetlamp, a couple of sturdy bookcases - they're oak, if you want to see them, they're right around that corner. Depends what you're interested in, really. "
"I'm interested in masks," said Glenn.
"Is that so?"
"In fact, I'm looking for a certain type of mask, an old theatre mask called a Zanni. It is like a plague doctor's mask, in that it has a long nose, but it was usually made of leather-"
"Yes, I know of the Zanni masks. They're quite rare today. I wonder, why would you need such a mask?"
"Oh, I work for a movie company, and we're making a pilot for a period piece. We have this character who-"
"I don't care for the movies," said the shopkeeper.
"Oh. I see," said Glenn and tried his best to hide any sign of anger.
"I'll go in the warehouse and see if I have something." said the shopkeeper unexpectedly.
"Thanks. Yeah, that would be great."
Glenn found himself alone after the shopkeeper promptly left the room through a door in the back. He heard the flutter of wings and looked up to see a green Macaw fly overhead. The bird took its place on the computer monitor, next to the blue Macaw, and started talking.
"Caw! Don't buy mask! Caw!"
"What?" said Glenn.
"Don't buy mask! Ca-caw! Danger. Danger."
"Buy parrot! Caw!" screeched the blue bird.
"Parrot is good mask is bad."
"Mask is bad," echoed the green bird. "Ca-caw!"
Glenn looked at the birds and couldn't believe it. There's nothing to believe, he thought a moment later, because this means nothing. He didn't manage to convince himself.
"Buy parrot get mask for free." cawed one of the birds.
"That's really odd." said Glenn. "Ok, I guess. Fine. Give me a mask and I'll buy a parrot."
"Give mask give mask!"
The grey Alexander, who had been standing quietly on the counter until then, jumped into the air and disappeared behind a series of bookcases. A few seconds later, Glenn heard a loud thud from the back of the shop, followed by the sounds of things falling over. The noises stopped, and Glenn watched, his mouth wide open, as the grey parrot returned with a brown leather mask in its beak, surprisingly similar to a Zanni mask that Glenn was looking for.
"Well, I'll be."
"Buy mask, take parrot free!" cawed the green Macaw.
Glenn grabbed for the mask, but the Alexander jumped back before Glenn could touch it.
"Take bird! Ca-caw!" said the two Macaws.
"Um. Ok, and how-"
Glenn heard the back door open and close, and then the voice of the shopkeeper: "I'm afraid I couldn't find an authentic Zanni, but I did bring you a Carnival mask, original porcelain."
Glenn didn't have much time. He raised his arm and whispered to the birds: "Ok, one of you better come here." To his astonishment, the blue Macaw jumped through the air and landed steadily on his outstretched arm, as if they had rehearsed the move a hundred times. Glenn turned to see the shopkeeper staring at him.
"I said no touching."
"I found a mask. The parrot -- well he took it, but I think it'll do. I'll take it."
"Indeed," said the shopkeeper looking at the mask, still held tightly by the Alexander, "I wonder where you found that."
"It was just laying there, in the back." Glenn said quickly. "I think I'm entitled to a free parrot with this purchase?"
The shopkeeper said nothing. He went behind the register and typed in the order.
"That'll be 150 dollars for the mask."
Glenn pulled his phone out and tapped. He looked at the shopkeeper, who took the mask from the Alexander with ease, wrapped it carefully in paper and placed it in a large plastic bag.
"Thank you," said Glenn.
"Please do not come again," said the shopkeeper gloomily.
Glenn looked up at him, and saw that he was crying. The blue Macaw dug its talons in Glenn's shirt and cawed once. The Alexander responded, and the other parrots flew closer and hung from cages, or stood on top of bookcases. Glenn looked back and saw ten, maybe fifteen birds in total, all chirping and cawing. The shopkeeper looked at the blue Macaw and said nothing.
Glenn turned around to leave. He opened the door to the shop, unsure if the blue bird would remain on his shoulder; but it did.
"Free parrot!" cawed the green Macaw.
The blue Macaw took one last look at the shop, and then turned around on Glenn's shoulder; it flapped its wings once, then dug its talons deeper, and cawed. Glenn walked outside and closed the door behind them.