Part One and Part Two.

“I- What?” Fruben’s heart made a perilous leap into his throat, and he uttered a sound not unlike the one produced by the shopkeeper. A veritable chorus of croaks.

The old man hunched his shoulders to appear more menacing, and said in a forceful tone: “You don’t have enough for these items.” He quickly added a moment later: “I won’t take a promise of payment from you, either.”

Fruben wondered if the old fool knew what a promissory note was even for — he sighed with resignation and put the armload of reagents back down on the counter in front of him.

“Careful!” croaked the old man. “Don’t damage anything, I still have to sell those!” His old voice rasped on Fruben’s patience such that he thought he could feel little pieces of it curling off and fluttering to the floor. He cast a glance down as if to watch one.

“Do you even know how much these are worth!” Fruben looked back up at the shopkeeper when he realized the old man was still ranting at him. From the man’s inflection — and at this point Fruben wished he could recall the old man’s name so he could properly frame a curse — he couldn’t tell if his words formed had been simply been an exclamation, an honest question, or an accusation of stupidity on his part. It was too much to hope the old man gave Fruben credit for knowing the value of the goods, let alone their agreed-upon price. They’d only haggled nearly a quarter of an hour, Fruben would hate to start the process over again.