Daniel Maxwell-Taylor Evans stared up at the monstrously looming structure that was the Empire State building. It rose into the sky like a beacon of direction and hope for the world; a tour du force of architectural standards that took the breath away from locals and tourists alike. With undeniable power and pride of not only its wondrous city for who the world waited with held breath to trail behind, but its entire country.
Daniel Maxwell-Taylor Evans, known as Dani to his father and co-workers, followed a tradition his father had started since his first birthday: every year on the day he was born, they would go up one floor, correlating it with his age. In just a few months, he would be going to the thirty-first floor. As he took his usual five seconds to marvel at the gargantuan tower before heading into work, which was directly across the street, Dani knew one day he would make it to the top.
The tiny bell dinged as Dani opened the door to John Riley’s Comic Galaxy. The store was a large, one floor room with great wall to wall racks filled with comics, graphic novels, action figures, and the special adult books in the back. Working in a comic book store right across from the Empire State building brought a kind of nostalgic pride to the store. Dani walked around to park himself on a stool behind the cash desk.
Relieving his co-worker, Dewey, for lunch, Dani began straightening up the stickers and patches under the display case. Anyone would think that working in a comic book shop would be a horrible idea with the problem Dani had, but comics were wimps compared to actual books. They kept quiet most of the time. Even the thicker graphic novels shut their mouths when Dani threatened them. An old copy of Akira just about ran for its life when Farewell to Arms jumped off the shelf at his apartment.
Dink, went the bell to the store. Molly, Dani’s not-so-secret admirer, walked in. It had been clear for some time now that Molly had memorized his schedule, even knowing when he had vacations according to Dewey. She stood in front of the glass display case in all her glory: waist long mousy brown hair, thick rimmed glasses magnifying her green eyes to the size of quarters, and a wide smile. A few times she had smiled so hard at Dani he was sure her retainer would fall out.
‘Maybe,’ Dani would think to himself, ‘Maybe if she wasn’t nineteen. Maybe if she wasn’t a regular customer. Maybe if I wasn’t cracked.’
“Hey, Dani,” Molly greeted in the way people with retainers do. “I’m looking for the new Mega Spider-Man Volume fourteen.”
“It’s on the new release wall.” Dani was certain Molly already knew exactly where to find the graphic novel, but feigned ignorance for a momentary exchange. She had been coming to the shop for over two years, she knew the store better than he did. “Right next to Ultra Sweet Violet.”
“Thanks,” Molly bounced over to the wall rack.
Sad to say, Molly’s purchases were what was supporting the store. The competition was
sprouting up all over the city like business stealing weeds. Dani was not above offering an extra sticker
or magnet to her selections each time she was ready to buy just for the extra cash. Molly had parents
who paid for everything as long as she stayed in school, so he felt less terrible about taking a little bit
advantage of her.
Picking up the newest volume of Mega Spider-Man, Dani watched her browse through the racks
with half interest. As of late, he had received less love confessing letters from her, which made him wonder if she had found a new man to obsess over. That, or she was finally getting sick of his resistance. Molly picked up a few Batman spin-offs, then wondered into the adult section. Dani looked down at his fingernails, saving himself the awkwardness. The adult section at John Riley’s had some interestingly colorful additions, making it strict twenty-one. Dani didn’t mind Molly looking, but buying was another story.
“You need to ask that young lady out on a date.” A copy of The Amazing Spider-Man Volume one sat in the resort basket next to the register. It blinked up at Dani, an understanding smile across the cover. “You’re not getting any younger.”
“Shut up!” Dani hissed, kicking the basket.
“Did you say something?” Molly was walking towards the cash desk with a pile of comics and graphic novels in her arms. Dani shook his head.
Along with her other purchases, Molly set down a Breeze McKarren hardcover book from the adult section. Breeze McKarren was a new artist with beautiful life-like paints that were very much on the erotic side. The cover alone made Dani’s eyebrows sweat.
“You know I can’t sell you that, Molly.” He pushed it away from the other comics. “Twenty-one and over for adult.”
“I just had my birthday!” Molly produced a state ID with a very goofy picture that proved, indeed, that she had turned twenty-one two days earlier. She gave him a disappointing look, “Don’t you know how old I am?”
“I thought I did,” Dani felt a pang of guilt. “I have a terrible memory, though.”
“You need to ask that young lady on a date.”
Dani kicked the resort basket again.
“How does it feel to be twenty-one?” He asked to fill the void of silent ogling while he rung up her stuff. She rested her chin in her hand as she leaned on the glass top of the display case.
“It’s pretty much the same, except I can finally go out with my older friends to bars.” Dani nodded politely, bagging everything. “Why don’t you come out with me to get a drink tonight? Like a late birthday celebration.”
“I don’t know,” Dani tried to remain calm despite the panic all skinny comic book and book nerds feel when confronted with a possible social outing with the female of the species. “You’re a customer of the store, and I don’t know if it would be a good idea.”
“Please! Please! Please!” she begging, clasping her hands together. “Just one drink, please!”
“It’s not a good idea.”
“I’m not going to leave until you say ‘yes’. Please say yes. Just one drink.”
Dani sighed, “Just one?”
“Just one, promise. Cross my heart and hope to die,” Molly made a cross gesture above her heart.
“Fine,” he submitted, “Meet me outside at 10:30.”
“Yay!” Molly exclaimed, literally jumping up and down. “Okay, we can go to Legions!”
“Great,” Dani responded with all the enthusiasm of a wet blanket.
After Molly left, The Amazing Spider-Man tsked him from the basket, “She’s an interesting one.”