“I can really make my own coral sugar with this?”
“Just the juice. Not the crystals,” Charming said. “Well, you could make some crystals, but not enough at a time from a bulb this size, and it would probably kill the coral.”
None of this touri man’s questions were unfamiliar to Charming—she’d been asked all of them each day, every day, she put up her stall in Song’s pier market—but his insistence was so focused, so penetrating, she thought of her school exit interview. And not fondly.
“These bulbs are designed for decorating your kitchen and making enough juice for your coffee or tea or whatever. If you’re looking for the crystals I’d recommend ordering from Jack Ree’s here on Song or Phanee’s Sugar Works on the shore. They’re both on the net.” Charming gestured to the back table where her pad lay. “Now, I don’t know what Phanee’s charges for shipping, but Jack reminds me every day to tell people he doesn’t charge extra to send it to shore.”
The man continued to listen and smile at her like she was still speaking. Maybe he was considering what she’d just said. Maybe he was waiting for an answer to his question.
“And, yes. It would definitely kill the coral.”
“I don’t want that.”
Charming laughed lightly. “And I don’t either. That’s part of why we’re so accurate to infuse these bulbs with the right indicator colors.”
“When the rim turns clear, rinse and fill to the mark with distilled water. When it turns dark again, add five grams of sea salt?”
“Yes. Exactly.” The salesperson in her wanted to add a compliment on how quickly he’d learned the instructions to keep the coral alive and producing sugar, but she didn’t want to insult him.
“You said, ‘We.’ Do you make the glass bulbs too?”
“I can and I have, but my Daddy’s much better and faster than I am. I’m still no good at syncing them.”
“Your father’s had lots of practice,” he said. Then added quickly: “I imagine.”
Charming opened her mouth to respond, but didn’t.
“Do you have a synced set in green or maybe dark green?”
“I have this green here.” She laid her hand over a bulb of coral to the left of where they were speaking. “And I have a darker one back at my place I could get after lunch.”
“Excellent. No rush. I assume you can hold both for me? It will be a couple days before I leave.”
“Really? A couple days?”
“Why? Is that odd?” It was odd. Touris rarely spent more than a night on Song since the shore had better accommodations.
“Since you haven’t paid yet, I’ll just say it’s unusual to hear.”
He chuckled and handed her 16 bright yellow bills. “And now?”
Charming took the payment and set the two green-rimmed coral bulbs on the back table. “Thanks. Yeah, it’s odd.”
“Well, Miss Venda, I’ll keep that in mind for next time I visit Song.” It wasn’t until after he’d gone that Charming began wondering if she’d introduced herself by name to the man.
519 words on day 776