Thursday, June 15, 2006

"My Name Is Lloyd Vacuum"

"I'd like to purchase these books, please."

Terry looked up from the cash register at the customer, a tall elderly man who looked to be in his 70s, long lined face with a leonine shock of white hair. Terry rang up the books. "Cash, check, or credit card?"

The man was fishing in a loose, oversized billfold. "My name... is Lloyd Vacuum. Double L, Double U."

"Ummmm, credit card? Master Card or Visa?"

The man repeated more loudly, now in a somewhat imperious tone of voice: "My name is Lloyd Vacuum. Double L, Double U."

Terry didn't know quite what to say. There was something subtly wrong about the cut of the man's sweater vest, the weave of his shirt. At last the man triumphantly produced a card and handed it to Terry. With an air of assurance: "My name is Lloyd Vacuum. Double L, Double U."

Terry looked down at the card, couldn't make heads nor tails of whatever odd font it was printed in. For that matter, he couldn't identify the card. There... the man's name... but it was hard to read... it looked like... "W... That's 'Vacuum,' V-A-C-W-M?"

Now the elderly man seemed agitated. "No, my name is Lloyd Vacuum. Double L, Double U."

"Oh." Terry suddenly noticed with unease that Lloyd Vacuum was growing. Initially he had been about six feet tall. Now he was standing nearly seven feet. "Say, I can't help but notice. It seems as if every time you say your name, you grow a couple of inches."

Lloyd Vacuum drew himself up to his full height. A good seven feet. "As the moon hath its phases, so hath Lloyd Vacuum his changes in height." Now at least seven foot two. "You will see me another time in ever so variant a guise."

Terry looked down at the man's... credit card? But how do you ring up a card you can't even read?

Then Terry looked up again... to see a young fellow, college age, standing there in place of Lloyd Vacuum. Dressed in an odd outfit of yellow wool trimmed with red, and a yellow wool hat like some Sherpa guide's hat. And with something like tribal tattoos up the left side of his face. The young fellow spoke, in that same voice, younger, less rough, but definitely the same voice: "Yes, my name is Lloyd Vacuum. Double L, Double U."

As the young man said this, no mistaking it, he grew at least two inches.

"You're... Lloyd Vacuum? But... you..." Terry glanced down at the card, and when he looked back up, young Lloyd Vacuum was gone. Vanished into thin air.

Terry inspected the card. No, that font, was that even our alphabet? Something like it, but maybe more like Russian... or Cherokee? Then Terry somehow tripped a catch on one edge of the card, and it opened up and unfolded like the covers of a book. Revealing more unreadable printing within. More unreadable printing, and no fewer than a dozen photo IDs. There was the old man, and there was the young tattooed fellow. Some of the photos were of recognizable transforms of Lloyd Vacuum. Some looked radically different. One didn't even look human.

"Well, if that don't beat all. 'Lloyd Vacuum. Double L. Double U.'"

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