“Now remember, sweetheart,” Katherine's mother said, stirring something, “I want a pound of charity, a gallon of kindness and seven ounces of their best patience. And you can pick up a bit of something for yourself, too. Can you remember all that, or do you want me to write it down?”
Katherine, pink with excitement and the chilly wind from the open door, nodded as she pulled on her jacket. “I got it. I'll be back soon.”
She picked up the wicker basket on her way out and walked briskly around the corner to her destination: a plain storefront that said simply, “Mann's Intangibles”. She pushed open the door and walked in to the poorly-lit area crammed with aisles and shelves.
Mrs. Thomas, who was sitting behind the counter reading a book, looked up as she came in. “Wipe your feet, Katherine dear,” she said dryly.
“It's nice to see you, Mrs. Thomas,” Katherine replied, wiping her feet. She quickly found what she was looking for close to the front; the items were heavy and she was glad her mother only needed seven ounces of patience, Katherine being an only child. Their next-door neighbor had five children and went through that in an hour.
As Katherine brought her purchases back towards the counter, she remembered that she was supposed to get something for herself. Mrs. Thomas had a jar of candies called “Sweet Dispositions”, but Katherine wanted something more interesting. After a moment's hesitation she headed to the back where her mother never brought her.
The first thing she saw on the shelf that lined the back area was a box of little blue and white packages that said “EXCITEMENT!” in giant letters across the front. She picked one up and turned it over; the back promised “a seat-of-your-pants amazing good time!! Only 99 cents!!!” She considered, then put it back, before turning to the next display, labeled “Happiness” in a more sedate font. She turned one around and was assured that she needed “real, lasting joy in life, to share with loved ones.” The next display was love. She passed it by with a roll of her eyes and kept walking slowly down the back edge of the store.
As she walked, the displays got less and less pleasant. She passed guilt, frustration and sadness. She stopped for a moment by the stacked bottles of envy, thinking how nice it would be for someone to covet her meager possessions. She passed anger and fear.
When she got to the far back corner she saw a little, dusty stack of tiny boxes, barely four inches across. At first she couldn't even see what they were labeled. Katherine picked one up and began to read the side.
“There are always those people you know who don't treat you the way you deserve,” the box read. Katherine immediately thought of them. “Those who can't appreciate you for who you are. Whether it's your mother, your sister, your husband or your next-door neighbors, they just can't seem to act the way they should towards you.” Katherine nodded almost involuntarily. She was recalling wrongs she had suffered recently, including Mrs. Thomas' cold greeting just a few minutes ago. “You don't deserve this. You deserve respect and love.”
Seduced by what she was reading, Katherine was almost unable to tear herself away. She was hypnotised. She turned her eyes away for a moment to try to think more clearly and they fell on the gallon of charity that lay innocuously at the bottom of her basket. It had a much shorter description, visible in plain black letters under the name: “It is better to love than be loved in return.”
Katherine snapped out of her trance as quickly as she'd fallen under its spell. Now the words on the box seemed hollow and useless, and she began to set it down, but realized that she didn't even know yet what she'd been about to buy. She turned it over again and wiped off the dust carefully. It simply said, “Hate.”
Katherine shuddered, dropped it, and ran back to the bright, daylit front where Mrs. Thomas waited.
“Anything else?” Mrs Thomas asked after she'd rung up the items.
“Yes please,” Katherine answered, a smile playing across her lips. She cleared her throat before making her request. “A Sweet Disposition.”
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