At this time of the year, you honestly hated your job. It was early August; the height of tourist season in the great state of Maine, and the little shop you worked at didn’t have air conditioning. You worked in one of the countless tourist trap stores that lined the main street in Old Orchard Beach. You understood why every Mainer hated this season. The state motto may be “Vacationland”, but what we really mean is “Give us your money and leave.” But the thing about Old Orchard was that during the summer, you had a hard time telling if this was Maine or Canada.
That’s right. Canadians. They practically migrated down here during the height of the tourist season, taking their French, politeness, “ehs”, and the whole wearing-underwear-under-the-swimsuit thing (you had to find out the hard way). Not that you didn't like them. They were nice enough. It just got really, really old working in that tiny little shop and going days without hearing a familiar accent.
On this particular 100-something degree day, business went about as usual. You sat around and read a book until the bell hanging above the door chimed. You quickly stuffed the book under the counter and fixed a tight-lipped smile on your face.
“Hello, and welcome to…” you trailed off. This man was like nothing that had set foot in this store before. His long, pale blond hair was pulled back into a pony tail that rested on the base of his neck, one stubborn strand left dangling in front of his face like some odd organic antenna. His attire of jeans and a plaid long-sleeved shirt struck you as odd because of the scorching temperatures.
Reaching into a shirt pocket, he withdrew a crumpled pack of cigarettes and withdrew one, placing the cancer-stick to his lips and lighting it with a lighter that had the Canadian flag on it.
“Sir, you need to take that outside,” you growled. Already bad memories were swirling in your mind, memories of another time, another place, a lone cigarette, and fire, fire, so much fire.
“You’re the only one who seems to has a problem with it, eh?” the man said with a smirk before taking a drag and exhaling, smoke ghosting past his lips and into the store. The smell caused your stomach to churn and your mind to go fuzzy.
“I thought Canadians were supposed to be polite,” you huffed, leaning back in your chair and crossing your arms. “And this store has a distinct “no smoking” policy.”
“That’s just a stereotype,” the smoker replied, “and does it look like I give a damn?” He’s too cocky for his own good you thought and he needs to be taught a lesson. A slow, evil smirk worked it’s was across your face, causing the Canadian to pause.
“I’m going to give you to the count of three to either stop smoking, or get out of my shop,” you declared, voice firm and leaving no room for argument. The man rolled his eyes and continued to smoke.
“One.” He looked carefree and completely at ease with mercilessly tormenting you, even though he might not know about the tormenting part.
“Two.” He leaned against a shelf of over-priced trinkets, all branded with “Old Orchard Beach” in various locations, and his smirk grew into one that almost dared you to try and get him out of that store.
You reached under the counter and grasped the fire extinguisher, yanking the pin and spraying the rude Canadian with the thick white foam. He sputtered and gasped as the foam worked its way into his mouth and up his nose. You seized your chance and grabbed his arm, forcefully dragging him out of the store and into the crowded walkway before shoving him away from the door and watched while he unceremoniously collapsed onto the pavement outside.
The man growled, yanking the sunglasses off his face and attempting to clean them off, revealing an eye color so bizarre you honestly believed they were contacts. All of this was done while sending you a glare so harsh it would cause any normal person to flinch and hastily apologize.
Unfortunately for him, you were no normal person.
Your smile turned sickly sweet as you crossed your arms and said, “I warned you about our smoking policy sir, now I kindly ask that you leave and clean yourself up.” Sharply turning on your heel, you marched inside and began the extensive process of cleaning up the mess you had created.
He was back the next day, this time without the cigarettes. The bell jangled harshly with the force of the door being thrown open, and before you could comprehend what happened the Canadian was in front of you, glaring holes through the front cover of today’s book.
“You made a fool out of me yesterday,” he growled. You lazily glanced over the top at the furious Canadian before sighing and setting the book on your lap.
“To be fair, I warned you about our smoking policy, and you only made a fool out of yourself. Now I must kindly ask you to go fuck yourself,” you said in a bored tone before you picked up the book and resumed reading.
The man choked on air for a moment, causing you to glance up and witness an amused grin replaced the snarl on his face. “You have some guts, eh?”
“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” you replied, trying not to think about the last time someone said that to you.
“Name’s Matthew Williams,” the man said as he examined a framed article from the Portland Press Herald a few years back. You pretended not to notice.
“_______,” was all you said. Matthew glanced over at you for a moment before returning his attention to the article.
“So this place burned down a few years ago and you singlehandedly saved your boss and the jackass who started the fire, eh? Not bad,” he mused, the picture of the charred remains of the shop under observation from his scrutinizing gaze.
“Yeah. That jackass burned the place down with a single cigarette,” you admitted in the most uninterested voice you could muster.
“So that’s why you overreacted yesterday, eh?” Matthew spared another glance at you.
“I wouldn't call it that. I was just following store policy,” you replied with a shrug.
“Well, I’ll see you around,” he said before placing a scrap of paper bearing his number in the crease of the book and walking out of the store, disappearing among the crowd of tourists mobbing the street.
Old Orchard Beach may get overrun by Canadians every year, but you had never met a Canadian like Matthew before. You just might give him a call.