Little about the market would have surprised a resident of Ancient Rome. Not the name – derived from the Latin mercatus, meaning trade or marketplace – nor the pull down steel gate or guard dog.
‘They are thieves everywhere,’ muttered with a stroked chin and furrowed brow. ‘Only a foolish merchant would fail to protect his wares.’
Electric light… possibly, but mention Jupiter and thunderbolts… probably not. The alcohol for certain would pack a more powerful punch, but likely it would be the consistency and the perfect glass containers that would invoke the most awe. And then to point out that the coliseum was merely a few stadia away: Well, any Roman sportsman worth his salt would have no problem whatsoever appreciating the cleverness and convenience of a one-stop shop for all things projectile – plus tasty sundries.
And pocket lighters? Oh my! There was a very good reason torches were not allowed inside the gates. Pyrotechnics were the Emperor’s exclusive fiat, not destructive toys in the fists of the baying mob. Blood [and notes from fiddles] tended to flow copiously whenever the plebeians got rambunctious.
All in all, he thought, life was good. Claudius Servious was quite content to play the vigilant shopkeeper raking in more denarii he’d ever believed existed. The green paper with tyrant’s busts had taken a bit of faith to accept, even more so than the stiff ‘plastic’ rectangles; but the bank gave him an ever-increasing balance book without demur. Saving for retirement was now even feasible.
He chuckled dryly. As a soldier/slave-cum-gladiator, a pension plan and health care wasn’t something included in the recruitment package. He looked around at the crowded shelves. These Americans had such a comfortable life. Soft and squishy they were: like those vile white sponges called marshmallows. He shuddered. ‘Give me skewered songbird tongues any day of the week.’
The buxom Gaul hanging on the wall – ‘Hey! That alliterates.’ – drew a longer stare, not only for the flaxen locks artistically flowing around the banner titled, Oktoberfest. ‘And the calendar?’ He rolled his eyes in exasperation. ‘What kind of culture ignores the Gods by pretending the world and cosmos is “all natural”, moving like some super water-clock?’
He moved his attention to stare through the open door to the brilliant night as another customer briskly strode in bringing the clamor of the streets with them. Claudius had learned that his customers wanted to be acknowledged with a brief nod and/or grimace, but not watched nor pestered. That was fine by him. The gladius under the counter was still sharp and his muscles still rippled. The ladies liked that. Some things at least hadn’t changed through the eons.
He had to hand it to Pluto; the Underworld was nothing like he’d imagined it would be. Being dead was the best gig he’d ever had in his entire life.