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On the selling of dangerous goods

A father takes his son along to purchase his first dangerous item.

The salesman smiled slightly as he saw the father approach the counter, his lanky teenager son in tow. He knew the look in the man's eye, had seen it often enough with others, the grim determination of a teacher, blended with pride and a hint of melancholic remembrance. 

"We want to see the… goods," the man said, in a voice used to give orders. The salesman dipped his chin in acknowledgement, but wasn't to be coerced into movement right away. He regarded the son, maybe fifteen years of age, who'd been looking around the store with a somewhat paranoid pattern of head swivels, eyes darting to the equipment on the walls, as if assessing their potential to hurt him. 

The salesman stepped out from his counter and led them through the nearby curtain, the heavy corduroy sighing as they entered the room behind, waiting in suspense for the lights to come on. It did indeed always take a breath’s length until the neon flickered awake, and the salesman had, over the years, found that this little moment of darkness helped to put customers into a more affluent mood. The man slapped his hand on his son’s shoulder, beaming with pride as if he invented or owned all of the shiny black devices in the room. They were mostly held in cases, heavy duty with stenciled type numbers, in a variety of sizes. The smallest were easy to hide upon the body, carried in ladies’ purses, while the biggest were professional grade, long black cylinders that reflected oily and readily. A slight smell of polymers and machinery emitted from the cases and their contents. 

The teenager seemed to be frozen on the spot, until the salesman received the OK signal from the father. Encouraging the youth, he smiled genially, took an object from a case and gently pushed it into the boy’s hands. 

"How does it feel? Do you like the weight?" he said.

He noticed that the boy had an idea of what to do, but seemed overwhelmed with the power given to him. Did the father ever let his son touch the one at home, or was it safely locked away? 

The boy eventually leveled it and the salesman approved that he didn't immediately point it at someone's head. By God, this had happened often enough, reason enough for many fathers to  postpone the purchase by a year. He subtly positioned the arms of the boy, adjusting his stance.

"Now here is where to aim, close your left eye and look through here…" The teen did as he was told. 

"Do you like it?" 

"I guess so," the boy said, lowering the black body, glancing at his father for guidance. 

"Maybe something a bit more suited for beginners," the salesman said and pushed another slender object into the boy’s hands, this one lighter and a bit more modern in appearance. 

"38 is more versatile," he said, awaiting the protest from the father. Men of his generation usually protested here. 

"It was 45 or 50 in my day," the customer said gruffly, predictably. 

The salesman took it as an opening to start his spiel, lecturing about sizes and grades and how they had changed over time, nowadays, everything was getting smaller and lighter, trends toward portability and such. He could tell the father wouldn't be convinced but that he eventually accepted the authority of the salesman, respecting his expertise. The teen wanted to hold the biggest item and he let him, at this age, they all wanted to feel powerful with the large caliber, maybe some sort of phallic symbolism related to puberty.

While the boy perused the goods, the salesman exchanged some expert talk with the father, how some companies had released new models, others were taken off the market, how technology evolved in faster and faster cycles. 

In the end, they settled on the premium version of a popular bestseller and the salesman took them over to the test range. He loaded the device, using this opportunity to show the teen how to find the correct size of magazine, how to use the eject mechanism and how to make sure that everything was closed properly before operation. Primed, he stood close behind the boy, dropping his voice to a whisper. 

"Now, level up, look through the seeker, find your target, breathe in… then, slowly, with your index finger, take the shot." 

To his credit, the boy wasn't startled as the device responded mechanically, keeping his grip. 

"Well done!" the father said and it made the boy smile shyly. 

They went over cleaning and maintenance, possibilities to purchase adapters and extensions, should the need arise. After the man had paid cash, the salesman took the boy aside, a ritual he had perfected over the years. 

"It's a powerful tool, you know. Always be careful, and take some time to practice. Your friends will want to hold it and use it, but I advise you to keep it in your hands. Others will not know how to handle it, and that might cause a lot of damage." He added a conspiratorial wink before releasing the boy back to his father. 

Once they had left, the salesman tidied up the room, putting all the devices back in their cases, in one corner the Canon Single Lens Reflex, in the other the Pentax Mirrorless. He wiped down the Zeiss lenses and turned the Hasselblads so that the logo was shown properly. Lastly, he closed the showcase with the Sony pocket cameras, took the money from the recent purchase and left the room through the curtain, the automatic sensors switching off the lights shortly after.