“I am not at liberty to disclose that information.” said the bookstore clerk when I asked who owned the Vermont Bead Shop. The bead shop, next door, had a yellow “By Order of Police” sign duck-taped to the window. The sign was large, the black tape slapped on crooked.
“I left my sweater there. I just need to call the owner and get my sweater back.”
“I’m sorry,” said the salesman. “I cannot discuss the bead shop?”
“Who owns the bead shop?”
“I can’t divulge that information.”
“Why? Is it a secret, who owns the bead shop?”
“I don’t care why it’s closed. I just want to call the owner and get my sweater.”
The salesman stared at me without emotion.
“Do you know who owns the bead shop?” I asked him, point blank.
“I can’t tell you that.”
“You can’t tell me who owns the bead shop or you can’t tell me if you KNOW who owns the bead shop?”
“I don’t understand the difference.”
“I don’t think it’s top secret, who owns the bead shop. I can probably call the Chamber of Commerce.”
“You are certainly free to do so.”
“Why? Why would you put me through that trouble?”
“Ma’am. I simply cannot help you.” He said, not budging. He didn’t have any customers to wait on. He didn’t bother pretending that he did. He stood behind the counter, motionless, at liberty. He awaited my response patiently, as though we were playing chess.