The Smithsonian Air and Space museum was everything Jane wanted it to be. Sputnik, the lunar lander, cosmonaut suits. It took her breath away. There were strange things, too. Unexpected things, like a homemade chess set for playing in zero gravity on the space station. It was the chess set that got her excited about going to the gift shop. It was so small and simple. They must have a replica for sale.
They did not. In its place they had a cheap plastic chess set, with identical astronauts on both sides. It was lazy.
“They could have had astronauts on one side and cosmonauts on the other,” Jane said to Helen. “They could have had a cool space race chess set. Sputnik and Laika. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin!” She dropped the box back on the shelf in disgust. Helen didn’t say anything. She didn’t expect much from a gift shop, but it didn’t seem like the right time to mention that.
Jane led them around the small shop. There were no decent spacecraft models. They didn’t even have a model of sputnik she could buy. She was getting agitated, now.
“I’m going to go find a bathroom,” Helen said.
Jane looked around for an employee.
“Is there anything I can help you find?” he said.
“Why don’t you have a model of sputnik?” Jane said. “That seems so simple. So obvious.”
“We have a sputnik paperweight and note holder,” he said, leading her to a table.
“That is the tackiest thing I have ever seen,” Jane said. “I don’t understand you people. The rest of the museum is so cool. Why don’t you let the museum curators pick things for the gift shop? Doesn’t it matter to you?”
“I’m sorry you’re disappointed.”
“I don’t think you are!” Jane said. He started to turn away, and she said, “Wait. I’m sorry. I know it’s not your fault. The rest of the museum is great. It was everything I imagined, and this just doesn’t live up to it. It seems like just another lame gift shop.”
“I don’t get to pick the merchandise,” he said. “I just work here.”
When Helen came back, Jane was sitting on a bench outside the shop.
“Come on,” Helen said. “Let’s go look at the cosmonaut suit again.”
“Maybe if I sent them suggestions?” Jane said. “I could write a letter to the museum’s board of directors, maybe. I could threaten their families?”