(Part II in the Vintage Series)
The shopkeeper finished dusting the shelf (and by dusting, that meant he carefully added a thin layer of dust, thereby making a customer feel as though he had discovered a long-lost treasure). As he walked through the shop, his eye fell to the two newly vacant spaces on the center display. He thought a moment before deciding what was needed and headed to the back storage room.
How did Clarence know what items needed to be found in the antique shop? He wasn’t quite sure himself. It was as though a voice whispered right into his mind and a picture would form of a person wearing something from his shop. He knew he could make the connection between the person and the item. He never doubted that; he only had doubts that the people would choose to keep their new accoutrements.
Behind a neat row of shelves containing books and beside a rack of clothes, he stopped in front of a cupboard. He opened the doors, lifted a small case and carefully opened it. Nestled amidst some bunched felt lay a pair of wire-rimmed glasses. The frames were thin yet strong and the glasses within looked almost as though they had recently been polished.
As he returned to the empty display space, he heard the bell as the door opened. He smiled, already picturing the woman walking in.
She surveyed the shelves and began walking the perimeter of the shop. She wasn’t sure what had brought her into the dusty little place to begin with, but she enjoyed looking at old things. Especially books. She saw a shelf stuffed with old tomes and made a beeline toward it. Looking through the faded titles, she paused and picked up an old Primer, a study guide used in teaching many years ago. The text was a bit faded but the illustrations were clear.
Having decided to buy the Primer, she walked to the register. On her way, she saw the clerk placing a pair of glasses on a mannequin. She blinked a few times and then stared. Was it her imagination or did the mannequin look a bit like her? She certainly had a feeling of familiarity when looking at the figure, or was it the glasses? Now she felt unsettled.
She reached out and took the glasses, slid them on her face. Everything instantly seemed to snap into place and into sharper focus. She smiles and looked at the clerk who only nodded and asked if she would like them wrapped or would just wear them home. She said she’d just wear them and paid for the glasses and the book.
The clerk looked at her a moment and said “Try them for three days. That’s our policy. You’ve got three days to find if they feel right or all can be returned.”
She instinctively felt he was talking about more than just the glasses but brushed away that thought. She glanced around the shop once more, amazed at the clarity and all the details she had missed upon first entering the store.
As she walked through the door, tucking the Primer in her canvas tote bag, she stepped onto a wooden pallet that creaked and bounced slightly. Startled, she glanced down and just ahead and saw the whole sidewalk had disappeared and in its place was a long wooden porch-like structure. The city street was also gone, replaced by a dusty road being traversed by horses and a wagon and… was that a saloon? A general store? A telegraph pole? This looked like a scene from an old western. Maybe someone was filming a movie? She didn’t see any cameras or lights or anyone in modern clothing.
She quickly turned back to look for the shop she had just exited. There was the clerk, standing in the doorway. She raised her eyebrows, not knowing what to say. She was afraid she’d sound delusional if she asked the questions that were popping up in her head.
“Three days,” he said. “If you decide you want to go back, just bring back the glasses. All can be returned.”
She nodded, sort of understanding but not really believing what he was saying or even what she was seeing. She turned back and walked to the end of the porch and made a left onto a smaller street. Somehow she knew just where to go and what she would find. Just ahead was the newly painted building. The schoolhouse out of her recurring dreams. She paused only a moment and then went inside. A man was hammering some nails into a board that was being fashioned into a bench with some desks.
“Hi, there, Ma’am,” he drawled. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“You have?” she asked lamely, not thinking of anything better to say and feeling some disappointment that he most likely had been waiting for someone else.
“Yup. Clarence from the shop down the street told me the new school teacher would be here today. You are Maggie, aren’t you?”
“Y..y..yes,” she stammered.
A big grin crossed his face. It grew so broad that it spread right to her face.
“Yeah,” he said softly. “I’ve been waiting for you a long time.”
She nodded, reached into her bag, removed the Primer. Looking sweetly at him, she knew she was home.