Vintage Glasses

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(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.

A Little Longfellow

Finally a Spring day that calls to mind some Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

When the bright sunset fills
The silver woods with light, the green slope throws
Its shadows in the hollows of the hills,
And wide the upland glows.

And when the eve is born,
In the blue lake sky, o’er-reaching far,
Is hollowed out and the moon dips her horn,
And twinkles many a star.

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It’s Not the Velocity

It happened after he fell over the stump. He lost consciousness, his friends said, for several minutes. They had been playing tag, nothing more. They noticed the bump on the back of his head when they tried to rouse him. One boy said David must have hit the large, misshapen root of the old tree when he fell. When his eyes fluttered open, he smiled at his friends and said “I’m It.”

Years later, David would recall those words and wonder exactly what he had become. With his studies and research he had pieced together the trajectory of his fall, the velocity, the distance, the angle of impact, the force of his skull on the tree root. No, the fall did not kill him as it could have, nor did his head split open and spill its contents on the ground. Rather, his brain had undergone some other kind of change altogether and imploded in the nicest possible way. If being the smartest man on earth was to be considered nice.

As David grew and was tested and taught and developed, it was determined he had suffered some sort of trauma that resulted in a permanent benign growth that pressed and intruded on his brain. He was a super genius. Before long, he was in demand from think tanks all over the world.

It was difficult to shut out all the thought processes of which he was capable and just be in the moment. But lord did he try! When he was young, he felt he knew too much about too many things to enjoy them. After amassing several degrees at an accelerated rate in school, he proceeded to defile himself in the pursuit of understanding the appeal of carefree youth. But it never quite worked as he was never carefree. He could not quite shut off the ongoing commentary in his head explaining all the events around him, from the weather to a football game to a school dance; his brain would calculate the odds of rain based on observable data, the physics and strategy of the ballgame, the body language and social cues of awkward teens following the age-old dating rituals. He found the only time he could focus on one thing at a time was when he saw Lisa.

When he saw her, he didn’t think of math but of poetry. Instead of working on his Planck report, he wanted to study Van Gogh’s irises, as they were the same color as her eyes. It was such a relief to not be the smart kid for once that he relished his time near her. He didn’t dare approach her, as he was certain by her social cues she would not be interested in him as a possible dating specimen, but he still unabashedly admired her whenever he could.

The closest he came to completely losing his cool was the one time she spoke to him. Years later, he could remember every detail of that moment: the color of her shirt, the way her jeans caressed her slight curves, the ponytail that dangled over one shoulder, how she leaned her head to her right/his left when she asked for a napkin at the lunch table. He didn’t recall what lunch tasted like that day because his senses were saturated with her nearness, her lilac smell, and her small fingers that brushed his as she took the napkin from him.

Sitting in his office as a grown man, he could only but laugh at the memory of the nerdiest boy staring at the beautiful girl next door. What tripe! What a cliché! But as he looked out his window and saw the city lit for the night, he again wondered at how tripping over the tree stump had rendered him a lonely, smart man. He had undoubtedly helped many people with his discoveries and research. But he was so alone with his thoughts. There was a part of him that remained the David pre-stump, happy with a group of friends. Now he only had colleagues and lackeys. It was time to try something radical. Get out of his own head, so to speak. As he looked at the ticket on his desk, he knew this was a chance. The retreat focused on meditation and back to basics nature stuff. Not his thing at all. But he had never experienced anything like this, thinking of only himself with nothing to gain but some peace. It would be a mental challenge to shut out the world and find the boy within.

After one month, two episodes of freaking out, several crying jags, and more laughter than he could remember, David found himself walking alone through a forest. He stopped and stared at a leaf falling from a tree. It fell slowly, the soft breeze carrying it gently as if to cradle it all the way to the ground. As the leaf finally came to rest on some moss, David realized he hadn’t thought of any equations pertaining to the leaf’s fall, nor the processes of leaves changing color, nor anything except to just watch it and admire its grace as it fell.

Smiling, David turned to go home, knowing he had found peace just like he knew he would, once he put his mind to it.

Rum and Remembrance

pen

What you see is so often hard to look beyond.
The still life cannot compete with the moving pictures we create
Even when imagined, especially when real.

We hold a part of all who have touched us.
Connections from within and without, our names on marquees
Never the beautiful, often the damned
We carry laughter, miracles, dissonance.

Frequently our territory is too tame and not enough.
We search for the whys and whens and wheretofores.
Mediocrity is the spectre,
With perplexing indifference, agonizing deflection, amusing acceptance.

Laced with experience, armed with knowledge
The pen does its job, washing away the bitter
The words taste like rum.

A Favorite Quote

Ventriloquist dummy at Obscura Antiques

“There are two types of people in the world:
those who watch the ventriloquist
and those who watch the dummy.”

– favorite high school English teacher