Vintage Glasses


(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.

Vintage Watch


Vintage Watch

He was feeling on top of the world. That always sounded like such a stupid phrase before today. Especially since he usually felt he looked at the world through a skewed scope from the ground up. But now he found himself looking at the tops of skyscrapers and ruminating about the shapes of clouds. Things are definitely looking up, he thought to himself.

As he walked, he found he needed some air and some elbow room so he turned off the crowded sidewalk and onto a quieter alley with faded signs and some old cars parked on one side. He looked at the dingy shop windows as he walked. Old books. A record store. A coffee shop. Old suitcases and things. A tailor. Wait. Back up. What was that next to the old suitcase? He stopped and looked in the window. A watch. Why did it look so familiar? He found himself walking into the shop as if his feet were moving of their own volition.

The cozy smell of musty old attic permeated his nostrils. Specks of dust floated in the air like snowflakes. He gave a cursory look to the baubles and umbrellas and books and hats and shoes and pipes and photographs and pennants and scarves and glasses and watches and… there it was. The watch in the window. He looked around for someone to wait on him. He heard some rustling near the rear of the store so he just waited and looked at the watch. It wasn’t moving but somehow he knew how the ticking would sound. He didn’t touch it but somehow he knew the weight of it on his wrist. He could almost recall how the small scratch on the left side of the face had gotten there.

Suddenly the shopkeeper spoke to him, asking if he’d like to try it on. He nodded. The clerk took the watch from the display, held it for a moment, and then handed it over. The man put it on his wrist, fastening the band. The clerk said something about how it looked good on him or he wore it well or something like that. He wasn’t really listening. He was hearing… music? Had Big Band been playing on the radio when he walked in?

He thanked the old shopkeeper and walked out of the shop. It took maybe 35 seconds (the watch had just needed a good winding) for the man to realize something had shifted. Something was different. When he stopped admiring his wrist accoutrement, he looked up. Holy shit! Was he dreaming? Hallucinating? It was as if he was looking at an old issue of LIFE magazine. Everything looked clean, new. The buildings looked washed. Men wore hats and ties. Women had tailored dresses and heels. The cars looked vintage…1940-something. Was he on a movie set? He looked around for a camera crew, ready to apologize for walking in a shot, possibly ruining a take, but he saw no cameras.

Instead he saw people walking briskly by him, some tipping their hats, some smiling a quick smile. He walked a few paces then turned around. The shop was still there. The shopkeeper was looking at him through the window. Then he was gone. Wait. There he was at the door. The man went to him and raised his eyebrows as if to say, what the hell? Do you see this too? The man spoke.

“Try it on for three days. That’s our policy. You’ve got three days to find if it’s a good fit or all can be returned.”

The man looked again at his wrist. He knew the clerk wasn’t just talking about the watch. He also knew somehow that he was home. Modern living had never appealed to him. He didn’t like the disheveled state of the world he had left behind. He knew there was still hope in this decade. People hadn’t lost hope yet. He at least could hope here.

He nodded again, not finding a voice to ask the myriad questions cropping up in his head. He continued walking, marveling at how familiar the scene looked to him. He knew the shops and could recall most of the owners’ names. He neared the crossroads, not sure what the busy city street he had originally turned off would look like now. It was still busy. But slower. People didn’t seem to be in such a hurry. And it was quieter. The whole atmosphere was more polite.

He went directly to the coffee shop he knew from the next block and sat at the counter. Ordered coffee. When the waitress asked if he wanted pie, he declined. But she added that it was his favorite, apple pie. When he looked into her eyes, he saw a familiar gleam and said yes to the pie.

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