Work In Progress

An excerpt from another Mecca of Junk story I’m working on:

It was Saturday and the floors of the shop were packed with weekend tourists and left-over college students. I hadn’t been expecting such a rush, what with the snow and spring break, but the gods of ancient stuff must have been smiling on the Mecca and here I was, coffee in hand, watching old ladies outmaneuver one another with their elbows. It was amusing to watch them fighting so desperately over their figurines and doodads. I wondered if it was their increasing understanding of the coming end that caused them to pursue their treasures with such ferocity. A word to the wise: never, ever get in the way of an old lady who wants a miniature china cat.

I ambled back through the booths, nodding at vendors and picking up the occasional scarf or pillow which had fallen, unseen, into the path of the oncoming shoppers. Everyone seemed happy with the steady stream of customers so I headed back to the register. The line was dwindling down when a small woman in a crocheted sweater scooted to the side of the counter and laid her ice-cold hands on my arm.

“Please,” she said, glancing furtively around, “please, I can’t find my husband anywhere. I think someone took him!”

I snorted. I couldn’t help myself. I covered it with a fit of fake coughing and then waved my boss over to cover the counter. After a short conversation, we realized that the woman was serious and I called the non-emergency police line. Officer Mike Barry, who patrolled the main street in the evenings, assured us that he would be over as soon as possible. He sounded excited, probably hoping someone had kidnapped a little old man. Anything is better than handing out parking tickets and snooping around the walking paths to make sure dog owners clean up after their pets.

I led the little lady towards the office at the back of the first floor, stopping only long enough to refill my coffee. I figured Mike would want to talk to her in private. She sank slowly onto the hard plastic chair which rocked with each shift of her body. She had pulled an embroidered handkerchief from her pocket and was dabbing at her eyes behind her thick-framed glasses. There was a small bubble of mucus that was slowly making its way down her top lip and I found myself mesmerized by the shining trail it left behind, like a slug across cucumbers. She was talking and I nodded, tuning in.

“Jasper and I come here every Saturday,” she said, “ever since we were married. Of course, when he got sick, that made things more difficult – ” She broke off as Officer Barry arrived, hands on his wide utility belt which looked tiny compared to his enormous girth now filling the office doorway.

“You the bird who’s missing her husband?” he asked, gruffly.

I shot him a look. He acknowledged my judgement with a slight coloring of his massive neck and rocked back on his heels.

“No offense,” he added.


Copyright © 2015 Katharine Brown.