Friday, January 20, 2012


I walked into the dimly lit shop and waited for my eyes to adjust.  The outside of the store had always intrigued me -- it was a motif of the night sky, painted masterfully, and there was always good music and a wonderful chocolaty aroma emanating from the building's door.  I had been wanting to explore the shop for months.
Immediately to my left was the cashier's counter, which was piled high with records, cassette tapes and CDs; currently in the player was a Red Hot Chili Peppers album that I can't quite remember the name to.
Beyond the counter, the walls and floor were filled with shelves.  The central display bore shoes of all sorts; Converses, sparkly pumps, tennis shoes, flats, etc.  I was immediately drawn to a pair of black knee-high Converse boots with purple laces.  Before I could walk over to try them on, however, I was interrupted by another patron of the shop, who sidled up to me and asked in overly-casual tones, "So.  You new here?"
"Uh...yes?" I replied, not really sure what he was asking.
"Well, my name's Dave, and this is The Shop: Catering to all your needs, be they for fresh produce, high fashion, furniture or household appliances.  The Shop's got it all.  It also doubles as the gathering-place for all the neighborhood's coolest people.  Want a tour around?"
I decided I didn't like this Dave.  He was too loud, too forthcoming, and I didn't like the way he'd lightly grabbed my elbow halfway through his little speech.  I gently tugged my arm from his grasp and told him, "I think I'd like to have a little look around for myself, thanks."
"Have it your way," he shrugged, and moseyed off to the back of the shop, pulling a cell phone out of his pocket as he did so.
I now carried on unimpeded to the Converses.  When I picked them up, I realized that the tag said that they would be about four sizes too large for me, but I wanted to try them on anyways, just to make sure.  I sat down on the floor, removed my own shoes and proceeded to slowly (but surely) untangled the laces and unzip the zippers on the sides.  When I finally had the shoes on my feet, it turned out that they were only a couple sizes too large, but they would still slip off of my feet if I tried to walk around in them.  What a shame.
By the time I was standing up in my own shoes again, The Shop was filled with people.  They were all dressed in a vaguely Gothic way, and they stood in small groups and chatted quietly but amiably, sipping Dr. Peppers and snacking on assorted cheeses and grapes that had suddenly appeared on a platter in front of the shoe display.
A short girl with platinum-blonde hair and a nose piercing walked up to me and introduced herself as Sarah.  "Dave told us a newbie was here, so we came to see what you were all about."  She smiled cutely.  We chatted for a while (thought I can't remember about what) and then parted ways.  I walked slowly through the crowd until I arrived at the cashier's counter, which had been cleared of its load of music and was revealed to be a long, yellow bar, replete with swiveling bar stools.  A group of guys (not including Dave) had taken up all of the seats except for one and were laughing uproariously.
When they had quieted, I strode boldly forward and claimed the remaining bar stool, ordering a Dr. Pepper from the bartender/cashier.
"So, it's the newbie," said the guy sitting next to me.  He was the tall, overly-muscled football-playing type, but his smile was soft and his voice kind.
"Yeah, that's me, what's it to you?" I asked, refusing to be ruffled.
"What's it to me?" he repeated in disbelief.  "Why, I'm here to welcome an important new member of the tightest social group around, and you want to know what I care?"
"Everyone who walks in that door is special in some way, Green," chimed in the guy on my right, a dark-headed fellow with bright blue eyes and a lazy slouch.
"People come here for a reason," agreed the guy on my left.
I suppose that that was supposed to serve as some sort of an explanation, but it only left me more perplexed.  I talked a little while longer with the two guys, occasionally laughing, and then I moved on to other clusters of people.
As I passed in front of the shop window, I happened to see my father get off of the bus and walk down the sidewalk towards The Shop.  For some reason, I badly wanted his presence here.  I willed him to look up and meet my gaze.  He finally did, but just then Dave appeared at my side and started chattering into my ear.  The annoyance of this broke my concentrations and my dad walked on again as if he had never seen me.  I stared after him desperately, pleading silently with him not to leave me alone here, until he finally turned around and made a gesture that somehow asked, "You want me to come in?"  I nodded yes and beckoned to him.  Thirty seconds later, my whole family was standing in the shop, introducing themselves to Sarah.
After the introductions where done, Sarah asked my younger sister, Rose, and I if we wanted to come see something very interesting with her.  Rose and I said that we would.
Sarah led us through The Shop, past the produce and appliance sections, all the way to the very back.  The light was brighter and of a more friendly yellow color here.  We walked past windows that were draped over with old, emerald-green velvet curtains -- except that the curtains were on the other side of the glass.  A shiver of anticipation, premonition and excitement tingled up my spine.  Was she taking us to where I hoped she was taking us?
We eventually stopped in front of an ornate wooden archway, which was also covered by the green curtains.
"You'll have to go by yourselves from here," whispered Sarah.  "The master of the house doesn't like strangers.  But I'm sure you know your way around."  She smiled, wished us luck and left us.  Rose and I glanced at each other with wide eyes and softly pushed our way through the curtains.
The velvet was heavy and stifling, and it smelled oldly of dust and neglect.  Presently, we arrived in what was a posh parlour.  The walls were of a dark panelled oak and the floor was also carpeted with a thick green rug.  What little light that seeped into the room was weak, gray and dusty, filtered through the curtains.  Cracked leather armchairs were buried in dust; their ruddy red-brown color was masked by a fine mist of gray.  In the corner, however, stood a rocking chair that was as bright and colorful as if it was brand new.
Rose and I knew exactly where we were, though.  We raced from the room and into the library, but Rose accidentally knocked a port of flowers from a shelf.  This seemed to summon the young man who walked through a shadowed doorway to our left.  He scowled first at the upended vase and then at us.  He was dressed very dandily in a style that hasn't been seen since the late seventeen-hundreds.  "This is why I don't like strang --" he began, but stopped short, doing a double-take.  "Rose?  Green?..." he whispered, astonished.
"Mac!" we cried, running to hug him.
After our reunion, we spent the remainder of the day clambering over the red tile rooftops of Mac's grand estate, talking amiably about life and enjoying each other's presence.
The dream ended as we basked in the glow of a warm, golden summer sunset, look from the roof out over the rolling hills and being altogether thoroughly satisfied.

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