Joe's Junk Shop [PIC2016]
I pulled up into the parking lot, gravel rough under my wheels, popping and scraping as I stopped with a little too much force, my nerves all jumpy
and jangling. I couldn’t leave fast enough from that house, that man, and God, I knew he’d follow me. He would track me with his expensive SUV,
his oiled Bowie knife and his shotgun like I was a damned deer, and he’d stoke a temper that wouldn’t let off steam until either one of us was
dead, or he found another woman his snake charms could rattle into domestic slavery.
But I was free. For now, anyway. The bruises would fade, though the breaks in my arm and collar bone would never be healed right. My face would never
be quite the same, either since that “fall” put me in the ER. The memory of it made me shudder a bit, and check behind me for the thousandth
time. I was okay, I told myself over and over. If I just keep moving I would be okay, even if I had nowhere to go and no one to help me.
I had to stop, though, and get something with caffeine and sugar, something to keep me driving all night in a winding path to Not Him. The road was
unfamiliar to me, a two lane highway I’d taken randomly, along my twisted route. It was tucked up against some boney, wintery woods with a big
fence around back with piles of old stuff. It looked like it had been shabby since the 50’s. It was a solitary business, low slung and
ramble-shacked with a tin roof rusting and dark green paint flaking off from the concrete walls. Faded yellow and orange lettering painted out the
words “Joe’s Junk Shop, est. 1945.” Here, along with antiques and oddities, the sign advertised cold drinks and a restroom for customers.
I had a bag stuffed with whatever was clean in the drawers, a toothbrush, my jewelry that he hadn’t pawned, various toiletries I’d grabbed and as
many of my books as I could stuff into the car. It looked like I’d knocked off a library, with stacks of them tossed into the back seat and trunk.
The books had been the last straw. He’d taken my college books and music I’d kept and savagely ripped them apart, tearing up my diploma, a
Masters in Vocal Performance, and burned them all.
That’s what I got, he’d said, for being “smart” with him, and not obeying him when he’d asked me to refill his whiskey glass. Afterwards,
when I’d opened the whiskey bottle and dumped it down the drain in response to the ashes he’d made of my books and my accomplishments, he’d put
me in the hospital. I remembered staring up at the trees, much like the ones in back of the junk yard, and thinking I was going to die where he’d
left me, broken.
“Joe” it turned out, was really Joe-the-third, a man in his fifties with bad teeth, balding hair and a strangeness about him that I couldn’t
quite place. I found the old refrigerator marked “DRINKS” and pulled out two glass bottles of cola and hoped they weren’t also “antiques.”
The shop, despite its age and dilapidation, was neatly kept, with a sense of organized chaos about it that I found intriguing. I paid for the cola,
put both bottles in my purse then found the restroom. After that realized I needed to be out of the car for a few minutes before driving on. My
body was stiff and sore, and walking around the store I felt something like an itch I needed to scratch — like something there among the shelves was
calling for me to find it. It was a feeling I'd learned to follow, so I walked around, glancing at old stuff.
“What’cher’lookin’fer?” It came out as one word and it took me a moment to decipher what the man was asking.
“Dunno. Just looking.” I replied with a thin smile, my head turning away to avoid conversation. “Woah,” I said aloud, as I found a cache of
broken baby-doll heads and fragments of porcelain legs and arms.
Somehow, Joe had moved up behind me in the isle. I jumped when he spoke. “That’s from the war,” he said, jabbing a finger towards the dolls.
“Came from England, in the ’40’s. My great-grandad fought in World War II. Brought back a bride from England, and her daddy had worked at a
small porcelain factory that made dishes and doll parts. German’s ripped the factory apart with air-raids. Her father took all these from the
rubble and said he intended to fix ‘em up. But he never did.” The pile of heads and parts stared out, lifeless, a macabre reminder of that war,
and of other things the German’s had done that broke people, broke lives into pieces. She looked away. She'd had enough of being broken. He'd
broken her arm and her face and she felt like the damn dolls, lost and in disrepair, fragile, and like nothing could really put her back together
“There,” said Joe, his stubby hands pointing at a cherry wood mirror, dusty and dark. It pointed out towards the dirty windows in back of the
store, catching a spiderweb and a few trees in its glass. “That’s got history, too. Everything here has history. The mirror came from England
too, but even earlier than the war. It belonged to an opera singer who died mysteriously. The records show that her lover, a wealthy man, might have
been the one to do her in, but it was never proven and he walked. The mirror showed up years later at a yard sale in Gaston County of all places, with
a photograph of the young lady at her dressing table with the mirror, attached to the bottom of it. My grandfather picked it up for the shop. It’s
been here, oh,” he paused a moment to think, “since Nineteen-sixty-eight. Beautiful thing, don’t know why it hasn’t found a home.”
In spite of my need to get back on the road, the fear nagging in my brain, I was intrigued. “How do you find the story behind it?”
“Grand-daddy did some research. We do that. Historians, see? Of a fashion, anyway. My Great-Gran, the woman from England, thought she recognized
the style of it as something from her homeland, from back in the 1800’s. We saw the photo of the singer and my grand-daddy dug through old news
clippings and books and what-not, you know, old school treasure hunting. I have the clippings in a file for whoever gets the mirror.”
The story put the hairs up on the back of my neck. I could have died like that. The mirror was beautiful. I checked the tag. “Whoo,” I hooted,
“Three hundred dollars. That’s too much for me. I’ve gotta save every penny right now…” I was about to bow out of the shop, thinking
that no matter what called to me, I wouldn’t be able to answer with enough cold hard cash to bring it with me. I was in survival mode, not
‘feathering the nest’ mode.
“Do you like angels?” he asked, staring pointedly at me.
- continued -
edit on 10-4-2016 by AboveBoard because: (no reason given)
edit on 10-4-2016 by AboveBoard because: (no reason