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Butterfly Mummies, Long Ago Love Affairs and Four-Leaf Clovers
A lone customer sits huddled in the shadow of the old post office in the Museum of Fond Memories. She peers intensely at the open letter in her hands, a letter dated in pen and ink, “August, 1909.”
The carefully structured letter recounts, in several pages, a day in the life of the long-gone author, a narrative intended for the eyes and heart of the reader, who is simply named James. It’s a love note.
Earlier, the customer finds a postcard dated 1899, with “Wish you were here!” cheerfully signed by Alice, who is visiting St. Louis. One small notebook reveals a four-leaf clover, pressed there in 1933. A butterfly wisps its way through the air and onto the floor. It is perfectly preserved inside a pamphlet on Manners, dated 1889. A 1952 telegram in the letter box announces with regret the death of a family member, an old dance card lists the signatures of men who once whirled the light fantastic with a seventeen-year-old girl, an envelope yields its contents–one silky bookmark with tassel, a tattered photograph from 1922 forever freezes in place the smiling faces of two young swim-suited moms at the beach with kids amok.
The customer, now lost in time, is in her third hour of trolling the generations. She is beginning to feel hunger, she knows there is much else to do outside this old bookstore, but she is reluctant to leave, now that these foundlings are begging to be adopted and nurtured.
She adds the love letter to her small affordable stack of paper ephemera, stands up to stretch, folds the metal chair and leans it in its place, then walks dreamily to the counter where the elderly proprietor awaits.
Her smile is sad and jubilant. “I love these things. I wish I could buy them all!”
The shopkeeper glows. “I’m so glad you appreciate these lives, and I’m even more glad that you plan to adopt them and keep them safe”
It is an idiosyncrasy of the owner that he views the contents of his shop as orphans awaiting the protection of adoptive parents. He is grateful that at least this one customer “gets” it.
The woman pays for her selections and clutches package and purse to her chest as she slowly heads for the front door. As she moves, she tenderly touches and examines other old memories, a frayed book, a newspaper clipping, an ancient valentine…and eventually exits the shop.
The proprietor walks over to the metal post office boxes, straightens up their corner a bit, moves a couple of potential obstructions, and thus prepares the area for a new customer.
He wonders what the next dreamer will be like
© Jim Reed 2016 A.D.