Sunday, November 28, 2010

Issue Six, Volume One

 From the Editor's Desk,
     Greetings! Here at the office we (the  have been swamped with school), but only have two weeks left in the semester!
     We figured out the intricacies of mounting WAV files onto blogs, how to record WAV files, how to con friends and fiancees into recording those WAV files, and not necessarily in that order. However we are happy to say we have developed the means to record radio dramas and put them onto the website. Our first drama will be "The Krumps" by Meredith McLean, once we rerecord it (the first go was not something I would wish on any writer's work).
     Co-editor Quentin A. Pongratz  has been posting some of his stories to here.
     Thank you for reading and we should be back to normalcy next month. We will keep you posted.
     Daniel "Kiddy" Pool

By – Jay Taylor
            Shirlie Vill prepared for her visitor.  Her gray-streaked hair pulled up in a tight bun causing her sparse eyebrows to arch wickedly.
            She placed a wooden box on the display counter and dusted the deep grained lid, paying close attention to the brass hinges and latch.
            Shirlie hummed a tune.  Her visitor would arrive soon and everything should be in place.
            Adding to her collection was the best part of her little shop.  She enjoyed when obsessed people wandered into her shop, called there by a special item.  But expanding her collection was always better.
            Occasionally, a desperate soul would enter her corner of reality seeking a gossamer promise.  Some sought it because they were old and dying, others because they were young and foolish.  Either way, Shirlie would fulfill that promise.
            Just as Shirlie finished her preparation Bill Rance, her guest, exited I-57 at Benton, Illinois and pulled into The Plaza restaurant. It was a low slung slumping brown building. The hazy rain made the structure look pitiful.
Bill entered and was not surprised to see the inside was as seedy as the outside. Yellowed wallpaper barely clung to the walls. The smell of stale cigarettes competed with coffee and bacon. The locals stared at him.  He stood there dripping in his trench coat and khakis, feeling unwelcome.
            The waitress behind the counter looked at him with deep, bag rimmed eyes.  She had a pencil lodged in her frosted hair.
            “You here to eat or you-ens just lost?” she asked in a quirky drawl.
            “Um, well I’d like to get some lunch if it’s not too early for it,” Bill said.
            “Hell, were opened twenty-four seven, hon,” she said as she turned and poured coffee into a yellowed cup, “You go ahead an order whatever tickles your fancy.”
Bill took a seat at the counter on a barstool covered with worn, red vinyl.  The patrons resumed their previous level of conversation and Bill ordered a diet soda and a BLT. 
Bill said, “Excuse me, ma’am would you happen to know how I could get to the…”
“You looking for Shirlie’s shop?”  The waitress interrupted him as she re-filled his soda.
 “Actually that’s exactly what I’m looking for.” Bill said.
“Thought so.  You had the same look as most the people coming here for her stuff.”
“So her place is popular?  I didn’t think she’d get that much business being out here in the middle of nowhere.”
“Middle of nowhere?  You got that right.  But she gets a pretty good piece of business coming in here.”
“Really?  I wouldn’t ’ve guessed that.”
“Yeah, most of ‘em stop here to get a bite and usually directions.”
“Well, it’s good to know I’m not the only one that’s come in here feeling lost.” He gave a halfhearted smile.
“Not even close to the first.  Hope she’s got what you’re looking for.”
“Me too. Me too,” Bill whispered to himself.
Bill confirmed directions, placed a large tip on the counter, and left. 
The wind and freezing rain bit through Bill’s pants like a thousand nasty insects with icicle teeth. He rushed across the parking lot to the shelter of his car.
As he drove around the Town Square, Bill saw a white sign plastered to the front of a large, dilapidated building.  It read, “The Historical Wood Building – Restoration By Don’s Contracting – Funded by Shirlie Vill.”
“Hmmm… Seems Shirlie is doing pretty good for herself.” Bill said.
He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he made his way through town, passing closed businesses.  He saw a couple vagrants huddled in the stoops of old buildings and some too-thin dogs chasing a squirrel through an empty lot of debris and concrete.
Then Bill saw the small building. 
A homemade sign spun and whiplashed in the gale as it dangled from a single chain.  All the windows were dark.  A small sign indicated parking was located in the rear.
He sat in his car for a moment, calming his nerves as anticipation mounted.  He had waited a very long time for this day.  He could only hope she would have it.
The jangle-clank of the rusted chrome bell strapped to the door startled Bill as he entered.  The interior was dimly lit.  Here and there in the ocean of shadows, he could see strange items illuminated by islands of light.
The air was tinted with a spice akin to ginger.  Everything was silent; even the sound of Bill’s steps were muted as darkness gobbled them up.  He trailed his way through the tight walkways, occasionally touching items and gazing through hazy glass at tiny, brilliant baubles.
Bill saw everything from handmade rag dolls to shrunken heads.  Amateurish paintings dotted the shelves and walls next to elaborate jewelry displays. 
There was no sense in the way the items were arranged.  It was as if Ms. Vill had placed things as she received them – giving no thought to organization or inventory.
“You’re right you know.”
The voice shattered the silence like a hammer hitting crystal and Bill jumped.
“Excuse me?” Bill said.
“What you were just thinking.  You know.  That you could find anything you wanted here.  You’re right.  You can,” the voice said.
The short, round-bellied figure appeared from around the corner just in front of Bill.  Her bun was still tight and her thick glasses glinted in the gloom like a beacon in the night.
“Oh yes, was that what I was thinking?” Bill said, “I guess it was.”
“Shirlie Vill, proprietor and antiques expert extraordinaire,” she said, extending her gnarled little hand.
Bill took her frail, birdlike, hand.  It felt chilled and slightly damp as he grasped it.  Despite the dampness, their handshake rasped like a file on old wood.
“Bill, uh, Bill Rance. Amazed customer, I guess,” he said.
“You seem to guess at a lot of things there Bill.  Can you guess why you came all this way?  What was it an hour and a half, two hours from old St. Louis.”
“Yeah, yeah about that.  What I came for?”  Bill’s mouth seemed as dry as cigarette ashes and tasted about the same.
“That’s the question isn’t it?  Why come all this way?  You think there’s something here you can’t find in St. Louis?”
“Actually, I hope so.  I saw your ad on an old flyer about ten years ago when I took my kids to the Arch.  It said I could find my heart’s desire here at your store.”
“Ten years is a long time to wait for such an important thing,” she said, “What kept you?  Hmm?”
“Kids.  My wife left us a long time ago, I raised them by myself.  They’re grown and gone now.  So I decided to come and see if it was here.”
“Your wife’s not here and neither is a cure for the cancer that’s eating you up from the inside,” Shirlie said, “But those aren’t your real desires are they?  Those are the surface things. Right?”
Bill looked at his wet shoes and scuffed them on the carpet. He ran a hand through his hair and nodded. “I guess so.”
“Alright, then,” Shirlie said, “Follow me.  Let’s get to it.”
Bill obeyed.  The world had closed in and was no more.  All that existed was this store and he knew she had the answers he needed. 
Shirlie had his heart’s desire.
At the counter sat the large box Shirlie had prepared earlier for Bill’s arrival.  Its newly polished lid glowed from within as if on fire.
Shirlie walked to the opposite side of the counter. Bill cleared his throat a few times as if to speak.  She didn’t acknowledge him.
She climbed her tiny stepladder so she was eye level with Bill. 
Shirlie lifted the lid and turned the box so Bill could look inside.  He was amazed at the artistry involved in creating the remarkable contents of this beautiful box.
“See here Bill?”
He nodded.
“Am I right that you want to live forever?”
  “Yeah. I guess that’s it. No more cancer.”
“I knew it ten years ago when the cancer first started in your prostate.  I knew the moment you touched my flier.”
He stared at her with awe.  He didn’t know what was happening, but she seemed to grow, expanding the whole room along with her. Bill stood on the counter.  He was looking into her giant spectacles and at the enormous wooden box.  Shirlie placed a beautiful platform made of marble in front of Bill.
“Go on Billy boy.  Step up and take your place.  You came in seeking eternal life and that’s what you got.”
He stepped up and realization settled in as she placed the glass dome over him and the small platform. 
Shirlie placed him next to a dozen other tiny people inside her box; all with horrified smiles frozen on their rigid faces, and all of them getting their heart’s desire – Immortality.
Shirlie grinned and tapped the glass dome over Bill’s new home.
“See Billy? You almost complete my collection. You get to take the sorry sap slot.”

About the author: Jay Taylor is an amateur writer who is currently trying to get an agent for my completed fantasy novel. He has no formal writing credentials but has written for many years and decided to approach it as a business. I recently moved to the SF Bay area with his wife and son.