I always loved old things. My bed was an oak frame, made in 1946. I lived in an apartment in one of the oldest buildings in New York. I still play my original NES, and I still have letters that I found at my great grandmother’s house, from my great-great-grandfather to his wife. So when I was walking down 42nd Street and saw the tiny, old, run-down antique shop, I jumped at the chance to look around.
The run-down, dirty old shop was just the place for me. It was filled with odd ends and knick knacks, just the way I loved it. There were a couple of grandfather clocks in a corner, but I didn’t bother with those. I already had a 1919 Seth Thomas grandfather clock in my living room. There were so many tables; I could barely walk through the room. I wandered through the shop, picking up random books or looking through boxes of buttons and pins. It was odd, there wasn’t anyone there running the shop. In fact, I was the only person browsing, too. I shrugged, figuring whoever was working was just off in the back or on a smoke break or something. Either way, it didn’t interfere with my looking through the various oddities. I had just picked out what I figured was all I would get: an old fedora from the seventies, a few hand carved dice, and a quill pen (did I mention I was into calligraphy?) when I saw a real prize.
It was a mask, probably oak or pine (I’m not good at spotting different types of wood). It must have been painted, because of the different colors. The face was sort of split into two part, a black half and a white half, with the black swirling down around the mouth cut into the mask and curling to the chin. There was more black than white, as it covered a majority of the face, but there were also three solid red dots at the forehead. One on black, one on white, and one right in the middle, cut in half by the opposite colors. There was a carving on the inner side of the mask, like where you would put your face that said, “The Mid-born Storm”. Huh, I thought. Wonder what that means. I felt..weird, holding the mask. Like I was meant to have it. Like the mask belonged to me. Like it was my birth-right.
I laughed. I was the second son of my parents. I had one older brother (who always got his way at home, because he was “special”) and one younger brother (who also got his way, because he was the “baby”). Then there was me, who got all the hand-me-downs, the used toys, the used car, and did the most chores. Granted, that life was behind me. I had moved out. I lived on my own. Still, the resentment about being a middle child lingers a long time.
I went to the store counter, carrying my things plus the mask, and set it all down. There was still no one out here, and it didn’t look like there was going to be. There was a tiny bell next to an old register. I figured, why not? That’s probably why it’s there. Just as I reached over to hit it, an old black cat pounced on my hand, his still sharp claws leaving grooves in my skin. It yowled. I sneezed. I hate cats.
Then there was sounds from a door behind a register. Well, “door” is being kind. It was really just a door frame, with an old towel pinned to it. An old man moved the towel aside and squinted at me.
“Eh? You actually buying something?”
“Uh, y-yes sir,” I stammered. This man was quite a sight. He was bent over slightly with old age, wore black dress pants that looked like they hadn’t been washed in years, and a big bath robe for a shirt. His chest hairs poked out through the crack in the robe that his protruding gut created. He had shoulder length grey-ish white hair, and a beard that reached his belly button. Quite a sight indeed.
“Eh, all right then. Let’s see, here, what’ve we got,” he said as he inspected each of the items I had picked up. “Crap. Crap. Useless. Worthless. Well well well now! What have we here…” He was holding up the mask I had picked up. He seemed to be scrutinizing me with one of his eyes, which I then realized were mismatched. His left eye, which he was looking at me with, was green, but his other eye, which was looking slightly to the right, was blue. “Quite a selection indeed. Tell me, Mr. Dawson, why did you pick this up?”
“Well, I guess it looks cool. What is it, like, an African Tribal mask or..” I stopped. “I’m sorry, did you call me ‘Mr. Dawson’?”
He looked amused. “Yes. Is that not your name?” I stared at him. It was. My name is Leonard Dawson. But I didn’t remember telling him my name, and there was no way I knew this guy. I would remember a face like his.
“Yes, it is. How do you know that?”
“Oh, my dear boy, I know a great many things.” He smiled. He had oddly straight teeth. I didn’t say anything. There was a long silence, of nothing but staring and each other, and him smiling that eerie smile. “Yes, well, guess I better ring you up, eh lad? Ahaha!” He looked at the cash register, looked at the items on the counter, his eyes lingering on the mask, and finally looked at me. “I’ll take fifteen fifty for the hat, dice, and pen. You can have the mask for free.” He grinned. I really didn’t like the way he looked at me with that grin on his face.
“Yes, well, um,” I mumbled, and gave him sixteen dollars. I don’t like to carry around change. He stashed the money in the register, and dropped two quarters into my hand. He then put all the items into a plastic bag, one of those generic ones that say “Have a nice day!” and handed me the bag.
“Enjoy your things, son. If you’re ever looking for anything else, just gimme a ring! I dropped a card in the bag.”
“Uh, yeah. Thanks,” I said, as I hurried out of there as quickly as possible. I could still feel how he stared at me with those mismatched eyes and the creepy grin as I made my way down the sidewalk.