Mort looked at his antiques in the quiet summer evening. His shop was no longer a favorite haunt for tourists because he refused to sell fancy doodads or memorabilia. The truth was he couldn’t part with many of his treasures. Most of his ancient artifacts were too creepy for the average Joe.

In his younger years, Mort taught children for a living and traveled to faraway places. He was quite skilled at getting rare artifacts through customs, preferring passage by ship because he could off-load some of his illegal finds without too many questions.

Mort was becoming like his antiques, lonely and stale. He lay on a sofa thinking about his world of artifacts.

His life-size doll of Count Dracula stooped in the corner, covered in dust. He bought it from a roadside auctioneer in Hungary.

Each day, Mort woke from his slumber, preparing a pot of tea. He walked down creaking stairs to the center of his store where he read the newspaper.

Mort knew most stores used computers to legitimize transactions, but he preferred a brass till he discovered at a travelling bazaar.

The seller was a motorcycle enthusiast with long white hair, a grey beard, leather chaps, tattoos, and a purple vest.

Mort bought the brass till because he thought it would add to the atmosphere of his antique shop. It never made him rich and the controls were so difficult to operate that even his most patient customers became angry.

The sign above his lonely store read, Mort’s Curiosities in green lettering.

On a bright Sunday morning, Mort reclined in his rocking chair, reading the Times. He didn’t expect customers to call until 10 o’clock, but he unlocked his door promptly at 8 anyway, switching his Were Closed sign to Open.

He had just sat down when the bell jingled. Looking up, he expected to see a nosy antique troll or a diehard tourist, but not a teenager.

            “This is a nice place you have here,” observed the dark haired boy. He wore blue jeans and a grey t-shirt.

            “Oh, thank you. Is there something I can help you with?” asked the old man.

            “I was wondering if you need some help during the summer with loading and unloading antiques.”

            “Honesty, I don’t usually have customers this early. I lose money on this store and if I didn’t sleep upstairs and live off my teacher’s pension, I’d have to close.

Mort thought the kid must be smart and wondered why he came to his shop. “Are you about 13 years of age?” he asked.

“Yeah, I graduated seventh grade last year.”

            The shop owner remembered his first summer job working in a bookstore. “I couldn’t pay you and the work around here would be infrequent. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come back tomorrow at 10:00 and I’ll have some boxes for you to move.”

            “Sound’s great mister.”

            “Mort’s the name and what to people call you?”

            “Charlie.”

            “Then I’ll call you Charles, if you don’t mind?”

            “That’s fine. May I look around a bit longer?”

            “Take all the time you need.”

            Charlie walked around the store, looking at rare items. Antique pocket watches hung on a corner wall, ticking in unison. A Schwinn bicycle leaned against a row of first edition books written by authors he’d never heard of. 

In another corner hung a collection of frightening East African masks, a mounted monkey head, white rabbit taxidermies, and some rare butterflies from the Congo.

Charlie knew there were interesting stories behind every item, but he didn’t want to disturb the shop keeper who continued reading his newspaper.

Soon Charlie reached the darkest corner of the store, furthest away from the display window. A life-size vampire stooped in the shadows with a pale face, cold stare, and its arms outstretched.

He knew it was sewn together with fabric and stuffing, but it looked real. Reaching out, he almost touched it.

            “DON’T TOUCH DRAKE!” yelled the shop keeper.

            Charlie nearly went through his skin. At first, he thought the vampire spoke to him. Then he turned around, realizing it was Mort.

“You can look and touch the rare artifacts, but I ask you leave Drake alone.” Mort pointed to the vampire in the corner. “I’m afraid the sewing is fragile and his stuffing might come out.”

Charlie looked at the vampire again. He swore Drake looked at him differently this time and for a second, he thought he saw a red gleam in the glass eyes.

“You’d best run along now,” suggested Mort.

The hairs on Charlie’s neck were still on end when he turned to leave. “I’ll see you tomorrow at 10.”

“Until then,” Mort said with a wave goodbye.

The old curiosity dealer gave a stern look at the stuffed vampire in the corner. Drake looked the same as he always had, stooped over; dressed in a pinstriped suit, with a red tie, black cloak, and white gloves.

The shop owner walked over to the vampire to make sure the crucifix still hung around its neck. The silver cross was nearly six inches long, with a red stone at its center. Retiring for the evening, he went to bed thinking about his boyhood.

Mort was startled awake in the middle of the night; he grabbed his spectacles from his night stand, peering downstairs. The room was mixed with creepy shadows, but nothing looked out of the ordinary. He couldn’t figure-out what CRASHED and woke him up. Maybe it was just a dream.

One thought on “Chapter 1 Mort’s Curiosity Shop

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