No matter. The day was nearly over now.
Some murky inner prompting caused Drooms to suddenly decide to get off one station early, bumping the passengers in his rush to get out before the train doors closed. He hurried out of the station, thinking that he would stop by The Red String Curio Store. That would calm his mind.
The Red String was one of the few stores Drooms looked at now and then. Though he took great pleasure in his work and allowed it to take over most of his waking hours, he did have one interest outside of work, a sort of hobby, though he kept it to himself.
He opened the door to The Red String Curio Store, its little bell ringing as he entered. That silvery sound was the first signal that he was leaving behind him the outer workaday world; the musty old attic smell was the second, a scent only slightly masked by the baskets of orange peel and cloves set among the shelves.
The store owner, a bald little man wearing a red bowtie and high-waisted trousers held up with red suspenders, his style since the turn of the century, stood at the counter helping an elderly lady to choose between two old birdcages. He held up a finger as a greeting to Drooms.
The front of the store was full with displays of new toys and gifts for the holiday. But for the most part, the store was a dusty jumble of shelves and aisles crowded with old furniture, used books and magazines, cracked and mismatched dishes alongside near-complete sets, lamps and lanterns, boxes of odds and ends.
The walls themselves could barely be seen, covered as they were by mirrors of all shapes and sizes, still-lifes and landscapes of various quality, and empty frames. A few sagging tapestries depicted once-vibrant stag hunts and pastoral courtships; their subjects had long since been lulled by time and now appeared too tired for action of any kind.
On the back wall, hung worn posters advertising everything from travel to exotic Egypt and the Levant, to performances of The Pirates of Penzance and Carmen, to soap – a Palmolive-scented mother poised above her sleeping child; an elegant 1920’s couple dancing on their toes, almost floating above the words Erasmic Soaps & Perfumes.
Scattered throughout the store were wall clocks and grandfather clocks set to different times, so that ticking and deep resonant chimes filled the air at all hours, punctuated now and then by an occasional cuckoo.
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