Daisy Davis catches the movement of the boy out the corner of her eye just in time to keep him from taking one of the hundreds of masks off the wall and placing it on his face.
“No, no,” she says for what seems like the twentieth time. “You mustn’t touch the masks and definitely don’t put one on.”
“Why not?” the tall, lanky toe-head of a boy asks, also for the twentieth time. “Isn’t that what masks are for?”
“Not these masks,” Daisy replies. At sixty-seven years of age, she finds she has little patience for such questions, Still, she takes a deep breath and slowly lets it out before replying in as calm a voice as she can muster. “It’s considered bad luck to put on these ceremonial masks. Now, please, look but don’t touch.”
“Really? Bad luck,” the know-it-all father replies. “I’ve never heard such a superstition.”
And of course, if you haven’t heard it, then it must not exist, right? Daisy thinks, but then bites her tongue to keep it to herself.
“Well, the African tribes where many of these masks came from believe that certain masks have the power to steal the soul of anyone who tries to wear them.”
“Hogwash,” the father replies as he walks over to his son and tousles his hair affectionately. “I think you made up that story just to scare little boys. Come on, Alice. I know when we’re not welcome somewhere.”
A young woman who was clearly the boy’s mother and the source of his blonde hair nods and obediently follows her husband and son towards the door.
Daisy opens her mouth to object or apologize, she isn’t sure which, but then closes it again. It’s late in the day and she’s ready to close the Mask Museum. She and her husband had founded the museum over twenty years ago after spending the first twenty-five years of their marriage traveling around the world collecting masks from dozens of different cultures.
The family turns to leave. The small house with blue siding and matching dark blue shutters doubles as the museum and Daisy’s home. As they open the door, a slender young man wearing a wrinkled black blazer that hangs on his almost skeletal frame pushes his way around them. He’s followed a moment later by a second, much larger man that reminds Daisy of Hoss Cartwright from the TV show, Bonanza. He has the same, happy, easygoing smile on his face while his companion wears an expression of sternness, even worry.
“I’m sorry, but the museum is closed for the day,” Daisy says as she tries to block them from entering.
“Doesn’t look closed to me,” the slender man replies. “Come on, Moonpie. Look at the pretty masks.” He speaks as though talking to a small child even though Moonpie is well over six feet tall and could no doubt play lineman for the Chicago Bears.
“Aww, Isaac. Can’t you see the lady is tired and wants to go home?”
Daisy doesn’t bother to point out that her home is less than twenty steps away.
“Maybe we should come back tomorrow.”
“Look at these things,” Isaac replies, ignoring his companion as well as Daisy. “These are some humdinger, ugly ass masks. I bet they’re worth a fortune, don’t you? Where’d you get all these things?” he asks, finally looking in Daisy’s direction.
“My husband and I traveled around the world collecting them,” Daisy replies, finding herself falling into a part of her tour speech despite herself. “There are over sixty countries represented, but never mind. Come back the first of the week. We’re closed tomorrow and Monday, but come back Tuesday. I’ll be happy to give you a tour.”
“Where’s your husband?” Isaac asks, ignoring her request and gazing around the room. ”I’d like to meet him.”
“He’s no longer around,” Daisy replies, automatically answering with the same vague response she always gives when asked the question.
“Ahh, that’s sad,” Moonpie says, frowning.
“We’re just passing through,” Isaac continues as he takes out his cellphone and snaps a few pictures. “Not sure we’ll still be in town on Tuesday, but we’ll see.”
He looks around the room again. “Interesting, very interesting,” he repeats, then shrugs. “Okay, let’s go Moonpie.”
After the two men leave, Daisy locks the door behind them. As she walks through the room towards her small apartment in the rear of the house, she passes a large mask set off from the rest. It’s the face of an old man with ruddy cheeks and a full beard carved from wood, a golden crown on top of his head.
“No longer around?”
“Yeah, well, it’s not a complete lie,” she replies. “I don’t trust that man. He’s up to no good.” She takes the mask off the wall and resumes walking to her quarters. “I need company tonight. I don’t want to eat alone.”
“Okay,” the voice from the mask replies. “But after dinner, I think it would be best if you return me to the museum for the next few days...just to be on the safe side.”
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