Aphelion Issue 222, Volume 21
October 2017
 
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Things

by Robin B. Lipinski



Vast waters deep and free, above the wind and storm wave

Clouds to carry gull and rain

Floating full of sail, the world of man travels

Island to continent, in motion with his dreams

Seemingly free this way

Resting now, barnacled hull, sails furled, listing with bilge water

Worms on wood planks to feast

All grandeur grounded, gilded paint to chip,

A world held to anchor, firm of ground and stopped

This, this the strength of the rusted anchor chain.


Signs abound in the world. Signs showing flickering neon lights of sexual attraction to the parlors of sin located in any large city, showing announcements to a sporting event, showing smiling faces of glamour, political powers, places of business … Signs have been a part of the landscape since life arrived to show they were life; signs in-and-of themselves.

The sign located at 1316 Bastil Ave was a simple example of advertising. It announced in faded, hand painted letters that it was here a person could pawn something, most anything, and in return for their trouble of entering the shop would be rewarded with a receipt and some money. Not much money, mind you, but enough to get you through whatever dream it was you needed to fulfill, or nightmare needing to be solved.

It was not night when he entered the shop. Why is it that? Why is it that to set the mystery of darkness the setting has to be dark? When he entered the shop, there was a bright sun shining above in a clear blue sky. Outside the shop, many people were passing. It was a beautiful day, but what was dark was what was inside him, a darkness so full and deep he appeared darker than his shadow.

"Ding, ding," the little brass bell above the front door of the pawn store swung a few times when the door opened and then a few times when the door closed. The dark man paid no attention to something so trivial, but for the owner of the shop, she paid attention as the sound meant another story, another person entering in hopes of gaining a chance to continue their lives with money or to purchase someone else's past dreams.

She was a woman shopkeeper, the owner of the pawn store started not by her father, as her father had died shortly after she had been born, but by her mother, who was of good Irish stock and had started what was now painted in faded letters on the sign outside: The Lemon Drop Pawn Store est.1952.

When her mother died ten years ago, she left it to her daughter, the one going by the name Abigail, and who was now standing behind the counter guarded by a heavy metal screen. Sometimes there were people entering the shop with no intentions of pawning an item, redeeming an item, or purchasing an item; intentions bordering on the criminal instead as robbery is also a tool used to get money from a pawn store.

Abigail stood and said, "Good morning. Can I help you with something?"

His eyes spoke much more than the words coming out of his mouth, "Yes, I've come in search of a very unique item …"

Unique is a word often used to describe that not ordinary. Amazing how parents all around the world say, "My child is so special, so unique," when actually there is nothing unique about small bundles of excrement-emitting, foul-smelling urchins that drool. Not even when maturing into an adult are humans unique or special. 'Unique' is a word much like the word love, a most overused word, and Abigail was not really impressed when the man standing in front of her said, "Unique item …" All the items in her store were just normal items.

"What kind of unique item are you looking for? A dragon's tooth? Maybe a sexual potion to attract a lover?" In Abigail's shop, there had been a lot of items passing through the store. Magical. Powerful. Simple. Trinkets. She could almost say that she had seen it all but there was always something new coming in, and even this man standing there with dark eyes was nothing special or 'unique,' seeing much worse in the past. There was even the time a creature with red eyes and a forked tongue stood in the exact same spot, hissing something about some mythological mouse. It all was the same to her.

The man smiled, and why he smiled is that he recognized a fellow traveler like himself. As he read the mind of Abigail he saw she was more than a woman of the world, she was much like he was, and her shadow was black also.

Continuing the conversation though he said, "I'm looking for a wooden dreidel."

"A wooden dreidel?" This caused her to pause for a moment. Most people entering her shop looking for something usually meant they were looking for something to stimulate the body and soul. An electronic device, a magical potion, a weapon, not many people come in looking for children's toys, and in her memory, no one had ever asked for a Jewish four-sided wooden top.

"Yes, a wooden dreidel. It is gold in color and inscribed with the symbols for Nun, Gimel, He, Shim."

Abigail had an excellent memory. She could remember transactions far back in time with great clarity and she was sure she would have remembered something strange happening in her store, that being a simple wooden dreidel coming in.

"No, I'm sorry. I have nothing like that in here. Perhaps I could interest you in these? They would make great toys for children." She had turned and squatting down had pulled out a tray of tiny metal toys shaped into soldiers. What was nice about the toys was, when touched, they moved for a few seconds, playing the game of war with the other touched toys; coming to rest when they were either 'killed' or the time ran out.

Smiling, the man said, "No. I'm not looking for toys. As I said, I'm looking for something unique. But thank you for your time." The man had smiled, not in humor or joy, but rather because in Abigail's mind he saw something, a clue set, a new course to sail. One where what he sought would be found.

Walking out the door, the simple brass bell went, "Ding, ding …" and soon his dark soul and shadow once again entered the world of light, sun, warmth, and people traveling their journeys in front the shop's window.

Inside the shop, Abigail felt a strange feeling. Over the many years she had worked in the trade of people and things, she had seen many people and things. She had seen people bring in items that would be considered amazing; she had seen people and creatures beyond imagination, and yet today something was different. She could not really get a grasp on what it was so different today than the many days of the past. Her mind felt like something had opened, only she did not know what.

***

"Step right up and try your luck! Win some money. It's easy. You ma'am, would you care to try your luck?" In this world there has always been con men/women, shysters, criminal minds filled with the intentions of getting something out of others for their own personal gain. One of the common games throughout time were the many versions of the shell game. It was the game this man was now trying to entice a very pregnant woman with.

"It's easy lady, just pick one of the three glasses that have the little silver skull under it and double your money. Here, I'll let you try for free …" Ah, yes. Another word overused in the world--free. There is a saying that more people should pay attention to, that being--Nothing in the world is free.

"Come on, what do you have to lose? Go ahead, give it a try …"and with his hands he lifted one of the solid green plastic cups and placed a small silver skull underneath. Then with a blur of motion swirled the cups around the table until stopping, leaving three cups to sit waiting for someone to figure out where the skull resided.

"Okay lady, where do you think the skull is? Go ahead, don't be shy. Which one do you think?" By now a few more people stopped to watch the activity. Pregnant women normally have a natural attraction to draw people to them. Many is the time a complete stranger will ask to feel the round belly of a pregnant woman. Though in fairness, many the time a father to the child inside the belly of a pregnant woman runs as far and fast away from the results of his participation.

"Come on lady, I got a business to run; pick one." The man saw potential in the others looking in, as to waste time on a non-paying victim was bad for business, as the old cliché' goes--time is money.

The lady had watched the whole process, and filled with confidence, reached out, pointing at the green cup in the middle of the other two. "The skull is underneath this one."

Lifting the cup the man said with a smile, "We have a winner!" This caused a big smile to appear on the woman's face.

"Would you like to try again lady, maybe make some money this time? All ya gots to do is bet some money, you know, a five, ten, even a hundred. I got your back and if you pick a winner you double your money." He could see that the recent time he invested in this mark might be time ill spent as he saw on her face doubt and concern, and he saw some of the people who stopped in lose interest and begin to drift off.

"Come on lady, you showed how good you are, give it a try for real." He was starting to sound a little angry.

Pregnancy brings out the best and worst of a woman. Moods, emotions, physical feelings of a whole gamut of things, and for her, she knew she could follow the blur of his hands but she also knew she had no money. She did have an idea though, "I don't have any money … "At this the man rolled his eyes, "But I have this gold charm that is solid gold and worth about two hundred dollars; would you let me put this up against your two hundred dollars?"

Things got interesting again and the commotion drew in some more lookers. It also got interesting for the con man as the mention of 'solid gold' does strange things to a man full of greed.

"Here, let me see that," and taking the little gold charm the man instantly knew the value of the item. Not because he was intelligent but because he had a lot of experience stealing such items and pawning them or selling them to suckers. He knew this little charm was indeed made of solid gold and had a value exceeding four hundred dollars.

"Yeah, okay. I can do that. Your charm against my two-hundred bucks. It's a deal." To make the drama even better the man then assumed his speech of shyster talk designed to suck in more sheep, "All right folks, we got a winner here for sure. Watch the lady win a lot of money," all the while preparing the scene for the coming game.

There was now a fairly large crowd gathered around the card table set up there on the dirty city street sidewalk. Mix gold, greed, pregnant woman, smooth talking crook … An excellent recipe for entertainment, indeed.

It could be said that a silence fell over the scene as the silver skull was placed underneath one of the glasses and the blur of hands began, but it was a city filled with noise, stink, and people. Yet, through all the sounds of the city, there was indeed anticipation and tension as the woman watched the man's hand shuffle the three cups around the table. After a few seconds the three cups stopped and stood in a straight line on an otherwise bare table.

"Okay lady, which one?"

On the woman's face there was the locked image of squinted eyes and intense concentration. This look changed briefly as the woman slightly swooned, her knees buckling for a second, and it looked like she was beginning to faint. Only a second, though, as she quickly regained her composure and said, "The skull is not under any of those cups …"

For some watchers in the crowd they already knew this age-old con job, while others wondered how the woman knew the skull was not under the cups. For the con man, his face grew red and in his voice the indignation showed through, "What do you mean lady? Pick a cup, the skull is under one of them."

Most people are timid; afraid of conflict or confrontation. This woman even fit the profile, so it was a bit strange when her right hand reached out and knocked over all three cups in one swift motion. Underneath all three there was nothing but table; there was no silver skull to be seen.

"Hey, you can't do that. You stole the skull. Here show me your hand. You're a thief and trying to steal from me. The deal is off …" Oh, how the wicked weep when caught in their evil deeds. The thief saw he was in trouble by looking at the faces of the people standing around the table. It seemed the conditions would turn very much against him soon, and it would have if the lady had not taken control of the situation.

"No, I did not steal your skull. It's in your right pocket."

There was a mumbling in the crowd, one large man who felt an affinity to this pregnant woman told the man, "Show us. Show us and empty your pockets."

"No. I, I, I don't have to. Can't you all see this woman is trying to steal from me?" It is hard to find sympathy for a crook and now the large man moved in to grab the crook by the arm.

"Empty your pockets or I will."

"Hey man, get your hands off me. That's assault. I can have you thrown in jail." Amazing how crooks seek the justice of law when it is they that need it. It is also amazing how sometimes prayers for such can be answered, as a policeman on street patrol happened to come across the scene.

"What seems to be the problem here?"

People talking at the same time makes conversation confusing. The man holding the crook said, "This man is a crook, he is trying to steal from this lady," while the crook said, "This man is assaulting me," while others added their own comments, while the pregnant lady stood silent.

"Alright you, let the man go," indicating the large man was to release the weasel. "And you, what is this all about?"

The crook was in a tight spot as now the law he wanted had arrived. He and the law did not usually get along. It was a situation much like oil and water, the two never blend.

"This woman was trying to steal my two-hundred dollars by stealing my game piece." It almost sounded like a person could take pity on this crook, if they didn't know better.

This cop was no stranger to street crime. He knew the situation just as he knew who was the crook and who was the innocent party. He also knew that crooks had rights. His job of being a cop was mainly one of being a baby sitter for humanity. So, with a sigh, he asked the lady, "Did you take his game piece?"

"No sir, that man took his silver skull and placed it in his right pocket. I know he did."

Turning to the crook he asked, "Can I see what's in your pocket?"

"No, I have my rights. You need a search warrant …"

This whole situation was now bordering on being boring. The same old story of conflict and how it all becomes muddy and twisted, so it was good that the skull in the man's right pocket grew very hot, so hot it burned a hole through the side of his pants to fall on the sidewalk and burst into flames. Everyone standing there saw for themselves how a solid silver skull had come from where the lady had said it was, and they saw how it disappeared into thin air via a very intense violet-colored flame.

Howling in pain, the crook handed the lady the agreed upon amount of cash and begged the cop for medical assistance, as he had suffered a very severe burn on his leg.

Leaving the scene, the pregnant lady smiled and felt her baby inside kick. Soon he would be entering the world.

***

Sex.

Sex is a word very much interesting to the minds of those capable of thinking about an activity that because of what the description is, keeps all species vibrant, growing, and alive.

Dr. Thorton was a specialist in sex. Not the kind of specialist dealing with the actions of sex; no, that was an area for others. His expertise dealt with the results of sex, or in the case of many people, the results that do not end in success.

He was a fertility doctor, a man who knew a lot about the functions of males and females. Low sperm counts. Infected wombs. Estrogen. Testosterone. If it dealt with fertility, he knew about it.

Many couples would come to him in the hope of modern medicine solving the reasons they could not have children. It was a common situation going back in time to where time started, that there had been trouble for people wanting children, to have children.

With all the advances of science, he knew many ways to help the couples have a baby. He also knew supernatural ways of helping, as he was also a renowned sorcerer. Magic could not make children, no, as that goes against many laws set by powers much greater than any human, but it could make things … easier.

In his career, he had helped many people, using his knowledge, and as a result, the results of sex resulted in another overused word--life. New little mouths to feed. New people to grow up and experience the same old problems people have suffered with for a very long time.

Much of what the good doctor did was pretty much straightforward. Surgical cleaning of tubes, telling males how to adjust their lives to enhance sperm production, all the usual things used to polish up the process.

At those times when magic was needed, that too was simple. Sometimes just a mixture of oak root mixed with pure melted water of a piece of ice from atop Mt. Everest and the blood of a virgin woman from Maine were all it took to achieve successful conception.

There was one situation that did occur about nine months ago, which the doctor found memorable. He often thought about the day a man walked into see him, a man with no testicles.

"How can I help you today?" The doctor asked as he saw it all clearly in his memory; as clear as the day it happened.

"I have a strange situation, one since birth." The man said. The man then sat there and appeared to be one of those people who were comfortable in being silent and not saying much, making those listening uncomfortable and vocal.

"Okay, would you care to expand on your situation?"

"I have no testicles."

Awkward silence is easy to see when two people are communicating and there is no connection. The doctor had talked to a man who announced he had no testicles, and he had wondered why the heck this made any sense to a man who spent his life trying to make sex successful. It did not take a very smart person to figure out that a man with no testicles had no good reason to be seeing a fertility doctor.

"Okay, you have no testicles. So, what can I do for you?"

"I got a woman pregnant …"

Interesting, so very interesting. Getting a woman pregnant usually means (you as the reader know exactly what is involved, if not, when you grow up you will, and if you still don't understand, then I'm surprised you had the mental facility to read this far.)

Dr. Thorton then asked the obvious question, "Okay, well, sounds a bit strange. Do you mind if I have a look?"

"Sure." The man with few words stood, unzipped his pants and dropped his drawers, exposing the common tool used in reproduction. True to his word, there was one very important part of the male anatomy missing; actually, two things.

Getting his rubber gloves on, the doctor looked for what was not obvious, this being that sometimes the testes reside inside the male body and not 'outside.' After squeezing and searching, the doctor said, "No. Nothing. You are correct, you do not have testicles, so there is no way you got a woman pregnant."

"Oh, but I did. I do not like sex, in fact I hate it. I have only had one erection in my life. Only one moment of sex. You see doctor, I was told to have sex with a woman, a certain woman, so I mounted a woman in the park. After it was over, I knew she became pregnant …"

"Who told you to do this impossible act?" The doctor remembered his confusion when first hearing this from the man. He was convinced the man was crazy.

"I was told by a black shadow."

Being a sorcerer, the doctor could understand what the crazy man said, but even with magic, if a human does not have the necessary equipment, no amount of magic could change the facts.

"How do you know she got pregnant?"

"I saw her in a dream nine months from now, heavy with child and playing a shell game with a con man."

There was more conversation between the doctor and man, but it is not important, only the memory of a flash of lightning coming from the sky and obliterating the man as he left the doctor's office, and the recent memory of seeing a pregnant woman engaged in a shell game as the doctor ate a sandwich at his favorite bistro today. That memory was also very important, as, not only was the woman pregnant and matched the description given by the dead patient, but the burning bright violet-colored flame invoked a vivid memory now opening in his mind, a picture of a religious man, shopping ...

***

Traveling the world is great for humans. It is in this way they can see just how big their world is--or small, depending on the personal experiences.

Some witches and warlocks travel across dimensions, space, and time, so for them to travel around a little planet called Earth could be considered a bit boring.

Father McDurock was no witch or warlock, no sorcerer or magician. He was just another man who embraced some belief in a higher power and had a love for travel and food.

Throughout time humanity has embraced many gods, goddesses, idols, artifacts. For Father McDurock, his god was God. Sounds like the same name, the same spelling, but for him, there was a difference; for others, just another cult filled with fantasy. No big deal, as humans are a complicated species and embrace a lot of beliefs. Those beliefs as strange as not allowing a black cat to cross their path, to believing politicians can solve more problems than they create.

He had traveled years ago to the Middle East, as it was here that much of the origins of his belief came from. Jerusalem, Egypt, the Nile, Red Sea … He deeply enjoyed his travels, and the food? He really enjoyed the cuisine of his travels. The favorite country he had traveled to was Thailand. The food there was beyond fantastic.

As a result of his travels he had collected many things, many souvenirs and pictures. Along with what he had collected he had also added … He had become a bit chunky after consuming all those delicious treats, and now he was getting thin due to his current reality.

Father McDurock was no longer in good health, as all those travels of his past had finally caught up to him. Sitting in his retirement home, coughing some bloody sputum into a towel, he now spent his days remembering the better days, those days of travel, praying, food, and youth.

Around him on some shelves were the few remaining trinkets he had as reminders of where he had been. There was a part of an elephant tusk from Africa, a lucky stone from Ireland, a tiny vial of sand from a tomb in Cairo.

Remembering is good, as it proves existence. It justifies and makes sense of a life lived. For the priest, he really felt like he had made a difference, and he knew for sure that he was able to squeeze the most out of his life with all his experiences.

Sitting there, he thought of a memory he often had, that being the day when he was in his thirties and traveling in Israel. It was a tough time when he was there. So much conflict. So much magic. He remembered seeing his first dragon. That was a memory, for sure. The dragon winking at him and disappearing in a puff of sulfur-laden smoke.

He remembered walking around Jerusalem one day after watching some morning prayers from a mosque and some insect-looking creatures carrying sweet cakes to be offered in sacrifice to some god of food. He actually bought one of those sweet cakes from a creature strangely resembling an ant.

On that day, he remembered seeing a man, a man whose shadow was dark but whose eyes were darker than his shadow. This man scared the priest, and after what the priest had witnessed and seen before, or after, to be scared for him was strange indeed.

"Father McDurock." The voice was firm and strong, even in the memory of the old man now spitting up more foulness.

"Yes? How did you know who I am?" He remembered that there was no way anyone could know his name in this foreign country. The only people who knew his name were the people at the hotel where he was staying.

He got no answer from this dark person; instead he got a question. "Can I interest you in some things you might find satisfying?" There was a look of hate on this person's face, either that or the flickering shadows coming off the buildings were playing tricks on the mind of the priest.

"What kind of things?" He remembered how he really did not want to talk to this person; rather his first instinct was to flee. To leave and not look back.

The dark man could sense the discomfort of the man standing in front of him and said, "Father McDurock, there is no need to fear me. I bring you no harm. I am here to offer you some choices …"

Strangely, the words worked, as he remembered he instantly felt comfort; he even glimpsed a white glow coming from the dark man.

Feeling better, the priest asked, "Choices? What do you mean?"

Unfolding an old piece of cloth out over a rock abutment of the stone building they both were standing next to, the dark man revealed a rock, an olive pit, a piece of rusted chain, and a toy dreidel.

"What are these?" the mind of McDurock was now interested. He still remembered how those four simple items seemed so very interesting all those years ago.

"They are your choices. Choose well."

"Why? Why do you want me to choose? I do not want to buy any of these as they seem like, well, like junk or trash. They don't appear to have any value."

"Is that your choice, to choose nothing?"

The poor man suffering in his retirement home had to take a break from his memories as the spit he was spewing was now showing fresh blood, and the coughing intensified. After roughly a half an hour, his thoughts of that day long ago resumed.

"Why do I have to choose? Who are you?"

"Who I am means nothing to you, only your choice. Please, think hard and make your choice."

Looking at the four items, the priest remembered how he had tried to place some kind of emotion, some kind of value. The first item was a rock. It was dirty and ordinary. It seemed like all the other rocks laying around the land. For him, it had as much value as dust.

The second item was an aged olive pit. Again, it was more like trash and the only value he saw was that it sat on an aged cloth of some interest.

Now, the third item was a small piece of rusted chain. For this item, he reached out and touched the chain, whereupon the dark man smiled and said, "Is this your choice?"

When he had touched the chain, a picture of sorrow and pain came to his mind. In it he saw a man flayed with a cat-o-nine whip. He saw the back of a man bloodied and destroyed … He instantly let this piece lay and said, "No. I want no part of that chain."

He remembered the vivid thoughts invoked by the chain but he remembered the fourth and final item even more so. Reaching out and touching the dreidel, his mind had been filled with laughter of a child enjoying a moment, and his mind felt a black sorrow. Two strong emotions in conflict with each other.

It took the voice of the dark man to bring him back to reality, "Is that the item you choose?"

Father McDurock did not remember his answer, all he remembered was he found that he was now standing alone holding a simple wooden Jewish toy.

As to the location of the toy, he remembered that, when he got back to America, the pictures shown in his mind when he first held the toy no longer appeared. He remembered that when he held the toy that it was just another toy. A memory of that strange day in Jerusalem.

It was not too long after getting back to work that he saw a small child playing by herself outside his church. The child looked happy, and it reminded him of a memory …

Going back inside his rectory, he took the toy dreidel off a shelf and took it back outside where he gave it to the little girl. The little girl had looked up at him with a huge smile and beautiful eyes. She appeared to be a very happy child, and in Father McDurock's memory he was very glad he had given this child the gift of the toy.

Back in the retirement room, there was no life left to view. Sitting slumped in his chair, the body of an old priest lay dead, a foul covered cloth filled with diseased lung and a smile upon his face.

***

Fate. Life. Destiny. Words used to describe what is coming. In a world filled with magic and normal reality, it all becomes a blur.

Out on the streets you can see trolls, dwarves, dragons … You can see homeless people, rich people, prostitutes, workers; you can see fate, life, and destiny.

She once was an orphan, a child who once played outside a church where one day a man of the cloth had come outside and given her a gift, a toy.

Her name now was different than when an orphan. She had been raised by foster parents and magic. She was not a witch or any creature supernatural, yet she was more than human. The names she once went by were, Alice, Micheel, Storm Rider, and many more. Today, however, she went by the name Lark.

Lark had special powers. She could heal a dragon's broken heart, mend a wound in a homeless man's finger. She was truly a healer. Her powers came from this world and from worlds beyond this world. There were few like her in the Universe, which is the main reason she changed her name so often. In this world, there are forces that strive to destroy those who seek to heal instead of destroy.

Lately Lark had noticed more chaos in the world than normal. There was much sickness, much healing needed to be administered. Everywhere she went there was much to do.

She recently had encountered a situation where something was needed to solve what could quickly escalate out of control. In her mind she saw what she needed, but not what it was. It weighed heavy on her mind, much like an anchor holding a ship at bay.

There was a blackness filling the land, a blackness so strong that soon it would even have the power to block out the light of the sun.

One day, last week, actually, Lark was walking down the street, Bastil Avenue to be precise, and as she walked by the main window of The Lemon Drop Pawn store located at 1316, something clicked in her mind as she saw exactly what it was that she needed. There in the window laying for all the world to see was a stone, a dirty stone like stones laying all around the world, one actually much like the one given as a choice many years ago to a priest walking in Jerusalem.

The only reason the stone was in the window of a pawn shop is because the stone was a part of a valuable-looking box. A box of great earthly value. A piece of art consisting of valuable materials. The rock was an addition to set perspective.

Walking inside the store, a tiny brass bell above the door went, "Ding, ding."

Abigail, the shop owner, and a part of this story as much as you now are, stood behind her protective screen and asked, "How can I help you?"

Lark said with a smile, "I was wondering about that box you have in the front window. How much does it cost?"

Moving from behind the protection of the screen and unlocking enough locks on her door it almost sounded like a strange form of comedy, Abigail emerged and went over to the window where she unlocked another lock protecting the contents on display; reaching in, she grasped the box in question and said, "Is this the one you're interested in?"

"Yes, that's the one. Could I look at it, please?"

"Of course, here you go. Beautiful box, don't you think?"

Holding the box in her hands, Lark said, "Yes, it is a beautiful piece of art. How much?"

"Well, those are real gemstones, not really valuable ones, mostly garnets, but I'm pretty sure the metal is sterling silver and copper with some pieces of bronze. Let me see what the price says on the bottom."

As Abigail reached for the box, the fingers on Larks left hand briefly touched the simple rock embedded on the box. The shock on her face was made known instantly to Abigail as she asked, "Is there anything wrong? You look shocked."

"No, I'm okay, just had a strange feeling. I've been getting strange feelings recently." Lark even managed to utter a small laugh; she did not want to tell the shopkeeper that what she had seen when touching the rock was an immense battle scene, one where the whole world was engulfed in war.

Abigail was comfortable with the woman's answer and now in possession of the piece of art, turned it over and it said, $500.00 .

"Well, it says five hundred, but I could let you have it for four."

For many people, money means a lot, usually if they do not have any money, and for many people it means nothing, usually if they have a lot. For Lark, money meant nothing but she also did not have much of it.

"I don't have that much. Do you ever do trading?" Ha, that was a funny question to Abigail, the owner of a pawn store that made its living trading things for cash, and what is cash if not just another form of thing?

"Yes, I do trades. What do you have to trade?"

"I don't have anything with me, but I can bring some stuff for you to look at. How late are you open today?"

"I'll be open until 6:00. Actually, I'm open every day, so anytime you come back between the hours of 9:00 - 6:00 would be fine."

"Great. I'll be right back."

Leaving the shop, that simple brass bell above the door went, "Ding, ding …"

Outside the store, the sun was starting to get low in the horizon. Soon it would be night, but not for hours. In the meantime, the sidewalk was full of all sorts of life going this way and that.

In Lark's mind, she knew she had found what she needed: it was that simple rock. She was so preoccupied with the recent experience with the rock that she almost tripped over a very large, talking snake wearing a red hat and wearing lipstick on its face.

"Hey, watch where you're going," the snake hissed.

"Sorry, miss."

"I'm not a misssss, I am, sssss, a man. Just watch where you're ssssss, walking."

A strange world, but for Lark a normal one, one where she was a healer, and knew she needed the rock sitting on that box back in the store.

As she walked off, she felt someone watching her. Turning to see what was staring at her, she briefly saw a very dark shadow disappear into even darker shadows.

It did not take Lark long to walk the few blocks to a bus stop and then motor her way to where she rented an apartment. Arriving home, she opened the door and looked around the room for anything of value the pawn store might be interested in trading the box for.

Filling her own little cardboard shoebox with some things, she closed the door and made her return to the shop. This time, though, she was careful to not step on the now sleeping snake curled up panhandling on the sidewalk. She even reached down and placed a few coins in his collection box. Without waking, the snake instinctively said, "Thanksssss…" and continued to snore.

"Ding, ding …" went the bell, and this time Abigail smiled and said, "That did not take long."

Going over to the counter, Lark set her small box on top and opened it. "Here are some things I have. Maybe you might like something?"

Abigail froze. A tingling sensation went up her spine as, there among Lark's treasure lay a small Jewish wooden dreidel. On the toy were the symbols for Nun, Gimel, He, Shim …

Lark saw the look on Abigail's face and this time she was the one asking, "Are you okay? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"I'm fine. Just fine. Just felt something … but, never mind. Here, let me look at all these things you brought."

Abigail spent only a brief amount of time looking in the box, as she already knew she had to have the toy. So, taking out the dreidel and a small silver ring Lark had gotten as a donation for some healing services, she said, "These two items will make for a good trade."

Lark was very surprised. In her mind, such a simple toy and ring were not of equal value. To Lark, the items were valuable, but she knew, for the world in general, what she owned was not worth much.

"I'm so glad you're making this trade with me; thank you so much." Lark was truly a happy lady. She did not think that even if she had traded everything in her box it would not even come close in value to being worth four hundred dollars.

"My pleasure. My pleasure indeed."

With the trade finished, Lark left the store with the now familiar, "Ding, ding …" In her hands, the stone she needed desperately for healing, and inside the store, Abigail placed the wooden toy in the same place in the window where the box had been.

***

It had been a busy moment of time recently. A lot of things for the mind to digest. Con men, sleeping snakes with lipstick, priests, shadows, dragons … It could give a reader a headache and a writer fits. Or, it could all come together and make sense.

For the lady who won the money from the con man with the help of ignition and the police, she was still pregnant, but not for much longer.

As she walked down the street, she briefly thought of the man who impregnated her. It was all kind of a dream. Nine months ago, she was sitting at a small café near the city's main park. She had sat there sipping some wonderful brewed coffee and reading a new novel written by one of her favorite authors.

Sitting there she soon noticed a man staring at her. For women, they know when men are staring at them. For some women, this is a blessing or a curse. For her she actually enjoyed the attention as the man staring at her was strongly attractive to her.

The man saw she was interested in her, so folding the paper he had been reading before she had arrived, he rose and came over and said, "May I join you?"

The woman blushed and said, "Of course."

The two sat for hours. There had been mild chit-chat, but the feelings for both grew. The physical took over the mental, and soon the two took a walk into the park where they both communicated with their bodies, the result being she never saw him again and she was now about to give birth to a baby.

One of the more strange memories she had of her lover was that while he was very enjoyable to lay with, he was missing some parts, which made no sense; however, the proof of success was now very visible.

As the woman was thinking of the past tryst, the coming birth, the recent shell game, she happened to glance through the window of a business called The Lemon Drop Pawn Store.

She saw a small wooden toy resting in a white box. She immediately liked it. She enjoyed how simple it looked, and it reminded her of when she was a child and played with tops. On this wooden one, it also reminded her of an acorn, and the strange symbols on it looked very artistic.

"Ding, ding …" a well used bell once more announced.

"How can I help you today?" Abigail enjoyed being around pregnant women. She knew she would never have a child, but she enjoyed being around those who could.

"I noticed the toy in window. How much?"

A store stays open if they profit. If they make no profit, they close their doors. Simple math and economics. However, Abigail had taken an immediate liking for the pregnant woman.

Unlocking the medieval locks once more and coming out from behind the protective screen, Abigail unlocked the window locks and removed the toy, and with a smile, handing it to the woman. "Here, it is my gift to you. No charge."

The pregnant woman was shocked. She appreciated the act but she said, "No, I can't take it. Let me pay for it."

Abigail smiled and recognized this woman was one of the rare good people, not a person like those she usually made her living off of. "Okay, how about this? Let me feel your belly and we'll call it even."

With a blush the woman replied, "Okay, if that is what you want," and so, taking Abigail's left hand with her right, she placed it on her belly.

"Oh my god!" Abigail was shocked. What her mind felt was beyond words, and her mind decided to shut down, and she fell to the floor unconscious.

It did not take long for her to regain her composure. "What happened?" she asked.

"You passed out. Do you want me to call for an ambulance? Can I help you?" The pregnant woman was flustered. It was strange to hear, "Oh my god!" from a woman touching her belly and then fainting.

"No, I'm fine. Nothing to worry about."

The conversation drifted into general chit-chat. The two women visited about general things. They got to the point of joking about the recent incident, and soon the dark shadows of the setting sun showed the day was at the end. Already the clock showed it was long past due for the shop to close.

With both ladies in a good mood, the pregnant woman thanked Abigail for the gift and left through the shop's door, hearing the, "Ding, ding …" fade as she walked down the sidewalk. She smiled when she passed a sleeping snake wearing red lipstick and a hat.

***

The mountain of life.

Mountains rise tall, at least according to the definitions people place on mountains. There are of course, mountains under the sea. I guess it could be said that definitions for mountains are as complex as the definitions for love and all the rest of the words people place so much value on.

It must be mentioned that mountains, especially large, tall mountains, are looked upon as rocky cliffs devoid of life. Thus, a direct contradiction is made when combining mountain with life. Especially if one is climbing a very steep and tall mountain only to slip and fall to their death.

For the man with a soul blacker than his shadow, for this man who shopped for wooden toys, who presented choices to a priest many years ago in Jerusalem, who watched from the shadows, a healer … This man now stood on a mountain of light.

It was on this mountain, located between the dimensions of this world and that where he knelt down and planted an old, ancient, dry olive pit. It was from this pit that a green sprig sprouted on the rocky top.

At the moment the tree of Life sprouted, so too did the howl of the newborn baby just born to a very happy pregnant woman announce his arrival into the world.

A squalling male child being quieted by his cooing mother. It was this child the fate, destiny, and life of a world depended upon.

Good or evil are terms to describe choice; what choice would this child choose?

That choice lay on the table next to his mother's bed. It was a child's toy but also a tool of choice, of gambling. Upon the surface of this toy ...

Nun: Standing for the Yiddish word Nisht, meaning 'nothing.' Nothing, a word so powerful it destroys all things. It stands for death and destruction.

Gimel: Standing for the Yiddish word Gants, meaning 'all.' It stands that the choice made goes totally.

He: Standing for the Yiddish word Halb, meaning 'half.' It stands for indecision, one where events dictate.

Shim: Standing for the Yiddish word Shtel, meaning 'put in.' It stands for life, growth, sacrifice …

A child born, as it was foretold. His path forward.

Soon, this child would grasp a simple wooden dreidel. He would spin this top with conviction and knowledge. When the spinning of the top starts its many stops, the world will finally learn its fate.

In the distance, above the mountain of life, a large olive tree was already spreading its branches, and in the blinding white light beneath the roots, there came the sound of laughter.

The End of one World

The Beginning of another

THE END


Copyright 2017, Robin B. Lipinski

Bio:Robin does odd jobs with his excavator, and writes even odder stories and poems which he posts here at Aphelion. Sometimes he hand-makes toys which he gives away. He likes to observe nature.

E-mail: Robin B. Lipinski

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