Shell Song (1500Words Round 2, Week 1, Day 7, 1/21/18)
Oh, little shell, what secrets do you hold?
What knowledge have you gathered from the depths?
Zach stared at the words scrawled on the paper bag, wondering what they meant. It was an afternoon full of wonder for him. He wondered why he’d picked up the piece of trash in the first place, and why he’d taken the time to smooth it out instead of just putting it into the garbage can. He wondered why he had gotten off the bus a full mile from home instead of riding the full distance to his stop. He wondered why he’d walked out of work at 3 pm instead of staying until the end of his shift.
A big, fat, and unexpected drop of rain landed on the back of his neck. He flinched and carefully folded up the paper bag and tucked it into the pocket of his overcoat. The rest of his walk home would need to take priority over the wondering for now. He hadn’t planned for rain and still had most of a mile to go before reaching the warmth and safety of his home.
He lifted his walker out of the grass and placed it on the concrete, willing his heavy and tired legs to follow suit. Walker then legs, walker then legs – the mantra filled his brain and kept him moving forward as he trudged his way home. He kept his eyes trained on the sidewalk before him so he could navigate around the obstacles that had seemed so insignificant to him not too long ago. He didn’t have the attention to spare to think about the freedom others had to be so careless as to drop their garbage onto the sidewalks without a care in the world. Walker then legs was where his focus needed to stay these days. A sheen developed across his brow from the effort this vigilance took. Walker then legs would be how he’d make it home.
The rain intensified and forced Zach to give up his momentum to stop in a doorway with an awning. He didn’t have a hat and the rain was heavy enough that it was getting hard to see. He turned around to sit down on the bench of his walker to wait out the cloudburst. The mantra was quiet while he was sitting, so he let his mind go back to wondering. His hand drifted down to his pocket. The crinkle of paper told him that the bag had survived his lurching and the rain.
All he could see to the right and the left were clouds. He wondered how long he would have to sit here, waiting for the rain to pass, before he could resume the trudge home. A soft chuckle came over him at the thought of how different things were now. That he had the time to sit and wait, that he had the patience to do it, that he could do it without anger – none of this would have been possible for him in his past.
The tinkle of a bell drew Zach’s attention away from the rain and his wonderings. He turned to the door and found a young woman standing in the doorway.
“Sir, would you like to come inside? To get out of the rain?” She stepped back as she asked, leaving room for Zach to enter.
He looked at her, then back up at the clouds. It really didn’t look like the rain was going to stop anytime soon. Zach didn’t have any reason to rush home, and inside would be more comfortable than outside. He turned back to the woman and nodded his head. “It’ll take me a moment to collect myself.”
“Of course – take your time. I’m not going anywhere.” The smile on her face was echoed in her words, and Zach smiled back at her. He spent a lot of time at the mercy of others these days, and it was especially pleasant to find someone who didn’t seem to begrudge him the time.
He carefully stood up and turned himself around to face forward in the arms of the walker before lifting it up to begin navigating his way inside the shop. Walker then legs would get him inside and, once he was in, he could take stock of where he was.
The kind woman stepped back as Zach made his way across the threshold and into her store, pulling the heavy door out of his way. “Do watch your step on the rug there – it curls up sometimes, especially with the dampness in the air from all the rain. I do my best to keep it flat. Mother Nature has other plans for me some days! There you go. Now, just let me shut the door behind you so we can say farewell to that storm for a while. It’s a nasty one that came out of nowhere! Would you like to have a seat in one of our chairs, or are you more comfortable with the one you brought with you?”
Zach had paused once she closed the door and was looking around as her rambling words filled the room. The shop, if the woman sold anything, was set up like a collection of living rooms. There were big stuffed chairs arranged in groupings around low coffee tables, and the floor was a patchwork of different rugs. The one she’d cautioned him about was only the beginning. There were other rug-like wall hangings up on several of the walls, and the ceiling sported an odd assortment of chandeliers. There were large bookshelves near each conversational grouping, and he was too far away from any of them to make out book titles.
“Excuse me, Miss…?” He needed to know this woman’s name before digging into what sort of shop this might be.
“Oh! No need for the ‘Miss’ – I’m nowhere near that formal. People call me Chelle.” She bustled over to a cart that had an electric tea kettle surrounded by mismatched teacups. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
Zach considered her for a moment, feeling the wondering come back over him. “You said people call you Chelle? Is that your name?”
Chelle giggled and put her hands on her hips. “Well, no, sir. No, it’s not. My name is Amanda Michelle. Yep – I’ve got a first name where a last name should be. I don’t exactly remember when folks gave up on my first name and started calling me by half of my last name. It happened and it stuck and Chelle’s what people call me. I answer to it now, sometimes better than Amanda.”
A smile crept across Zach’s face. “I like calling people by their names, Amanda. May I?”
Amanda Michelle smiled back at Zach. “Yes, sir, you may. Care to tell me what your name is so I might do the same?”
“Zach Linus. Two first name for me, too.” He looked at one of the stuffed chairs. “I think I’d like to sit there if you don’t mind, Amanda. I’ll take off my jacket so I don’t get your chair all wet.”
“Sit, sit! Wherever you’re comfortable, Zach Linus. I’ll just get the water going for some tea while you get settled.” Amanda Michelle turned her back to Zach to busy herself with the kettle and cups.
Zach looked at her for a moment. She hadn’t asked about the walker or made any reference to it beyond cautioning him about the rug. He also thought she was giving him privacy to arrange himself in the chair without an audience. Zach appreciated both gestures and wondered who she knew that had given her enough experience to treat him with such tact. He shook his head and focused on getting himself within reach of the chair. He slowly turned himself around in his walker and settled down onto its bench to shrug himself out of his coat. He left the coat on the bench and stood up again, turning around so he was facing the bench with his back to the chair. Keeping one hand on the walker, he felt behind him for the arm of the chair until he found it. He then pulled his heavy legs back, one at a time, until his calves were touching the chair before lowering himself down into it. Once he was all the way down he let go of the walker, used the strength in both arms to pull himself further back into the chair, and then relaxed into its comfort. Once he was settled he looked up to see Amanda Michelle with her back still to him, even though there was no way the tea needed that much attention. He smiled, knowing she was waiting for him to tell her it was safe to turn around.
“What exactly do you sell in this shop, Amanda?” Zach didn’t want to call attention to her politeness. “Forgive me if it should be obvious to me, or if I should have been here before. It looks eclectic and wonderful, if not obvious.”
* All 1500Words are fiction. Any resemblance to people or events is strictly coincidental. *