It’s never what you want

I and the other boys bet small change on what Ms. Mountfield hides beneath those scarves. Her voice moults each of us like a current smoothing riverbed stones. If she hadn’t moved here from an obscure stretch of the black county we might actually know her real age. Not one appliance outside her store works. They slope in the rain and snow and gather companion weeds.

It draws business for those looking for unique and discontinued items. She has a knack for locating the forgotten. Write your bounty down onto a scrap of paper and press it into her paper-bag skin and she will drag herself away into a dark narrow doorway and root in an abyss for time unspeakable and surface with what you lost.

When I went inside with my little slip asking for a way to know myself she retreated to the lightless hall and returned with nothing. She’s never come back with nothing for anyone before. I stand outside the shop and stare into its orange lights on my evening walks, too afraid to enter a final time.

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