Time Shoppe Stories

Author’s note: This was meant to be a done in one story but I ended up writing what felt like the ending to a story before I had told all the story I was going to tell. So, I broke the second part off into its own story.


“Time Shoppe”

There are two kinds of people who find the shoppe.

Regular customers looking for a clock or a watch or a kitchen timer or anything to mark the passage of time. They browse my narrow crowded shelves filled with mantle clocks, alarm clocks, hour glasses, minute glasses, egg timers, flip clocks, until they find just the right time piece. Then they bring it to me and pay and they leave never looking back. I don’t mind them. After all they help pay the rent on the shop.

Then there are the special customers. Those who don’t need to mark time because they are already aware of it passing them by. What they want or need is more time. They enter unsure of why they have entered the Time Shoppe. Sometimes they resist the call and browse for a minute or two but they make their way to my counter in the back soon enough. We talk and I sell them the time they need. Time to heal, time to live, time to love, time to be. I ask for a token payment, never more than what they can afford, and send them on their way.

The bell over my door jingles as a girl, on her way to being a young woman, opens the door.

“Take your time looking around,” I call out. She hesitates near the door but moves to look at a cuckoo clock after only a second. A few more clocks catch her eye before she reaches the counter at the back.

“Hello Rachel,” I say.

She’s stunned for a second. “How did you –”

“– know your name? Magic,” I say answering her question. Her eyes narrow and she leans, ever so slightly, back but she holds her ground. I look into her and see sadness, pain, misunderstanding. She longs to be herself but knows she can not; not right now. I turn away from her to face the wall of cubby holes behind the counter. They cover the wall top to bottom, left to right, cubbies of all sizes each filled with a box and in each box something special for special customers. I reach my hand out toward the wall and wait. Slowly the columns and rows of cubby holes begin shifting, sliding, rearranging; picking up speed until the wall becomes a blur of motion.

Behind me I hear a soft barely voiced, “What the hell?”

“Magic,” I say without looking back. The cubby holes slow and then stop with one right in front of my hand. The box within pops out half an inch. Grasping the sides I pull it out in one smooth motion. I turn back to the the girl behind me, “Still here?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” I set the box down and slid it toward her. “This is for you; if you want it.”

“What is it?” she asks.

“Time.” I remove the lid. Inside a silver chain wrist watch, round face set with mother of pearl, sits on a velvet cushion.

“It looks like a watch.”

“It is a watch but it’s also time. You think you’ve run out of time. You feel like there’s no hope and you’ve made a plan; a plan with an irrevocable outcome. This can give you the time you think you’ve lost. If you want it.”

“How?” she asks.

I shrug, “Magic. I’ve worked in this shop for many years and I’ve learned a few tricks but I still don’t know what the shoppe will select for a given customer.”

She reaches into the box and lifts the watch out by a wrist chain. It twists and turns in air as it dangles from her fingers. “Go on, put it on. It’s not going to bite,” I urge her. She draws a deep breath before setting it on her wrist, hooking the clasp and clicking it closed. I watch as the magic suffuses through her body. She releases her breath, tears cresting in her eyes.

“Two years, five months, twelve days, four hours, sixteen minutes. Just that little bit of time out of decades more that I will live. I was going to throw it all away because I couldn’t wait.” She wipes away the tears now flowing down her face.

I take her hand in mine, fingers brushing the watch on her wrist. Perspective and a touch of foresight, not enough to actually “see” anything but enough to see the forest for the trees. A bit heavy handed but effective. “Shh, shh, you haven’t thrown anything away yet. You can make new plans now. Listen there are some things I need to tell you. The watch doesn’t show you everything. The future is always in flux. You might have more or less time until you can be yourself freely but that time will come, trust me. Also, this is no guarantee for a happy life. There are many perils on the road through life. Do you understand?”

She nods.

“Even if you don’t it’s all I can do.” I pull a box of tissues out from under the counter and offer it to the girl. She wipes her eyes and blows her nose. From the front of the shop the door bell rings.

“Micheal!” a woman shouts from the door, “What are you doing in here?”

Rachel flinches and claps a hand over her watch to hide it before turning around. “I was just looking around,” she says.

“Stop looking and come on. We’re leaving,” the woman says. The door bangs shut.

She sags into herself. “I… Thank you for showing me … whatever that was but I have to go now.” She turns her wrist over and begins tugging on the clasp. I stop her from opening it.

“The watch is yours.” She opens her mouth to protest but I cut her off. “You don’t have to worry, none who would do you harm can see it.”

“Magic, right?”

I smile, “Magic. But there is a cost.” I cast around for a proper payment. The answer comes to me. “Three dollars in the form of a two dollar bill and silver dollar.”

She gapes at me before pulling out her wallet. From a side pocket she pulls out a folded two dollar bill and then tips the wallet so a silver dollar slips out as well. “Is this it?”

“Yes.” I take the paper money and coin from her hand. “Remember what you saw and remember what I said. No guarantees.”

“I will. Thank you.” She turns away from the counter and walks to the door. Before exiting she looks back and waves. And then she is gone. I’ll never see her again, I know. I’ll never know if I have actually helped her. I think I have. That’s what the shoppe is for, I think. Helping people.

I close the box and slide it back into its cubby.

***

“A Third Kind of Customer”

The bell on the door rings as a man, late-middle age, tailor made suit, diamond cuff links, gold tie clip, walks in.

“Take your time looking around,” I call out.

He doesn’t say anything or make any motion to acknowledge me. He swaggers through the shelves, poking at the merchandise. He picks up items that catch his eye and sets them down on different shelves. Despite his hands on approach to browsing he avoids brushing against the dusty shelves. Soon enough he reaches the counter.

“So, you sell clocks?” he asks looking past me.

“Yes, all manner of time pieces. Did you need help finding something in the shelves.” Most customers are drawn to the item they want but some need a little nudge.

He glances back at the shelves he passed and than back past me. “What are those?”

“What are what?” I ask returning the question.

“Those boxes in the wall.” He points to the wall of cubby holes filled with boxes behind me. The cubby holes and boxes that he should not be able to see.

“Special orders,” I say. I look into him and see a man who needs nothing but wants everything. He is not one of the shoppe’s regular customers nor one of the special ones and yet he is here for something. Behind me a box flies out of its cubby hole and lands on the floor with a thud. I turn to stare at it uncertain.

“Hmm, hope you didn’t break something.”

“I’m sure it’s fine. Everything comes well packed.” I scoop up the box. A chill of dread runs through me. There is nothing good in this box. I try to return it to its cubby hole but the hole is too small for the box. Does the shoppe want me to sell this to the man? He doesn’t seem like a customer. I don’t understand. I should put it under the counter until he leaves and then I can figure this out.

I set the box on the counter. I lift off the lid. I pull out a small sandglass, set in a delicately carved wooden frame, and set it on the counter in front of the man.

He snatches the sandglass up to look at it. “It’s just an hour glass.”

I feel a compulsion to speak; so I do. “The grains of sand are actually very rare and have a particular effect. Would you like to see?”

“Sure,” he says.

“Turn it over and let the sand begin to flow. Turn it back over when you want to effect to stop.” I don’t know what I am saying.

The man flipped the sand glass over. As the grains of sand fell from the top bulb into the bottom one, they flared into pinpricks of light. Time slowed until it stopped and then it began to respool itself. I closed the box, set it on the floor, it flew back up into its cubby hole. The man twisted through space backward through the shoppe to the front door. He flipped the sandglass back over.

The bell on the door rings as a man, late-middle age, tailor made suit, diamond cuff links, gold tie clip, walks in.

“Take your time looking around,” I call out.

He looks at me, glances at the sandglass still in his hand. The man smiles and backs out the door.

I slump down in my chair behind the counter. After all these years I still didn’t fully understand the shoppe. I remember the impressions I received when I took the sand glass out of the box. Time manipulation, limited by grains of sand in the bulb, fueled by the users own life. When the sand ran out, so would the user’s life.

Why did the shoppe want that man to have the sandglass? A test of the man’s morality? He could have returned the sandglass with no further ill effects. Instead he took it and doomed himself. Maybe he deserved the sandglass’s fate.

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