Andre lead Morris and I through the maze of narrow streets, hedge lined paths, and alleyways bordered by wooden warehouses, crumbling cottages and shadowy shops filled with mysterious and incongruous items. Finally we reached a narrow alley with a dark channel running down a slimy trench in the middle with plank bridges every so often. The wooden backs of warehouses like fences on either side. Odors of spices and melancholy emanated from the water, not entirely unpleasant, but chaotic as if the vapors were bright strands tied in complex knots. At the end of the alley was plain looking building, square and bright mauve with a large, sign written with bold circus letters hanging from a pole that stuck out vertically from the eaves.
Professor Eberhard Trol’s
Emporium of Temptations and Curiosities
Medicines to Cure Any Ailment (including those of the spirit)
Scents, and Sundries
To Enlighten, Enliven, and Invigorate
And under it hanging from a chain a smaller sign:
The Amazing Hall of Illusions
Witness Demonstrations of Magic and Art
Marionette and Bunraku Dramas Presented Daily
under another one of similar size:
Pay a Visit to the Mystical Menagerie
Astounding Beasts Collected at Great Risk
From Distant Lands.
Andre pointed and smiled. Morris whistled. I stopped and stared. How had I missed this alley and that sign so close to my home. Andre had always been good at finding the strange little corners of the city.
“Have you been in yet?” I asked.
“No, I saw it and knew I would want to have company. “
“Well, let’s go see!” screeched the bird who had landed on the sign pole and was turning his head to the side and hanging down to read the words. He swooped down onto my shoulder. “Personally I don’t go in for menageries. They usually contain predators, and I would just rather not see any big claws and hungry jaws, awk!.”
“Spoken like the little quivering pile of feathers you are, Morris,” Andre said with a big grin on his shining face. “You have to admit, the place looks fascinating!”
I shrugged and gave Morris what I thought was an encouraging “What’s the worse that could happen” look.
He rolled his eyes and gurgled disapproval in the back of his throat as we followed Andre through the door.
My eyes had to adjust to the dimness of the interior from the splendor of the bright day. We were in a large room filled with shelves and display cases crowded with bottles, jars, bags and bins of all shapes and sizes. Wooden and metal machinery and tools hung from the walls and suspended from the ceiling. On one wall hung framed photos and drawings of people, creatures and objects with no obvious connections to each other except that they were all places, people and things unfamiliar to me. There was a door covered by a black curtain in the middle of this wall above a sign:
to the menagerie.
I turned at the sound of voices. Andre, who had moved to the other side of the room was conversing with a thin short man with a heavy black beard wearing a long burgundy jacket. His dark hair was corkscrew curly sprouting out at all angles from his large round head. As I approached I could see he had large golden eyes like a wolf and large white teeth which flashed when he talked. His voice was soft but penetrating, but somehow I could not catch the words of their conversation even though I could hear both voices clearly.
March 21, 2010, 09:11
Andre turned away from the professor and walked toward me beaming with anticipation.
“The professor says another show is starting in 10 minutes. We can look around in here and go to the menagerie after.”
“I’ve gotta say, this is some find,” I replied gazing around at the machines and tools hanging from the ceiling and walls. “I could spend a couple of hours in this room.”
Morris gargled and made a little creaking sound. “I think I will just wait outside. This place gives me the creeps, creeps,” he said in a throaty whisper. “I need some sunlight to sweep this gloom out of my head.”
“Very well, old friend,” I said nodding and walking toward the door. “We will see you back at the workshop.”
He fluttered from my shoulder as soon as I opened the door, and without a good-bye flew off into a day that seemed impossibly bright after the gloom of the emporium.
March 29, 2010, 21:01
After I said good-bye to Morris, I browsed around the shelves. On a shelf of dusty aged tomes, I picked a volume embossed with cartographic lines and symbols. “Geographies of Death” was printed in raised gold letters. I skimmed through it and made a mental note of where I put it down. It was too heavy to carry with me.
On the next aisle was a shelf of large jars with ventilated lids. On the top shelf was a jar labeled “narcissus beetles”, in it were some medium sized insects with shiny silver shells. black lines shifted on their into patterns of different human facesas they moved. Next to these were glass cases filled with fluttering butterflies and moths. One large case contained deep blue moths with a stark white pattern of a grinning human skull in the center of each wing. This was labeled “Death’s Head Moths.”
Andre was busy with his own investigations and came over several time to show me his discoveries. There was still so much more to see when a bell rang signaling the seating of the next show.