Mr. Chan left the counter and walked to her as fast as he could, the tip of his cane loudly clicking on the floor. When he reached her he snatched the bag from her hands and put it back on the rack. “Yes it’s real, its been taxidermied, and it’s not for playing with.’’
She peered down aisle one. Mounted on the wall were several large buzzards, the head of a wolf with its teeth bared, a small alligator with its mouth open, the head of a bear, and two black cats with the hair on their backs raised and their tails pointed straight up.
“Are those taxicabbed too?’’ she asked.
“Taxidermied,’’ he said “It means they’ve been stuffed. Yes. I did them myself. It’s a hobby of mine.’’
She poked at one of the bags on the rack with her finger. “I have a stuffed Teddy Bear.’’
“It’s not the same thing,’’ he said. “You must go now. I have work to do.’’
She tapped on his cane. “My Nana uses one of those so she can walk too. You look old, but my Nana has more wrinkles than you do.” She paused for a moment, studying his face. “What’s your name?’’ she asked.
“I’m Riley,’’ she said. She poked at one of the birds. “I wonder what it feels like to be stuffed?’’
They Look So Lifelike
Using his cane, Mr. Chan jabbed the leg of the man sprawled out on the cobblestones. The strong smell of alcohol wafted up from the man’s clothes
The man groaned slightly and swatted at the cane as if batting at a fly, but he kept his eyes closed. He was thin to the point of being emaciated. There was a slight yellow tint to his skin.
Mr. Chan clumsily stepped over the man, straightened his bowler hat, and went to the door of his shop. He glanced over at the display case and through the condensation on the window saw his new display. A new shrunken head and the life-like doll were excellent additions. The shop got very few random shoppers, but he was certain that the regular clientele would be impressed. He took his keys from his coat pocket and put the key in the door.
“Hey, buddy. Can you spare some change so I can get something to eat?’’
Mr. Chan turned. The man had rolled onto his side and was staring at him drowsily. “No I don’t, but I may have a sandwich in my refrigerator that you can have.’’
“I was hoping for something a bit more liquid,”’ the man said. He sat up and then he threw up on the cobblestones. He wiped puke from his chin with the back of his hand. “You have a restroom I can use?”’
Mr. Chan opened the shop door. The bell tinkled. Hot air tinged with the scent of sulfur rushed out. “Yes, come in.’’ He left the door open and turned on the lights.
The man slowly stood, and on unsteady legs staggered to the door. He leaned against the door frame and peered in. “What kind of store is this?’’
“I sell novelty items,’’ Mr. Chan said.
“Year-round. Halloween is actually my slowest time of year.’’
The man scratched the stubble on his face. “It looks creepy.’’
“Do you want to use the restroom or not?’’ Mr. Chan said. He took off his coat and hat and hung them on the coat rack.
The man entered the store. Mr. Chan closed the door, pulled up the shade, and turned the “open’’ sign. “The restroom is in the back,’’ Mr. Chan said, “just go down that aisle.” He pointed to the middle aisle.
As the man began down the aisle, Mr. Chan followed, steadying himself with his cane. The commotion of the coat rack falling over and scooting several feet across the floor made both men turn.
“You should nail that down,’’ the man said.
“It was nailed down,’’ Mr. Chan mumbled.
They continued down the aisle. The man stopped several times to look at the jars. “That’s a scorpion,’’ he said, tapping on the glass. “That’s a cobra,” he said at another jar. “They’re dead, right?’’
“Yes, but they can be reanimated,’’ Mr. Chan said.
The man chuckled. “I don’t have much education but even I know you can’t do that with something that’s died.’’