Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

The What-Not Shop

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The former home of the What-Not Shop

Girard, Pennsylvania was a small town, and the best thing in it was the What-Not Shop, the best junk store in the world.  At least, it seemed like the best junk store in the world to my eight-year-old eyes.  It’s been closed for years, the building used for other purposes, so there’s no way for me to go back and be disappointed.  So the What-Not Shop will always be as I remember it.

It was absolutely crammed with … stuff.  Old toys, dishes, clothes, furniture, bizarre knick-knacks.  Whenever I read a story that features one of those stores, where you might buy a magic lamp with a genie inside, or a cymbal-playing monkey that wants to kill you, or a haunted guitar, the picture in my head is of the What-Not Shop

But the truth is, the picture in my head of most of the shop isn’t very clear.  The part of the store I can still see as clearly as if I were there is the little battered bookshelf where the old pulp magazines were kept.  Faded squares of cheap, yellowing paper, with lurid covers and tantalizing titles.  Science fiction magazines, horror magazines, anthologies with names like ‘Hitchcock’ and ‘Serling’ on the covers.  While my mother did whatever mothers do in junk stores, I made a beeline for the bookshelf, and sat cross-legged on the floor, reading.

I don’t think I ever bought one.  Sorry, What-Not Shop proprietors.  I suppose it’s my fault you went out of business.  What can I say?  I was young, I had no money.  But on the dusty floor of your weird little shop, I found amazing, terrifying wonders, things I didn’t understand but couldn’t put down.

I still remember one story clearly.  It was about trashmen whose job was picking up and disposing of unwanted infants, and a girl about my age who was put out with the trash.  I remember she had a conversation with the trashmen, and was a strange, wise child, and I read it understanding that she wasn’t going to survive this tale.

Part of me wishes I could find and re-read that story.  After all, it made a deep impression on me and stayed with me for years, so it must be a classic, right?  My google-fu is pretty good, but I’ve never even tried to find it.  Better to leave it in the past, than be disappointed.  So many things from our childhood age so badly.

Somewhere in time, there’s a little girl named me, sitting on the dusty floor by an aged bookshelf, oblivious to everything else in the shop, raptly turning the yellow pages of a pulp magazine.

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Written by Contented Reader

July 24, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Posted in True stories

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