The Toyshop: Part Four.

by | Jun 24, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

The shopkeeper scratched his head at the arrangement of parcels in front of him.

Alan got up to answer the door before it was taken off its hinges. Damn kids, he thought and the pain returned to his head momentarily. He managed to reach the door and clung onto the handle, closing his eyes. The rattle of the handle roused him and he opened up.

Instead of the urchins, the protagonist was a young man in the uniform of a national courier, hand-held device in one palm and a box tucked under his other arm.

“You keep strange hours mate. I’ve been knocking for ages. Do you know I only get two minutes per drop?” He thrust the parcel and electronic tracker at Alan.

“Sorry, erm, stocktaking.” Alan turned to observe the glow had vanished again and the doll was in the box. Following his gaze the courier pulled a face.

“Jesus, mate. What sort of place you keepin’ here? I thought it was a toyshop, not an undertakers” He waved the items at Alan.

The shopkeeper took the parcel and the hand-held, balancing the latter on the former, and scribbled his signature.

“There’s more where that came from and I’m already behind. Can you give me a hand? Some of them are massive!” The courier replied, grabbing the device and turning on his heels. Alan followed obediently with a feeling of puzzled excitement.

The young man leapt into the back of the van and pulled out six further packages, varying in sizes. The largest was the dimensions of a full sized coffin. It set off the courier again.

“What’s this?” He wheezed, the weight and bulk of the parcel challenging even his strength and fitness. “Cleopatra’s dad?” He added, nodding in the direction of the shop, obviously referring to the doll.

Following several more minutes of lifting and carrying, each one counted by the courier, the six boxes were arranged on the floor of the shop. Alan handed the young man a twenty pound note from the till, which he promptly pocketed, without a word. The courier left the shop, slamming the door in his wake.

The shopkeeper scratched his head at the arrangement of parcels in front of him. His excitement elevated as the glow returned. It was momentary, however, followed by the door opening.

“You won’t believe this. Not one but two punctures!” The man screamed, barging into the shop.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” but Alan had already worked out the source of the young man’s misfortune, turning to the doll and smiling inwardly. The courier left the shop again, almost removing the door from its hinges for the third time. Alan began opening the packages one by one. With each exquisite artifact uncovered, like an archaeological dig in Giza, his exhilaration grew.

The first and smallest package, that which had been under the arm of the courier, revealed a small, intricate automaton. Made from gold and silver, it depicted a scarab beetle. Around twenty centimetres in length, the machine was an exact replica of the real thing. Poking from the back if the abdomen, was a tiny gold key. Alan gave it a couple of turns and the metallic creature scuttled out of his hand and fell to the floor. It proceeded to sprint across the shop until it neared the counter, at which point it stopped, opened and closed its giant mandibles and was still.

Alan whistled in sheer amazement at the appearance and motion of the beautiful android. He picked up the creature and placed it carefully in the box, examining it for damage. Thankfully, there was none. From time to time, he checked the casket and the back room but there was no change. The doll remained in her original position, wooden hands crossed on her chest. He felt a strange longing for the soft glow and the ethereal voice.

The second box, one of the larger ones, revealed a brightly painted clown dressed in equally garish clothes. It was like most clowns, a paradox of fun and horror. This added to its allure. Alan pulled the cord hanging from its back, the little fellow sprung to life, causing the shopkeeper to gasp in shock.

The mannequin spoke in fluent Italian, then was still. Its large painted eyes staring at Alan like freshly dead corpse. On one of the soles of its long shoes, there was a label, in Italian. Alan took a photograph on his camera and loaded it onto Google. The results made his legs give way and he slumped into the chair in the corner of the shop.

The page showed an image of the exact model with a description and history. Below that was a valuation of between twenty and thirty thousand pounds. Alan cradled the puppet in his arms like a baby, closed his eyes and inhaled a deep breath.


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