By Ruth Magana
Opal opened the door to a tiny shop. The bell rang sharp and clear as she shuffled in. The floor to ceiling shelves made the darkened room feel cramped. Her eyes shifted over the space and the shadowy corners- how the small windows at the entrance let in a soft buttery light from the afternoon sun. She soaked it all in, trying to commit it to memory. She knew it futile though. She’d soon forget it all by the time she arrived home.
She eyed the aisle to her left and decided to start there. On a shelf at eye level sat pieces of fine blue china. She had no doubt that it cost an arm and a leg during her childhood, but now the price tag read $15. Next to that lay an old eggbeater needing to be cranked by hand to use. Seeing the eggbeater tickled the back of her mind, memories came flooding back in fragments. She used to help her mother make breakfast in the morning. Opal’s long brown hair used to catch in it. She chuckled at the thought, reaching up to the back of her neck where her hair was now white, cut close and cropped to her head. Easier to manage in her old age.
Farther down the aisle she came upon an old basket filled with books. Dust assaulted her nose as she picked one up from the stack. Goodnight Moon. She remembered when it was first published. Her mother used to read it to her and her three siblings to help them fall asleep. She convinced herself the dust made her eyes water. She set the faded colorful book down on a nearby shelf and glided on to the next object that caught her eye.
She marveled at how advanced things had become. At the end of the aisle, a stack of ancient suitcases lay dormant. At the top perched a yellow cracked one. It was flimsy and would no longer protect anything of value. You also had to carry it. The handle, worn and grossly off-center from the many uses and lives it once carried. She felt relieved, such worries could plague her no longer. She doubted her old bones could handle the stress anymore. Now they obtained wheels and pockets! So many pockets.
Opal sighed, running a crooked finger over one of the cracked seams. Maybe she would buy that book… the name escaped her now, but she’d find it. The book would return her memories stolen by this awful disease. Maybe she would read it to her grandchildren, telling them what it was like when her own mother read it to her. Then her lovely daughter would stop sending her worrying glances every time she forgot where she parked, when her husband died, their names.
Opal shook her head and turned back to the overflowing basket of books, searching for it. But the book had disappeared. She rubbed her forehead with a wrinkled hand. Where did it go? It couldn’t have gone far. She pulled one book off the top of the stack then another and another. She shook her head. An orange and green cover caught her eye, resting on the edge of a shelf. A breath of relief slipped past her lips. There it lay. Opal clutched the book tightly to her chest, not letting it wander away again. Yes, the book would help.