“Mandy, why did you bring us here?” she moaned. “This is a virtual ghost town.” Judith surveyed the grungy bungalow-type buildings; the unkempt road; and the dearth of any human beings. If she wasn’t such a practical, no-nonsense sort of person, she’d be freaked.
“Judith, relax. I have my reasons. You’ll see.” Mandy was a new age hippie, with spaced-out blue eyes that always looked like they were seeing something fourth dimensional; long untrimmed hair; unshaved armpits; and a vocabulary that consisted of words like far out, hang loose, and groovy. The reason Judith was with her was too convoluted to remember. Something that started as a favor for her boss’ brother’s ex-wife’s sister.
Judith grumbled under her breath and walked closer to one of the dusty storefront windows. “An-ti-cue Store” was written across the top of the store’s door.
“Oh puleeze,” she groaned.
“Let’s go in,” Mandy suggested.
“Why?” Judith asked.
“For fun,” Mandy said. A tiny bell tinkled as they entered; the door closed behind them with a thud. An Einsteinian-type fellow appeared out of the shadows.
“Depends on who’s asking,” Judith replied.
He quirked an eyebrow, not understanding her sarcastic wit.
“You know,” she explained, “it depends on who’s asking if we’re ladies or not.”
“Ahhhh,” he intoned as if chanting a mantra.
“Patti Playpal!” Judith shouted before closing her mouth shut.
Mandy inquired: “An old acquaintance?”
“Well, yes,” Judith answered. “I mean, she looks just like Patti, the doll I had as a child.” Judith touched the silky hair. The red crinoline skirt and starched white apron were just like the outfit she used to dress Patti in. The doll’s black patent leather shoes shone. A warm gushy glow enveloped Judith.
Embarrassed, she stepped away and bumped into a shelf full of odds and ends. The candy bar wrapped in silver paper with icy blue trim caught her eye.
Mr. Einstein-Yoga master beamed. “Would you like one?”
“A Zero?” Judith repeated. “Those candy bars haven’t been around for at least 40 years. They must be stone hard.”
He shook his head, and white whisks of hair flew around him like electric sparks. “Fresh as the day it was made,” he claimed.
Memories of summers in the pool, swinging in the backyard, playing flashlight tag with the neighbor’s kids burst through Judith’s brain.
“We’ll have two,” Mandy commanded. “Thanks so much, Uncle Randall!”
The elderly man laughed. “Anything for you, dear. You and your friend are always welcome to ‘Memory Lane.’ ”
A chill crawled up Judith’s spine, crossed her neck, and settled into her scalp. She’d been told that Mandy was an orphan with no family.
As Judith began to ask some probing questions, Mandy’s uncle slapped a Zero in her hand. Judith’s queries disappeared as she slowly unwrapped her childhood.
What item would unwrap your childhood?