It must have been a little like Howard Carter breaking into King Tut’s tomb – albeit on the scale of, say, a flea in relation to a blue whale – but nevertheless an exciting moment: when the first shafts of light and the fresh 2011 breeze met the stale 1990-or-so air and mingled, sending dust wheeling and moving for the first time in 20 odd years, revealing untold treasures, a dark and musty mystery coming to light.
The place had sat just as it had been left for an unknown number of years, who knows why. Perhaps the original owner just got tired and one day he turned the lock on the door and never came back. A For Sale sign was taped to the glass, yellowing in the corner of one window. Year after year layers of dirt and grime obscured what was inside, but one could still see well enough to discern the stocked shelves and the aisles leading off towards the back of the store, the large sales counter off to one side.
And then one day, an enterprising citizen bought the store, lock, stock and barrel. All of the nails, screws, paints, elbow joints and hammers; the wire, electrical switches, door knobs, screwdrivers and No Trespassing signs. Even old calendars and “point of purchase” bumper stickers that had sat on the sales counter for tens of years. If not the opulent items of gold and jewels, the pots of honey and spices and figurines of servants required by the pharoah’s spirit to carry with him into the afterworld, they are at least useful items for everyday life here on planet earth.
Kel and I went in the other day. We had to. Not because we needed anything (there are two existing, competing stores in town anyway), but because we had to see for ourselves the treasures that had been locked up inside the tomb for all of those years. Was the new owner really going to try and sell that old stuff (yes)? Were the prices going to be rock-bottom to move them off of the shelves (no)? Was he going to clean off the dust (no)? Would the new owner and his family be cursed for generations because they had violated this sacred hardware resting place (have to wait and see on that one)?
Indeed there were piles of dated goodies, and in the back, beyond the reach of mere mortal customers was a dark chamber filled to the top with cardboard boxes. More hidden riches. A tall shelf in the back was crisscrossed with (mummy’s cloth?!) strips of gauzy, white fabric and was embellished with handwritten signs on lined paper ripped from a notebook admonishing: Not for sale today and Copper Not for Sale this Week.
We didn’t buy anything and the owner didn’t seem troubled by it. In fact he hardly noticed us at all. His was the attitude of distraction one would expect from an archeologist tending his precious discovery. As we left a man came in – another tourist seeking the thrills of the newly opened vault into the past. He stopped just inside the door, scanned the length and breadth of the place, took his ball cap off and slowly rubbed his head in wonder.