"Tinker's Toys"



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HONORABLE MENTION Summer, 2008 24-Hour Short Story Contest

Tinker’s Toys

Kevin unlocked the front door to the old toy store, his toy store now that his Granddad had passed away at the age of eighty-five. For the last three decades of his life the old man had been the sole proprietor of Tinker’s Toys. He had lived in the one bedroom apartment above the store. As Kevin crossed the threshold the bell above the door sounded old, tired and disinterested. He was greeted by musty smells, poor lighting and a lot of old, languishing toys. Whoop-de-do! What an inheritance! What a windfall! Whatever….

Seventeen years had passed since he had last walked through that door. He had been nine and had stayed with his Granddad for a whole month. He vaguely remembered that it had been kind of fun. Granddad had let him play with some of the toys but never the really old ones that were displayed behind glass in a locked hutch. Those toys weren’t as shiny or as interesting as the others anyway so he hadn’t cared much that they were off-limits. He vaguely remembered his Granddad. Vaguely. After all, seventeen years is a long time.

Lots can happen in seventeen years. Divorce. Devastation. Misery. Depression. Disillusionment. A lot of disillusionment. Disillusionment coming out the wazoo. Heartache. Isolation. Alienation. Despair. Life was hard. Hardly worth living. Now here he was, master of some god-forsaken toy Siberia. Ludicrous. Pathetic really.

Kevin thought, “what the hell” and flipped over the OPEN sign in the window. After all, he didn’t have any pressing engagements. Nobody anywhere was awaiting his return. No real home to return to. No real job to get back to. It’s a miracle that his mother had been able to locate him to tell him about his inheritance. It hadn’t been her dad that had died. It had been his dad’s father. His dad, he hadn’t seen in over fourteen years. Another depressing tale of woe.

He was surprised to see the same old television set that his Granddad had been watching during his last visit. Black and white. A kind of soothing color scheme, he remembered. No bombardment of overly bright or cheerful colors. No false pride displayed over gloriously tinted hair or royally rich hues in clothing. A barren landscape offered up beauty equal to that of an island paradise. People came in various shades of grey. Less complicated that way. He turned it on and was surprised to see a slightly snowy reception of an morning show. Soon the old TV would be denied the airwaves that it could understand. Kind of tragic, really.

It wasn’t long before he heard the door bell jingle. He looked up to see a middle aged couple entering his shop. They took their time browsing and finally came up to the counter with an old fashioned caterpillar pull toy made of wood. He had no cash for change so he rounded the price down to the nearest dollar and off they went. An hour later a rather stately gentleman came in and went directly to the hutch with the glass doors. He picked out an intricately carved, mechanized Ferris Wheel. Strangely enough, Kevin remembered where his Granddad kept the key. That customer wrote out a check for $285.95. By noon two boys had come in and bought two action toys.

Kevin decided it was time to check out the living quarters upstairs. In the back of the shop through the door to the left, narrow and steep stairs brought him up to the second floor. Everything was just as the old man had left it, neatly organized and homey. The air smelled of black licorice and old spice. Suddenly memories of his grandfather surfaced. Chili simmering on the stove. His corny jokes with the funny punch lines, endless games of checkers and Parcheesi, impossibly complicated picture puzzles and the loud snoring that Kevin had always somehow found comforting. Kevin made his way back downstairs.

His Granddad had owned the building and contents free and clear. Kevin guessed the old gentleman could have been considered successful by some standards. At least no one would have called him a quitter. A deadbeat, loser, failure or flop. He had been an honest man making an honest living.

Later that afternoon an attractive redhead about Kevin’s age walked through the door. She smiled as she sauntered past him. She went deep into the shop, then came back with a realtor for sale sign. “Hello. I’m Cindy Smith from Sunshine Realty,” she said. “You must be Kevin. I temporarily took down the sign at your grandfather’s request. I’m sorry that he didn’t survive the surgery. He was a nice old gentleman. I assume you will want the store to remain on the market.”

Astonishing himself, Kevin declared, "No, thank you. Tinker’s Toys is not for sale.”

As the realtor walked out of the store with her sign and a sigh, the old bell over the doorway seemed to ring out with new clarity, joy and enthusiasm.