Sudden Downpour

It was sunny when you left home, so you didn’t take an umbrella. An hour later, you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of old artifacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you. Tell us what happens next!

Unpredictability is always bad. Always.

My timing that day was, as always, impeccable. I live in one of the rainiest towns in Upstate, so carrying an umbrella around at all times is simply a no-brainer. I guess that means I seemed to have misplaced my brain that day. 

The problem with my town is that not only is it rainy; it is always unpredictable. I blame the weather channel for my deep-rooted trust issues. Prediction of sunshine means torrential downpour. Prediction of downpour means the occasional drizzle with five-minute long breaks when the sun shines and birds sing before the clouds get right back to it. Sometimes we even have the freaky sunshine and rain at the same time. 

So I didn’t take my umbrella out that day. Predictions said cloudy, which means the weather channel gave up for the day. I didn’t have very far to walk; just stopping by the local grocery store for my weekly candy fix. A couple miles here and back, and I walk slow, so I’d only be walking for about forty minutes. Not bad for a college student. 

When I filled my bag with a considerable amount of chocolates (most of which my mother would steal) and a little bag of gummy bears (she wouldn’t touch those), I started the walk back. The lines at the cash registers were unbelievably long so I had spent about fifteen minutes just standing around. I looked up and lo and behold; the weather report was right for once. Unfriendly gray clouds crowded the sky, muscling their way over the sun and throwing a dark shroud over the whole town. Crap.

I started walking much faster than I usually do. Maybe I could still get back home in time to avoid this. 

Drip, drip. No, no, no. I started to walk even faster, to the point where my flimsy little flip-flops began to resist, slipping off my feet. I knew I should’ve worn sneakers; God, where did my brain go?

I got about ten more steps in before I simply gave up. Screw it. I took a sharp right and pushed in the glass door in front of me, not bothering to check what was inside.

A tiny little old ornament jingled as I entered. It was so rusty I couldn’t tell what its original paint color had been. Gross. I wiped my eyes of the raindrops that had soaked my face and peered around. The little shop I had entered was clearly an antique store. From what I could make up, there appeared to be books, trinkets, dust, dust, and more dust. Gross, gross, and more gross. I like when things are nice, clean, and new. No wonder I never knew this place existed.

I looked outside. The clouds had grown exponentially, and were dousing the streets with pellets of rain like bullets, hitting the pavement so hard each drop looked like a tiny explosion. I’d have to wait a few more minutes before braving that battlefield. I turned around and braved the dust instead.

The only place I had seen with more cobwebs than this place was my house’s basement, but then again, as a kid I used to think the walls of that room were made of only cobwebs. I poked at a leather-bound book, waiting for it to crumble under the gentle push of my finger. For all I knew, it could be my great-great-great-great grandfather’s old journal.

A weak cough came from behind a stack of books that was probably about five feet high. My breath caught and I whipped my head around to find whoever had made the noise. Slowly, a frail old man hobbled out from behind the pile, bent down so low the books had covered the top of his shiny head.

“Can I help you?” he asked in a voice even weaker than his cough. His throat was probably jammed up with dust, making it difficult to speak. Maybe I should just leave in the rain.

“Just looking, thanks,” I said, looking off at another pile of books stacked much more precariously than the one that the man had just walked in front of. At one point, they were probably colorful and beautiful, but now they were the same brownish gray as the dust that covered each surface. It almost made me sad. I don’t understand those people who love antiquities so much. I don’t understand the man who stood before me, looking at me with piercing yet slightly blind blue eyes.

“You don’t look like the typical customer here,” the man said, half to himself. He was absolutely right, but the statement still caught me off guard a little. Was this his marketing strategy? It wasn’t a very good one.

“It was raining,” was all I said, and poked another book. And another. I was tempting fate. One of these was bound to just crumble into a big pile of nothingness. I wasn’t being much of a customer at all.

“Those books are worth thousands of dollars,” the man rasped matter-of-factly. My hands twitched away from the nearest book real quick. Oops.

“How?” I said incredulously. At this point, I’m sure this man thought I was a complete bitch. Just shut your mouth and be polite for once in your life.

The old man laughed. Or at least I think it was a laugh, because it might have just been wheezing or coughing. He could’ve been dying for all I knew. “How, you say? Objects of value don’t need to be made of diamonds or gold.”

Be polite. Don’t disagree, just smile and nod. What kind of a nod is that? You have the etiquette of a gorilla.

“Don’t believe me? Alright,” the man continued, somehow shrugging his shoulders higher than they already were. Then he just shuffled off, disappearing again behind his old pile of books. The rain was starting to finally let up, so I started backing up slowly toward the door.

“Antiques don’t need to be old books and trinkets, you know,” the raspy voice called from somewhere behind a new pile of books. I stopped in my tracks and tried finding him. When I did, he was smiling up at me, holding a somewhat newer-looking book. So antiques can be new books too?

He gave me a look that was somewhere in between disdain and that kind of look a parent gets when they’re about to give their kid the hottest new toy. It was mostly just staring. He looked down at the book, opened it up, and lifted it up so I could see better.

It wasn’t a book at all. Or at least it had been at some point, when the center of every page hadn’t been cut out to make a secret box. Inside that box was a considerably large handful of diamonds, gold jewelry, and other bits of precious I couldn’t even begin to describe. There was barely any light in the shop, and still the contents of the box gleamed and shone. 

“Don’t be so quick to judge a book by its cover,” the man chuckled, admiring his incredibly original joke. He was right, though. Turns out the old guy was good at marketing after all.

Unpredictability can be good sometimes. But only sometimes.

For the record, this story was completely fictional and does not represent my own personality. If you thought this character was a materialistic bitch, it’s ok, because I do too.

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