Prologue:The Thrift Store

"Man, it is sum kinda' hot outside," EZ popped the top of his Moxie and chugged half of it down in one long gulp, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand when he was finished.

"Now Ezekiel, don't you be such a slob. Hep me get this stuff up here an' go through it."

Ezekiel's real name was Ezekiel NMI (for No Middle Initial) Zook, but everybody had called him EZ for as long as he could remember, his whole life, probably. Everybody, that is, except his Great Aunt Theodosia, who ran the World Famous Downtown Thrift Shop in Bangor, Maine with an iron hand, employing her nephew to do the heavy work. She called him Ezekiel. EZ hated this. However, even though EZ towered over his great aunt he never, not even once for only an instant, considered asking her not to. Plus, times were a little tough, and Theodosia paid him good gas money to run his truck all over town, picking up stuff for the thrift store. EZ loved driving his truck.

"Aw, c'mon, auntie, it a hunnert degrees outside." EZ began heaving boxes up on the counter while his aunt pulled them open and rapidly began unpacking them.

"Ezekial, it's not that hot. Quit gripin'." Actually, it was in the mid 90's, and the shop, like many older buildings in central Maine, had no air conditioning. However, the really hot weather generally only lasted for a couple of weeks in mid summer, and it always cooled down in the evenings.

"Lotta junk," she mumbled to herself as she screened the contents of the first box. "This is garbage." She tossed a tattered shirt into the waiting trash receptacle without a second glance.

"Laundry." A pile of clothes flew over the old lady's shoulder into a large laundry hamper, saved from the fate of the first shirt.

"Yes'm." EZ nudged a couple of pieces of clothing which had landed on the edge of the hamper with his foot, so that they fell all the way in.

"Kay. That's it for this box." She deftly swiped at the sides of the box with a box cutter, and it collapsed obediently into a flat pile of cardboard. "Recycle." Swish, the stack of flat cardboard slid off the counter apparently of it's own volition into a waiting hand truck. "What'cha got here?" Theodosia gazed at the line of boxes and bins EZ was heaving up off the floor onto the counter. "Pull yoor pants up, Ezekiel Zook!"

EZ snapped to attention, simultaneously pulling his dirty jeans up over his generous belly, and hitching up his thick leather belt with the cowboy hat buckle. They didn't have too many cowboys in Penobscot County, of course, but EZ liked the belt which he'd found in a box he brought to the shop. Besides, it helped with his pants. Those pants, they tended to ride a little low in back when a man was workin' hard. Auntie just didn't understand...

"We need some shoes, we're short on 'em. Gimme a shoe box, Ezekiel."

EZ heaved a bin full of shoes up on the counter, being careful about the arrangement of his clothing.

"Work boots. Good shape, kinda' dirty though..." the old lady looked them over carefully, peering inside and sticking her hand in all the way to the toebox, feeling around with her fingers. She nodded, satisfied. "Steel toe guards. I like that. Laundry." The boots sailed into the hamper on top of the clothes. EZ groaned inwardly, because footwear had to be cleaned off by hand.

"Wingtips?" Theodosia turned the black and white leather shoes round and round, over and over, studying them inside and out. She repeated the interior examination with her fingers, and checked the stiff laces. Then, she took a careful sniff, and made a face. "These things must be fifty years old. Somebody cleanin' th' attic, I suppose."

"They's nice, though, auntie. Put 'em on th' shelf. Sumbody'll want 'em."

Theodosia eyed the shoes doubtfully. "Perhaps. We'll let 'em set up there for awhile an' see what happens."

EZ rooted through the bin. "Look. Here's baby shoes."

"Toddler shoes," Theodosia corrected. "Look, they're little sneakers. Aren't they cute?"

The shoes were little blue cloth sneakers with white soles and broad, flat white cloth laces. Perfectly matched, each sneaker had on it's side over the ankle a little red sailboat in a round white background. They looked as if they had never been worn.

"Practically new. For a little boy. A little baby boy, mebbe a year or so." Theodosia looked the sneakers over carefully, inside and out.
"I wonder why they ended up here," EZ mused. Now, EZ wasn't given to musing in general, but there was something about the little blue sneakers which struck him. Somehow, they seemed like they had a story.

"Y' never know," Theodosia said quietly as she placed the little shoes side by side on the edge of the counter. "Y' just never know."

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Copyright 2007 Timothy P. Collins
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