“Six-six-six – Heritage Close. This is the place.” The post-war bungalow was guarded by an overgrown caragana hedge and a wrought-iron gate. Some twisted mugo pines were taking over the narrow, cobble-stone sidewalk. I approached the cracked front steps with the apprehension of an eight year old kid returning late from recess at school.
“Ding-dong.” The doorbell was recessed in the stucco and inconspicuously mounted to the left of the door frame. A middle-aged man, stout and balding, shuffled to the front door. I attempted to introduce myself.
“Hello. I’m here to…” That’s as far as I got.
“Come around the back.” He shut the door in my face and motioned for me to walk around the house. A little odd I thought, but maybe par for the course. I tried to reassure myself that only an eccentric would have an antique model car collection fifty years old. I walked around the back to find the door ajar. The gentleman was waiting for me.
“Thank you for your patience sir. It’s just that my wife is a bit wary of strangers coming through the front door.”
“Not to worry, my friend. I’m Kevin. I saw your ad on-line for the model collection. I would like to see your ’55 Chevy if you still have it.”
“But of course sir. Step this way, won’t you?” I took my shoes off while he used a key to lock the deadbolt, from the inside.
“Uh, is this a bad neighborhood?”
“Let’s just say that I’m protective of my home. My wife won’t sleep unless that door is locked.”
“So, about that Chevy. Is it in the original box?”
“See for yourself sir. This way please.” He led me down a narrow staircase to the basement. It smelled of mildew and mothballs, and a network of spider webs adorned the joists above our heads. In the corner was a broken ping-pong table that doubled as a display for his wares. A lonely sixty watt light bulb did little to illuminate his collection, but what a fine collection it was. An assortment of thirty classic car models, many in their original boxes, were stacked neatly around the perimeter of the table.
“As you can see, the ’55 is in excellent shape. This model was a prototype of the B series bodies, and a precursor to the muscle cars of the early 60’s.” He was well versed on his product.
“Very impressive Mister…I’m sorry – I never got your name.”
His blank stare wasn’t the introduction I was expecting. “Don’t be sorry. I never gave it. Pierre Mortis.” His handshake was firm but colder than his stare. His beady, bloodshot eyes probed every wrinkle on my face. A shiver tickled the base of my spine, but it wasn’t because of the chill in the basement. I picked up the ’55 Chevy to examine the box.
“Please sir. Do not squeeze the box. I take pride in knowing that this model doesn’t have a blemish on it.” His condescending speech and plastic smile were wearing thin.
“You’ve got a great collection here but the prices you are asking are more than I was hoping to spend. I want to thank you for your time though. I’ll be on my way.”
“I am open to offers on all of them sir. Can I interest you in a cup of tea perhaps?” His stare was focused dead behind me. As much as I was interested in his collection, I was more interested in leaving.
“Sorry – maybe another time. I should be going.” I backed up slowly towards the stairs, taking notice of a strange array of shadows creeping down the wall.
“Very well sir. My wife and I will see you to the door.” I almost ran up the creaky, narrow staircase, only to remember that I was locked in. He followed me up the stairs – slow, heavy, plodding steps. He was short of breath. He unlocked the deadbolt but there wasn’t a doorknob to open the door.
“Excuse me but how do you open the door? Where is the doorknob?”
“Push the door sir – left of centre. My wife and I wish you good health.”
“She is right here.” He tapped his lapel pocket and removed a folded, black and white, glossy photo of a casket next to a headstone. His thin smile complemented the glazed look in his eyes. I punched the door open and stumbled down the front steps. The wrought iron gate squeaked its greeting as another fellow came up the walk and to the front door. Our eyes met for a moment. I looked away.
“Excuse me. Are you a member of the family?”
“Uh, no. Who are you?”
“I’m from the funeral home. They sent me to pick up the casket.”
“For a Mr. Mortis, Pierre Mortis? Funny – we just picked up his wife last month. I guess he couldn’t wait to join her.”
Greg Turlock is a published poet, author, and photographer. He is also a musician and songwriter. Greg’s writing includes A Work of Heart – Woven in the Willows (2016), his first collection of original poems, photographs and short stories and From the Deep End, a column that ran in the Edmonton Journal’s Country Asides from 2002 until 2010. Greg is currently editing his first novel Hightops in the Snow.
A graduate of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Greg lives near Stony Plain, Alberta CANADA.
If you enjoyed ‘Left of Center’ leave a comment and let Greg know.
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