George Moss moves like a man twice his age. Hands in his pockets, he plods towards Gravity’s Edge Gifts. The shop sits like an afterthought across the street from Lenox Circle Mall. The exterior walls wear countless coats of sunset orange paint but the warm color does nothing to brighten George Moss’s mood.
Gravity’s Edge Gifts has been around ever since he can remember. Rumors about the store’s mysterious proprietor always intrigued him, but in forty-five years he never had occasion to set foot within.
A shopkeeper’s bell trills overhead as he shoulders his way inside. Dreamcatchers hanging over plate glass windows cast spidery shadows on handmade works of wood, clay and yarn lining naked pine shelves. The scent of Murphy’s Oil Soap permeates the air. George Moss barely registers any of it. His attention is focused on the gnarled woman with skin like old beechwood sitting behind the counter. A grey wool shawl drapes her shoulders. She sorts through a basket of tangled crochet threads and mutters to herself.
“Welcome, welcome. Welcome to Gravity’s Gifts,” she says. Her accent is vaguely Eastern European and she draws out the long vowels. She pronounces her “w’s” like “v’s”.
“Are you Madam Moirai?”
“Of course, of course? Who else, dear? You are?”
George Moss shifts his weight, floorboards creak.
“I’m looking to sell something. Or trade. However this works,” he says.
“This is store. I buy and sell many things. Is simple,” Madam Moirai’s broad teeth have strained decades of coffee and strong tea and her gums are a dark purple.
George Moss leans forward, his voice dropping just above a whisper. “I understand you can handle… special requests.”
Madam Moirai turns her head and looks sideways at him.
“I do not buy the drugs, if that what is you are asking.”
George Moss’s face goes pale. “No! No. Gosh, sorry no.”
“Maybe some homemade incense, if you have, but—”
“No, I don’t have incense. I–” He withdraws his hands from his pockets and places them on the counter. He begins pulling at the thick gold band adorning his left ring finger. It takes considerable effort but at last he has it off.
“I want to sell this,” George Moss says and places it on the counter. Madam Moirai stares motionless at the ring, so he pushes it toward her. At last she looks up.
“A nice ring, but you get more from Eddy’s Gold Shop at mall,” she says.
“No. It’s not just the ring,” George Moss says. This isn’t going at all the way he’d hoped. Rumor had it Madam Moirai could help with special problems. That there wouldn’t be a lot of explaining. He takes a deep breath.
“My wife hardly speaks to me. We haven’t had sex in a year. My oldest, Scott, is in rehab. For the sixth time. Mike, the middle one, he’s lost his job and needs to move back in. With his boyfriend. Michelle wants to drop out and focus on her poetry. She’s in middle school for Christsake! Even the dog ran off and I don’t blame him.”
“Ah,” Madam Moirai says.
“You got it now?” George Moss asks. “This ring, it’s the symbol of all this responsibility I don’t want anymore. I want you to fix it… make it go away. I was told you could help someone in my situation.”
Madam Moirai picks up the ring and peers at George Moss through the hole. She lays it flat in her palm and weighs it up and down.
“Heavy,” she says.
“Very,” George Moss replies.
“I tell you what. I make trade.” Madam Moirai pushes the basket of crochet threads aside and rummages under the counter. A loud “ah ha” accompanies the discovery of what she is searching for. She puts a shoebox on the counter and turns it so it will open toward George Moss.
He is relieved that she understands. He opens the box. There is a black revolver inside with wooden grips.
“What is this?”
“For you. Fix your problems,” Madam Moirai says.
“I don’t want to kill anybody!” George Moss says.
“Not kill them. Kill yourself. Problems solved.”
“What? Are you crazy?” George Moss asks. “What kind of solution is that?”
“Who is crazy? You come in here think I am some shtriga? Some witch who can makes spells on people? Or maybe give you a potion fix all problems? Huh? Ha! I have accent. I run business. No fairy stories here. If things so bad you kill self — snip, snip — problems solved.”
“I—” A flash image of him holding the gun to his head hits George Moss like a bucket of cold water. What comes out of his mouth next surprises him. Laughter. The intensity gathered in Madam Moirai’s eyes dissipates and she cracks a coffee stained smile.
“I’m an idiot,” George Moss says. “All this stuff piling up on me…”
“You don’t tell somebody this before, I think?” Madam Moirai says. She pats his cheek. “No good you keep things inside.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t believe I thought you could… well, never mind,” George Moss says. “I know what I need. I need to cinch up and deal with life. That and maybe see a shrink.”
George Moss takes his ring from the counter. It slides on his finger much easier than it came off. He looks around the store, but there’s nothing here that he wants now and his embarrassment grows the more he thinks about this whole episode. Maybe later he’ll come back and buy something. There’s a startling indigo crocheted sweater that would really bring out his wife’s eyes.
“Thank you, Madam Moirai,” he says. “See you around.”
Madam Moirai puts the box with the gun under the counter and returns to picking apart the snarl of crochet threads.
“Goodbye, George. Good luck.”
As he’s waiting in line at the florist’s with a large bouquet of flowers for his wife, George Moss reflects that he never mentioned his name.
J.C. Towler feels it is silly to write bios in the 3rd person unless one is British Royalty which he is not.