“I know exactly what will interest you,” Mr. Grimble said to the young couple browsing his wares to furnish their new home. He led them to his furniture aisle, briefly glancing out his shop window at the men hanging a sign on the store across the street.
“We’re not looking for anything too fancy,” the young woman said as they passed the china sets and rare coins.
Mr. Grimble turned from the window back to his customers before he could read the sign. “I don’t consider my items fancy, per se,” he said. “I prefer to think of them as special. Each of my wares is completely unique, with its own special history and meaning. You want your home to be special, don’t you?”
“Well, yes, of course,” the young woman said.
“Then this is the thing for you,” Mr. Grimble said, stopping in front of an antique European office chair. “These were manufactured during the height of the post World War I industrial boom. Very popular amongst businessmen. They oversaw many great operations while lounging in these chairs. This particular piece I know was owned by a Belgian clock factory owner. Most were destroyed in bombings and fires over the next few decades, but the clock maker loved his chair so much he had it sent overseas to keep it safe.” Mr. Grimble walked around the antique admiringly. “This isn’t just an office chair, it’s a throne.”
The young couple seemed unimpressed. They looked at the price tag and shook their heads.
“I’m not sure it’s really us, you know,” the young woman said.
“Of course,” Mr. Grimble said. “Let me show you some other items I know would be perfect for you.”
The young man looked around the shop and said, “Um, I don’t think you have what we’re looking for. Thanks.”
Mr. Grimble thanked the young couple for visiting and smiled as they walked out. After they were gone he sighed and sunk into the clock maker’s chair. He tightened his grip on armrests and looked back out the window. The sign across the street was up now. It read, Coming Soon. Francesca’s Trivialities. Mr. Grimble wondered what the hell a triviality shop was.
For days Mr. Grimble watched from his counter as customer after customer exited the triviality shop with useless crap and smiles on their faces. They left with cheap Chinese toys, common thrift store clothing, and mediocre knick-knacks. And barely a soul had bothered to pop inside his curiosity shop, let alone buy anything. So when he heard the bell attached to his door jingle, he greeted the schoolteacher over-excitedly.
She was looking for anything related to astronomy, as she was an amateur enthusiast. Mr. Grimble’s heart leapt. For some time he had been trying to unload a vintage 50’s telescope, used by the team that discovered the first binary pulsar.
“Oh my, how interesting,” the schoolteacher said. She asked many questions about the piece, growing more excited as he told its history.
This is how it’s done, Mr. Grimble thought to himself. You don’t just heap a bunch of garbage on as many customers as you can. You find the right item for the right person and that’s the sale that counts.
“And what is its magnification?” The schoolteacher asked.
“It had a magnification of 150X,” Mr. Grimble said. “Not as powerful as others at the time, but ideal for minimizing brightness glares.”
“What do you mean had?” the schoolteacher asked.
“Well, the telescope is no longer functional. Its worth comes strictly from its historical value,” Mr. Grimble told her.
The schoolteacher’s face soured. “Ah, I see.”
She quickly browsed the rest of the shop, finding nothing to her liking. Mr. Grimble returned to his counter and watched the schoolteacher cross the street to the triviality shop. After much longer than she had spent in his store, the schoolteacher reappeared with two large bags looking very satisfied. Mr. Grimble wondered what on earth she found over there instead of here. He spent the rest of the day watching the store across the street, gripping his hands together tightly, until a lanky woman with a bandana tied over her hair flipped the open sign to closed.
In the back office, Mr. Grimble poured over his record books. It was clear sales had flatlined since the opening of the triviality shop. Curiosities could not compete with trivialities, it seemed. Mr. Grimble scratched his head aggressively, unsure what he should do.
The front door bells jingled and a woman’s voice called out, “Hello! Hello!”
Mr. Grimble returned to the display floor to find the lanky woman with the bandana checking out his selection of mirrors.
Mr. Grimble tightened his fists. “Can I help you?”
“Oh, hi, yes, are you Mr. Grimble?” she asked. “I’m Francesca, from across the street. I just wanted to come by and say hello and introduce myself.” She extended her hand to Mr. Grimble, who reciprocated with one stiff shake. “I’ve wanted to stop by and see your store for a long time,” Francesca continued, “but I’ve just been so busy with the opening and all. You know how it is.”
“Sure,” Mr. Grimble said.
“So, wow, you got a lot of neat stuff here,” Francesca said, strolling through the aisles.
“Are you looking for anything in particular?” Mr. Grimble asked.
“Oh, I’m never looking for anything in particular,” she said and picked up a porcelain dove off a shelf. “Hey, I like this.”
“That’s not right for you,” Mr. Grimble said. “Its part of the Kaolin Collection. You’re not a collector, are you?”
“No. I’ve never heard of Kaolin,” Francesca said.
“Well, it belongs in a collection,” Mr. Grimble said, clenching and unclenching his fists.
“Oh, OK,” Francesca set the dove back on the shelf.
Mr. Grimble relaxed his hands and took a deep breath. “Here, I have the perfect thing for you,” he said and ushered her to a display of wall mounts. In between a taxidermied antelope head and a framed ticket to the Brisbane World’s Fair hung an eighteenth century battle axe. Its handle short and engraved with a spiral pattern, the head almost as long as the handle, the back of the head bore a faded crest.
“My god, you can’t be serious?” Francesca gawked.
“It’s Spanish. Made sometime around 1780. A common weapon of the royal army. The stamp on the hilt suggests it was owned by a sergeant. It was recovered from a sunken ship off the coast of Florida. I have the papers to prove its authenticity.”
“Mr. Grimble,” Francesca said, shrugging her arms. “What would I possibly do with a battle axe?”
Mr. Grimble grabbed the axe with both hands and removed it from its display hook. He held it upright in front of him, admiring it, then offered it to Francesca.
“Hold it,” he said.
“No, really,” Francesca waved her hands at the piece.
“Please,” Mr. Grimble said and stepped closer to her. “See how it feels.”
“Well,” Francesca said, tapping a finger to her chin. “I never have held an antique Spanish weapon before, and who knows if I’ll get another chance.”
She took the axe from him.
“Wow, its heavy,” she said, awkwardly handling axe, holding the blade as far from herself as possible. “Is this thing sharp?”
“I keep all my wares in pristine condition.”
“Uh-huh,” Francesca said. “You know, I think I’ll pass on the battle axe.” She handed it back to Mr. Grimble. “But I’ll take that dove, though.”
“Yes, of course,” Mr. Grimble said.
Francesca walked back down the aisle to grab the porcelain dove.
Mr. Grimble tightened his grip on the axe.
(Fiction and Photography by Wesley Martin)