Sign, age-darkened, clearly old beckoned.
Been along this quaint street many times, yet
I never saw this sign before. Long, black finger pointed
to wisteria shaded alleyway. I had to go in.
Brass ship's bell above creaky wooden door tolls.
Reverberation more knell than time-telling
or announcing curious guests.
Long-haired calico cat peered at me, determined stare, not purring.
I wander past dusty, tarnished silver samovars, calf-high boots
requiring button hooks, nimble fingers. Meander deeper
perusing shelves crammed with leather-bound books: piled, balanced,
one lay open to silkscreened castle
shimmering above aqua-silvered lake.
Arrogant cat, tail high, sashays, slithers between my legs,
nudging me further in. She hisses as I attempt to run my hand
along tawny spine. Whiskers twitch.
I pick through sterling silver and marcasite jewelry,
rub my thumb across finger-worried, worn smooth
pocket watch, owner long-forgotten, engraved name long worn away.
All while being watched: amber-eyed intensity.
Pearl and gold bead encrusted gown, white muslin;
heavy to wear, I imagine. Wish for a suitable occasion
whatever that occasion might be. Hollowed-out gourd,
painted blood-red, berry-blue, holds vintage cloisonné birds.
Along shadowed back wall,
wide rack holding walking sticks, staves, carven staffs
shillelaghs -- both blackthorn and oak.
One, carved willowood - not weeping willow wood,
but willowood featuring flared flanges pulls me in.
Dragon heads dance along staff spine, intricate castles
cavort, mystical fae flit along mid-forte; strongest part
unlike narrowed rooted-tip, foible; fragile there.
Smooth, glossy, dust-free in musty shop where dust motes
dance, inviting sneezes. Perfect height, leather-wrapped
for grasping, conjuring images along tree shadowed trails.
Cool breeze wafts. What had been layered rack
becomes woodland birches. Trail littered
with bony fallen branches half obscuring sun-dappled path.
Look behind; no store, just that calico cat licking lifted paw.
Walking stick urges exploration. Yet now is not appropriate time.
Willowood vibrates. Once again I am surrounded by antiquities.
Puzzled, yet intrigued, I approach the wizened woman behind
mahogany counter, request pricing, doubting ability to afford.
Cackled laughter erupts. 'Money is unnecessary here.
Willow-wanderer chose you. Priceless treasure at any rate.'
Deep purr startles. Three foot leap to countertop, head batting my hand,
purring rumbles. Back arches against
caressing, I am blessed by rough-tongued lick.
'Calliope likes you,' says toothless crone.
Back to cobble-stoned street, willowood staff vibrates.
Looking back, no sign points towards antique store,
indeed, no wisteria lined alleyway.
Just Calliope, curled, sleeping, taking sunbath.