Connor pushed open the door open for her. “If you’re looking for souvenirs, you’re not going to find any place better than A. Schwab’s.”
“Oh god, none of that meretricious crap, please.” She stepped in behind him, peering out cautiously over her designer sunglasses. “I don’t want go home with a suit case of obese plush toys wearing Memphis t-shirts.”
“Really, Bryce? Could you sound more like a pretentious grad student if you tried?” He shook his head at his girlfriend. He loved her, but sometimes he wanted to strangle the entitled New England out of her.
“Straw hats, corn cob pipes, snow globes, obscene vanity license plates? This is where you bring me?”
“That’s because you’re not looking in the right place.” He lead her over to a neglected, dusty corner of the story. An array of religious candles, fetishes and small pouches of dried animal parts covered the tables and peg boards in front of them. “Maybe if you can’t finish your graduate thesis, you can voodoo them into thinking that you did.”
Bryce’s eyes went wide. “My inner high school goth is so hot for you right now.”
“I’m really not sure how to take that.”
The voodoo corner of A.Schwab’s has sadly gone the way of the dinosaur as they ready themselves to be sold, but for many years it was a source of curiosity, wonder and an endless supply of presents for people that didn’t want anything from Target.
He stiff arms the wooden door, pushing it open into the wet summer air, breath and anger mixing in his throat. Both upset at what’s happened and at himself for letting it affect him so.
He knows the hardest hits never come when you’re ready for them. That’s what killed Houdini, after all. Felled by a sucker punch to the gut when he wasn’t expecting it.
Just like how the scent of juniper in the in the fall coolness still reminds him of the lotion used by the first girl he ever made love to under an open sky. And how it completely disarms him to this day.
Or how a certain type of wood will glow in just a particular way when warmed to exactly the right temperature by the sun, leaving him utterly decimated in remembrance of a house that no longer exists, the special bed that was built for him there, and how good sleep was then.
As he stalks down the street, dodging the tourists, the barkers and the peddlers, he remembers all of those things, and more, now that he knows that kind of unprecedented heartache that comes from A. Schwab’s being up for sale.
It’s true. After a hundred plus years of voodoo-tinged service, the building and business that A. Schwab occupies is up for sale. But, along with that comes a stark change to the voodoo corner and the cluttered attic-cum-museum of the half story landing. Change has finally come to the unchangeable.
Reginald looked at the tumbler full of thick, green smoothie before him and sighed deeply.
Sherice called it green super-food. She said it was full of things that were good for him. Things like blended vegetables and hemp seed powder and blue-green algae.
He thought it looked like she’d skimmed it out of a drainage ditch.
She caught him hesitating and flicked his ear with a well manicured nail. “Drink up, now. Tastes better before it settles.”
Obediently he took a glug, winced and swallowed. “Why’re you doing this to me?”
“Because if your backside gets any bigger, the only place in the city you’ll be able to find pants that fit is off the wall at Schwabs.” Sherice gave him one of her sweet but deadly looks. “And that just won’t do.”
Another glug, wince and swallow. “We could just work out you know. Go for a walk. Maybe ride a bike?”
She glared at him. “But, darling, that’s like admitting you’re fat. And I won’t let those harpies at the gym see me in a leotard. Now don’t dawdle, we’ve got to lace you into that man-corset before you leave for work.”
Glug, wince, swallow.
Memphis has the lovely distinction of being both the fattest city in the nation, and the most sedentary. Which I think is nothing more than a sign our food is so good no one wants to get up from the table. Schwab’s is an old-style general store on Beale Street that’s full of kitschy things – and the biggest pants you can buy in the state.