Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Heart in the Freezer of a Provision Shop

At the end of the street, where the road curved upon itself to form a U-turn, there stood a small, dingy provision shop. The shop was staffed only by its owner, a man entering his middle age, and whom was known only as "Uncle" or "Shopkeeper". The shopkeeper was a man of few words and fewer emotions, and this aloof demeanor served as a ward to keep the otherwise unruly children of the neighborhood away.

I often visited the provision shop, as it was the nearest to where I lived. The trips there were short affairs often made shorter by the clinical and businesslike manner of the provision shop owner. Items were gathered, prices tallied, and change given. Very often, the only words exchanged were the names of the desired provisions, and the total cost of the purchases.

Only once did I manage have something resembling a conversation with him. I remember that it was a warm day in April, where the air was humid and clinging. I gave up trying to fight the stale and uncomfortable atmosphere that seemed to linger in my apartment, and left it to seek for cooler refuge, namely the new cafe up the street which had the boon of air conditioning. Still, the pilgrimage was of some distance, and the heat got to me the instant I made a step outdoors. I made a stopover at the provision shop to buy something cool to relieve the heat.

By coincidence, the ice cream freezer in the front of the shop was empty. It was only a moment later that I realized that the freezer was silent - it had probably malfunctioned, and its contents moved elsewhere. The shopkeeper, seemingly having read my intentions, wordlessly directed me to the back of the shop, where a larger freezer was located. He then left me to make my own selections.

This freezer was probably meant for storing provisions in reserve and not for display, as the freezer doors were thick and opaque rather than being glass paneled. Without a clear view of where the ice cream was stored in the freezer, I had to rummage blindly amongst the contents of the freezer. I could have asked, of course, but the downside of spending more time looking was more than displaced by the relief provided by the cool draft of chilly air from the freezer.

It was then that I noticed, in the back of the freezer, a large block of ice encasing a dull, reddish lump. I wanted to bring the ice block closer for a better look, but the shopkeeper immediately appeared behind me, and intoned,"That would be my frozen heart."

And he told me a tale, a tale of a young man and his childhood sweetheart. Times were bad, and the young man left his hometown to seek work. Promises of eternity were made amidst tears of temporary parting.

Everything else faded, but Time, cruelly, did not dull the feelings of the young man.

One day, a single letter, hesitantly written, was delivered to the mailbox of the man. On that same day, the man cut out his heart, and froze it within the recesses of his freezer.

I was so taken aback by the shopkeeper's tale that I had absentmindedly left the freezer door open, though, somehow, the chilly draft matched the atmosphere of his tale perfectly. I was expecting more of his tale, but it had ended as abruptly as it had started.

"Please shut the freezer door. The warm air might thaw the contents, and lead to spoiling."

I shut the freezer door, while the shopkeeper left and headed for his usual position at the counter. As he moved away, I managed to catch one final line from the reticent man.

"But things frozen will still spoil, as the freezing merely slows the decay..."


Benedict said...

Good story. From where did inspiration visit?

The Negative Man said...

I had some ideas, and thought of some interesting conclusions to those ideas.

In other words, I thought "Hey, a story about a heart in a freezer would be cool.", and then proceeded to think how this could be used to write a story.