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"Museum Worthy," short story excerpt

Thursday 9/8/22

Hovan and Jenkins were tending their store as they normally did, each privately wondering—though aware the other was doing so as well—what time the bleeding woman would enter and how long she’d stay.

They didn’t know her name. She came in once a day sans exception. Her visit could transpire at any time between the official start of business and ten minutes prior to closing. Hovan and Jenkins didn’t encounter her waiting outside of the store before opening in the morning, such that one of them might smile and attempt to be agreeable—familiar without presuming too much familiarity—by asking, “Been here long?” Nor did they witness her approaching when they looked through the front window just after they had closed, which they sometimes did a few minutes early.

Hovan and Jenkins had dispensed with discussing the likelihood or regularity of the woman’s visits after a certain point, because the visits were a given. Just as they had forgone their debates about why she came, because that involved speculation, which would have been fine had they not already exhausted all varieties thereof and speculation was never very fruitful anyway. You never really knew.

Previously Hovan opined that perhaps she had a bleak home or work life, and the time she spent in their store was her needed and guarded respite, while Jenkins preferred to think that she found some charm in the place, and would have stopped in to see them—not that that’s what she was really doing—no matter her circumstances, state of mind, or prospective emotional duress. That is, however happy she might be, even if that happiness knew no bounds.

Hovan and Jenkins sold a plethora of Navajo rugs of the highest quality. If they had a specialty they both would have said that that was it. They secured what acclaim they did because of those Navajo rugs—far more acclaim than they garnered for keeping the same business running that had been in operation since the 1850s, and in its original space, no less. There were worse things to be known for, and maybe not a lot that were better, given the unsurpassable quality of the Navajo rugs. They were museum worthy, a term Hovan and Jenkins used with regularity, just as they preferred emporium to store, but it was the Navajo rugs that made the word “emporium” work as well as it did—gave it a certain congruity—with their establishment. They also had fiberglass canoes, for example, but that kind of canoe could have been found in any sporting goods chain, while no one else sold the Navajo rugs that one could buy—though they were expensive—at the store, or emporium, which itself went by the name of Hovan and Jenkins.

People were more likely to hang the rugs on their walls than put them on the floor to be trod upon, as if that might be their undoing, rather than a portion of their purpose. Some customers even had them framed. They were the genuine artifacts, not knock-offs like other stores stocked. A single Native American artist created all of the rugs and also some blankets. The customers talked about these wares that were more than wares, agreeing that they were indeed museum worthy in the extreme, and had become the pride of their home. They were so much more than decorations, which could be an offensively limiting term, when you thought about it. They didn’t know what to call them. Maybe art would do, even though they were rugs, but what’s a rug, anyway, save something that helps a person be a little better at not slipping in their stocking feet?

The woman who came in every day was always well put together. She wasn’t homeless, she wasn’t in rags, and there were no bandages on her body, which ordinarily wouldn’t be something an observer would notice or single out, but Hovan and Jenkins had talked often about her absence of bandages because of the bleeding the woman was always doing when they saw her. She couldn’t have been bleeding all of the time, of course. No one can bleed all of the time, unless it’s a very small amount, and probably not even then, but both Hovan and Jenkins were unsure whether or not if only a few drops were perpetually leaking out you could live all the same, though with less exertion and some help. Iron supplements, conceivably. Or zinc would also likely be useful.

Once Hovan had asked Jenkins, “What would you rather have? Twenty dollars every day from someone for a month, or a dime on the first day, and then it doubles every day for that same month?”

“The dime gives you a better chance,” Jenkins answered.

“That’s a strange way of putting it,” Hovan said.

“All you ever want is a chance,” Jenkins concluded, and with that Hovan agreed.

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