The Curio Shop On The Corner

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Louisiana 1924 – Livingston County

The Village of Albany – Population 396

Main Street consisted of a barber shop, a general store, two boarding houses, a saloon, and on the corner, a curio shop with a fully articulated skeleton hanging in the front window.

The only time people came to Albany was if they had relatives there, or if they went to the curio shop. The owner and curator of the shop, Mr. Li Wei, was a wrinkled old man with a long thin white beard and piercing blue eyes.

He walked with the aid of a long wooden staff that had intricate carvings on it. He looked out-of-place wearing a plain black suit, white shirt, and red bow tie. A photo of him in full Mandarin dress when he was a young man hung over a display of shrunken heads and poison arrow tips.

In the course of Mr. Li Wei’s years of travel he acquired curiosities from all over the world. From Memento Mori Dolls to an ornate Tibetan Human Kapala, Mr. Li Wei collected oddities that went from the macabre to the ugly.

There were worn out old movie props and rows of apothecary jars holding strange herbs and roots in glass cases. Trick boxes made from bamboo sat alongside intricate pieces of carved ivory in the front display case.

Mr. Li Wei also had a dark secret.

He provided protection for werewolves by locking them up in his cellar on nights when there was going to be a full moon. It started with his son, Niu, then his werewolf friends in Livingston County began showing up too.

On some full moons he had as many as four werewolves locked up in chains and snarling at one another until dawn. In the morning he’d unlock the chains of the sleeping men.

The good news for Livingston County was that ever since Mr. Li Wei opened his curio shop unsolved murders went down to zero. For thirty years there was no talk about loup-garou’s in Livingston County, unlike the other counties surrounding it.

Who knows how many more years that arrangement could have gone on if not for the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan?

One afternoon a Kluxer saw a black man enter the curio store. The problem with that was the curio store was considered to be on the white side of town. Blacks were not allowed to be there.

The Kluxer, sensing some fun, got out of his chair and ran over to the saloon. Minutes later six rowdy drunken men showed up at the curio shop. Their leader went in first and moved Mr. Li Wei aside as he looked for the black man. He wasn’t there!

Where’s that nigger?” the Kluxer shouted.

“Not here anymore. Go away,” Mr. Li Wei calmly replied.

“Are you screwing with me chink?” 

“No screw. Li, no know. Man leave.”

The others outside grew restless when they saw there wasn’t going to be any action.

“Niggers are not allowed on this street! You know that.”

“That what Li said. So man go.”

As the Kluxer walked out the door he couldn’t help but feel the old man was hiding something. How could that “darkie” get away so fast he wondered?

The next night the curious Kluxer, Billy Ray Nedhem, decided to stake out the curio shop instead of going out hunting with his friends.

It’s going to be full moon tonight Billy Ray! C’mon!”

“Naw…you old boys go without me. I’m feeling a bit peckish.”

From Billy Ray’s position on the second floor bedroom in the boarding house he was able to see the curio shop clearly. Hours slipped by as Billy Ray tried not to nod off when he saw a man appear at the curio shop door.

Instantly alert, he watched the man enter. He was white. He kept watching and another man showed up. He was black! Then another white man went in. It was enough for Billy Ray who grabbed his hunting rifle and run downstairs.

Two of his Kluxer brothers were playing checkers in the front parlor.

“Grab your shootin irons!” Billy Ray shouted. “Follow me!”

When the three men burst through the door Li Wei was sitting in a wicker rocking chair puffing on a long whalebone pipe. His eyes lit up when Billy ray pointed his rifle at him.

“That does it you sneaky chink! Where are you hiding them? I seen ’em come in here with my own eyes.” 

Mr. Li Wei looked over at a bright red oriental rug in the corner. He knew Billy Ray had been watching him. So he didn’t chain the werewolves in the cellar up. The moon was full when he pointed at the rug and said, “Trap door.”

Billy Ray grabbed the rug and threw it aside. Grinning he opened it and charged down the steps with his buddies behind him. Mr. Li Wei quickly closed the door and put the rug back over it.

He could barely hear their screams.

As It Stands, some things are best left alone.

 

Author: Dave Stancliff

Retired newspaper editor/publisher, Vietnam veteran, freelance writer, blogger, married 43 years with three sons and five grandchildren.

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