• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 06
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Treasures of the Town

It is almost time for his meeting with the woman from the council. ‘Just a chat,’ she’d said. ‘Nothing to worry about.’ But he is not so easy to fool. He’s had the date marked on his calendar for weeks, the sight of it whenever he stepped out back to make a cup of tea, never failing to lend a fresh layer of gloom to the ever-quiet town museum.

      This afternoon, he has hung the closed sign on the door, knowing it will make little difference to the number of visitors. He’s set up a table and chairs in the main exhibition space, although he knows this Claudia, the woman from the council, will not approve. She has made it abundantly clear that she’d have preferred to meet at her office. But no, he’d insisted, if they were getting together to talk about the museum’s future, oughtn’t they to do so here, among the treasures of the town – or what she evidently sees, although she’s never quite said so, as a motley collection of curiosities.

      According to Claudia, his museum needs to move with the times, to work towards receiving official accreditation. This means following national guidelines, telling the story of the town, being ready to pare back the objects on display, objects left to his care for over half a lifetime.

      The deer skeleton is a case in point. On Claudia’s first visit, not long after she moved to the town, she’d taken the opportunity to come down and wander about, making not a word of comment on the shine of the brass plaques or the cabinets’ smear-free glass. She’d stopped when she came to the deer, displayed in its usual more conventional grazing pose, and suggested that a better place for it would be dismantled in a box in the basement.


Treasures of the Town

      His arguments that what was needed, surely then, was a different approach, something to breathe new life into the creature, had been met by a blank look. In the evening, he’d headed home with a heavy tread, his feet dragging over the twilit cobbles of his old part of town. As the hours passed, he had found himself unable to sleep, but in the middle of the night – he recalled the church clock striking two – the image had come to him of an enchanted forest, a glade sprinkled with shimmering dust. His deer sat perched atop a smooth, white rock, bathed in the glow of a full moon.

      Exhilaration then calm had come upon him, a certainty that, if only this Claudia from the council could see his vision brought to life, she would give way to his better judgement and leave his museum alone. He’d imagined an enthusiastic article in the local paper, crowds of new visitors flocking here once more. Now, though, as he surveys his weeks of toil, it is too late to do anything more except wait for her knock at the door.