I’m sure my two different stories from the Easthope and area local history Museum, known as the Umbrella museum because it’s situated in what was an old nineteenth century umbrella factory, will come together at some point and make something longer, maybe a novel… Maybe I could use these ideas for Nanowrimo – the national Novel Writing Challenge this year. (it’s an online challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November)

The first strand of story is total fiction, a youngish man, David, becomes friendly with someone sharing his house who works at the museum; the curator, Malcolm, is  rather eccentric and David and the other house-mates are intrigued by him.

The second strand is totally different but also involves someone who works at the museum, Darius; Darius is happily married with three young children and he doesn’t realise that certain members of a book-club who meet in one of the public areas of the museum by the little café are fascinated by him – he’s young, virile, good-looking, and some of the ladies of a certain age always have an eye on him. he would be embarrassed if he knew!

This is the next part of the Malcolm story-line… but it may need quite a bit of rewriting!

A visit to the museum

After that it seemed that I bumped into Malcolm more frequently, and I actually began to wonder if he coincided coming out of his room when he heard me on the landing. We exchanged the usual sort of ‘all right, mate?’ ‘glad that rain’s stopped’ sort of pleasantries which made me feel like my granddad – I’d be talking about pruning the roses or the price of petrol next!

Then one day for no reason – or maybe I actually thought that maybe he was a bit lonely, I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee – I’d had an excruciatingly tedious day at work and needed caffeine. I wanted to dump my things and go straight back downstairs again for coffee then maybe a beer and chill with the others.

He thanked me as if I’d offered him something much more exciting – what a dull life he must lead. I said did he want to come down, or… but he said, yes, he’d come down… and so the pair of us went downstairs. I made coffee for everyone who was home, mentally thanking our landlord for the dishwasher as I found mugs. Coffee made and distributed, I slumped onto the settee, and he perched on the edge and I could see that the others wanted to make some crack, but restrained themselves. They restrained themselves until he finished his coffee and thanked me and went back to his room.

“Your new best friend, Dave!” Adam said and we had a laugh then turned on the telly to watch the footie while we decided which pizza to get from Domino’s.

***

 I suppose you might call it a quirk of fate – well you might, but actually I wouldn’t… it’s one of the things granddad would be more likely to say in one of his old stories… I’ve heard them all so often I could almost join in with the telling, but I never mind, he’s my granddad and that’s what granddad’s are for… anyway, quirk of fate or whatever, my boss asked me to drop something off at the local history museum, as it was ‘on my way home’. Well, actually, no it wasn’t.

I did think about just giving it to Malcolm when I saw him later, but no, the boss wanted it there tonight. I said the museum wouldn’t be open, but yes it would; his cousin was giving a talk on the buffalo of the Great Plains, and it was his cousin I had to deliver the package to.

I thought it would be mean not to say hello to my new friend Malcolm. I handed the big buff envelope to the boss’s cousin who  looked nothing like him, especially as he was actually dressed as a Native American, complete with  war paint. He asked me if i would stay for the talk, but regretfully I had a prior appointment… I didn’t say it was an appointment with the quiz team in the Lark.  I asked a museum person where I might find Malcolm and he directed me to the ‘stores’ where Malcolm was getting out the artefacts.

I was about to knock on the door when it flung open as I had my hand still up in the air. Malcolm looked astonished to see me.

“David! Thank goodness! I don’t l know what to do!”

He dragged me into the store-room. I was rather overwhelmed by the amount of objects in piles, in heaps, on tables, under tables, dusty and seemingly neglected, but he pulled me through a short passageway into a back room, more ‘artefacts’, probably junk to my ignorant eye, presided over by the sadly benign head of a buffalo, yes an actual buffalo – or is it a bison?

It was huge, absolutely massive, and a sort of grey colour… It was obviously dust, but in my imagination it was not just the musty motes from the museum store-room, but from the prairies of the Wild West.

It somehow didn’t look real, rather fluffy, its glass eyes dull… they needed polishing, but wouldn’t it be rather creepy, polishing a bison’s eyes, or is it a buffalo. I remember we did a project in history about the American west and all the things which could be made from the buffalo…

But my meandering thoughts about buffaloes and bison came to an abrupt and shocking full stop as I saw what Malcolm was pointing at. He had grabbed my arm and I could feel him trembling and was pointing with his other hand…

“It’s Margaret!” he exclaimed, a catch in his voice.

I’d never know what she looked like, no-one would ever see her face again. I’d not noticed her, transfixed by the dusty bison; she lay to the side of the room, what appeared to be a tomahawk in her hand, but her head, well, her head or what was left of it was beneath a squat but massive totem pole, and a rather nasty puddle of something pooled beneath her.

“Good grief…” I said.

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