The Toy ShoppebyCordelia Speedicut©
The Toy Shoppe - A Midwinter's Tale
The letter seemed like a lifesaver. It was from my great-uncle Cyril, and it was the real thing, complete with ornate calligraphy (fancy handwriting for those of you who haven't got any snail-mail recently). He was Grandma's brother, and a bit of a black sheep, truth to tell. He was always turning up in odd places with goofy schemes. The family considered him loopy, but they liked him well enough, preferably far away. I'd only met him a few times, but I thought he was cool, if a bit eccentric. Now it seemed that he had recently bought a toy shop, in Victoria of all places; and did I want to come help with the Christmas rush?
Boy, did I ever – anything to get out of the little Kansas town I'd grown up in. It was a snowy mid-November and I'd been working as a waitress at that crummy coffee shop on Commercial Street for over four months. Ever since I graduated, in fact. It had been years since the last time I'd seen Uncle Cyril, so the letter was absolutely out of the blue. It was my ticket out into the wide world. Literally – there was bus and ferry fare tucked into the big envelope.
I was on a Greyhound bound for the Pacific Northwest in no time, with my lap full of maps. Having never been out of the county, even two days on the road didn't dampen my enthusiasm. By lunchtime on the third day I was getting off of a real ship, suitcase in hand, to explore a genuine foreign city. It was a sunny day (I hadn't seen any snow since I'd hit the coast), and warm enough that I didn't even need my coat. God, there were even a few flowers blooming. Uncle's shop, he'd written, was just off Shanghai Alley, near Chinatown. It had sounded perfectly quaint in the letter, but I got several strange looks when I asked for directions.
Soon I found myself on a quiet street lined with old brick buildings, near the docks. There were few stores, and fewer people. Lost, I approached a woman leaning on a lamppost to ask for directions. On the basis of her pose and her clothing - which consisted of fishnet stockings, a tube top and a wide belt that doubled as her skirt - I suspected that she was what, back home, they would have called a 'lady of the night' (Not that I was aware that we actually had any, of course.) And, given the hour, this woman was technically working the day shift.
Whatever, she looked friendly enough, and so I her asked if she knew whether "Ye Olde Toy Shoppe" was nearby. After looking my sensible Midwest wardrobe up and down, she smiled and answered, "Just around that corner – halfway up the street on your left. Hope they've got what you're after."
I continued on, regretting my choice in travelling clothes. Blue check pinafores and saddle-top shoes didn't seem to blend in around here. Luckily, back in Seattle I had combed out my pigtails, but still.
The street in question was even quieter than the last – there was no one around at all, now. When a bus came booming around the corner, it nearly scared the life out of me. I was so rattled that the next thing I knew, I was up the road staring down a barely noticeable narrow gap between two brick buildings – Shanghai Alley. Peering into the gloom, I wondered why on earth anybody would put a toy shop, or anything else, down there. Still, I'd been three days getting this far, so I plunged onward.
The alley was really just a footpath; so narrow I could nearly touch both grimy walls at once. After a ways, it widened slightly. There were now tiny shops on both sides, and it was very clear I wasn't in Kansas any more. For example, the tattoo shop to my right. On a stool in the doorway sat the young proprietor. He was reading a book and, shirt off, advertising his wares: he was covered with dragons and ships and pirates and maidens. Actually, I decided, unless he was amazingly flexible he was advertising for his competitor. Like when you pick a barber - you shouldn't pick the one that looks the best, because you'll be wanting the barber he used.
At any rate, this guy was well decorated. Extremely well, actually. What I'd taken for colourful trousers - weren't. He reminded me of a circus sideshow I'd seen as a little girl. Except that guy had worn shorts, whereas at close range it was clear that this one did not. While I had never actually seen a penis before, I was fairly certain that they did not ordinarily have green scales and bright red eyes. I was shocked, but even so the thought struck me that that must have really, really hurt.
The man glanced up from his book, eye contact was made, and he solemnly winked. I blushed to my toes, and dropped my eyes downward – which only brought his lap back into view. The trouser snake, which was draped across his left thigh, trembled slightly and gently lifted its head as though it, too, planned to give me a wink. Mortified, I tore my eyes away and looked back up. He was already reading his book again, and whistling something that sounded very much like "Follow the Yellow Brick Road". Right - time to move on. I wished yet again that I had not worn gingham.
With one last peek at his growing green willie, I turned away. It's kind of funny, I thought. The first penis I've ever seen, and it's probably the most decorated I maybe ever will see.
Across the way was a full-service hemp shop. Not only coarse brown clothing hung in the window, but the stuff my guidance councillors used to call 'paraphernalia', and, to my surprise, the dried herb itself. There were more people around by now, not just the illustrated tattoo guy, but also other folks. Well, they weren't just folks, exactly. There was an old man on a red unicycle, and some Rasta twins, all bound for the head shop. Plus a head-banging rocker type coming out of a hole-in-the-wall used record store, and some cute navy boys in full shore-leave sailor suits.
I continued on, past a sword-and-sorcery shop, which was kind of interesting. My hometown has three gun stores, but nowhere to buy a throwing axe. Inside, the clerk was dressed like Xena – in spite of being a guy. Next along was a magic shop, with a notice in the window ominously stating: 'Only Open Dusk to Dawn'. Then the alley turned and narrowed again, so much so I had to press myself sideways against the wall to let a guy get past me. He had an eye-patch and a scar on his cheek, and he looked like a pirate, complete with a big red sash around his waist. He only needed a parrot.
I kept moving - just ahead a painted door and window were let into the brickwork. This being the last shop along the alley, I stepped inside. No Uncle Cyril here, either. It was a Chinese herbal shop, in what looked like a converted opium den (not to say I'd ever seen one). The place was all cluttered up with creepy dried things in glass jars, and clay pots sealed with wax and string, and – Jesus, I thought, is that a stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling?
The signs on the walls were all in Chinese lettering, and I expected a hundred-year-old oriental guy behind the counter, too. There wasn't. Instead, there was a pretty young girl, about the same age as me – but at least she was Chinese. I asked my question.
"Ye Olde Toy Shoppe?" The girl's English accent seemed to enunciate the silent extra letters. "Oh, yes. It is in a passageway on your left, at the far end of the courtyard."
So I doubled back, planning to sneak another peek at that tattooed guy's cock on the way past. No luck with that, on account of there was now a pretty blond girl sitting astride his lap, with her back to his colourful chest and her hands on his knees. She was wearing a tight white bodysuit with a fancy lace collar.
Except, when I got closer, she leaned right back and put an arm behind tattoo-guy's head – and then I could see from her taut nipples and her belly button that I had been wrong about the bodysuit. The lace collar and cuffs were simply painted on her shockingly pale flesh. Even her areolas only showed as faint smudges on her white breasts.
She was squirming around in a way that suggested serious hanky-panky was going on underneath her. The two of them obviously didn't care who knew about it, either. I joined the sailors to watch in slack-jawed silence. When she noticed me, she looked startled, then tilted her head onto her shoulder and stared at me like she was sizing me up. Geez - I couldn't imagine why these people thought I stood out. Finally she relaxed and smiled, and slowly lifted her bottom. This served to expose her bald mound and, gradually, the fat green serpent that had been hidden inside of her. It was much bigger than when I had seen it last.
I was clearly in a seriously weird place. These people were doing it right out in the street – well, out in the alley, anyway. Resuming my quest, I turned away and hustled past the mesmerized sailors (OK, I shuffled off after I had taken in a proper eyeful). Only a little further along, in a dark alcove, I saw a sign. A sandwich board, actually, which read: "Ye Olde Toy Shoppe - this way". Underneath, a painted hand pointed down a low-arched side passage. Not far in, this pathway abruptly dropped down a flight of stone stairs. There was an eerie reddish glow coming from below. Great. Just great, I thought.
Again, I forced my feet to carry me forward. At the bottom was a brick-walled hall, more a grotto, really, which held exactly one store – a toy store. At last! The cave-like room was warmly lit by a myriad of red and green lights that surrounded the shop's long, low front window. Like in a Dickens story, the window had those little diamond panes, only with fake snow painted on. I peeked inside.
In some ways, it looked a lot like the Christmas display in the front window of Bill's Department Store, back home. There were sprigs of plastic holly, billowing drifts of cotton batting snow and a toy train. There were even the little elves hauling ribbon-wrapped presents, although these ones looked suspiciously like painted plaster garden gnomes wearing toques.
On the other hand - where shall I start? You will of course have guessed what kind of toys were in the little wheelbarrows, but it was news to me. Even with the goings-on I had just seen, I still had this fixed idea in my head from when I'd first read dear old Great-Uncle Cyril's letter – you know, a Santa's workshop sort of thing. "Gawd!" I blurted. There were piles of stuff, and I didn't even know what some of it was, but I was blushing on the strength of what I did recognize.
In the middle was a display of phallic objects – dildos, that is – all laid out symmetrically in a big arrowhead pattern: little ones in the middle, then bigger and bigger to the sides, like those Air Force pictures you see of a jet with all its missiles spread on the ground on either side. Some were flesh coloured, both pink and black; others were green or red or icy crystal or silver (to go with the Christmas theme). The biggest ones definitely looked like rockets.
Over to one side was a collection of less sleek variations on the same theme. These objects were still basically dick-like, but they all seemed to sport attachments, or protruding knobs and fingers. They stood propped on their bases, a tiny Stonehenge of twaddlers, surrounded by billows of cotton snow. Framing them were short strings of fat, colourful beads, each string with a big ring on one end. They looked innocent enough, but the company they kept suggested otherwise.
On the other side, an 'elf' with a rake stood amongst a mound of colourful lotions and lubricants. Nearby, some boxes were labelled 'Erector Set' and others 'Jessica Rabbit' – but the pictures on the fronts weren't near what I expected. Also there was a selection of 'Barbie' dolls. Except – they were called 'Lili' dolls, nearly the same but distinctly Germanic, and wearing tiny black corsets and fishnet stockings. There were also some life-sized mannequins alongside showing off adult versions of the same thing, plus other clothes made mostly of leather, vinyl, and/or feathers.
And then there was the train that chugged around it all. The locomotive was black, all right, but ... it too was shaped like a penis. It circled around and around, and each time it disappeared into a tunnel that was a plaster hill shaped like two spread thighs and ... "Gawd!" I repeated.
In one corner watching over everything sat an inflatable girl, wearing only a candy-striped toque and scarf. She was anatomically correct and I suspected she wasn't just for use in the pool. Curled in her lap was a fluffy tiger-striped kitten, which startled me by stretching and yawning.
A little bell tinkled over the door when I stepped inside. At the back of the shop, a girl stood waiting behind the counter. She looked about my age, and she was shockingly beautiful. I mean, I literally gasped. This girl had the face of an angel, for a start, with big, shining eyes. She was tall and broad shouldered, and she had curves - more Marilyn than Rita, as my dad had said once about a woman at the mall. (I'd had to ask him what he was talking about, and after looking around to make sure my mother was out of sight, he'd told me that those were the names of pin-up girls, back in the olden days – sort of like those desktops for guys, now. He had meant soft, and voluptuous – although the latter was not a word he ever used in front of me.)
On the other hand, I could tell this girl had muscles, too. Not like she lifted weights, just that she was solid – like those Olympic swimmers on TV. She was lit from behind, and it made her pale skin glow. In contrast, her spiky short-cut hair was glossy black, and her full lips were painted a deep red. She was wearing a red bustiere, tight green hot pants, and black boots that laced up above her knees - all presumably to go with the elf/gnome theme.
And, most particularly, when she came around from behind the counter I saw that she had great folded wings tattooed up her back, across her shoulders and down the backs of her arms. Raven black on her pale skin, they were extraordinary - so detailed that I felt as though I could reach out and touch feathers.
The whole effect was just a little unsettling. A few of the girls back in my old high school had done the Goth thing, but by comparison this girl, even without the attitude, made them look like Anne of Green Gables.
Or Dorothy. "Whoa! Did ya bring Toto?" she exclaimed, and then, without further greeting, she laughed heartily and swept me into her arms. I received a huge hug, like we were long lost friends, and then a kiss full on the mouth. Finally she gave me a chance to catch my breath, and while holding me at arms length she did the introductions. "You'll be Jane, and I'm Joy. Cyril said you'd be here any day now."
She parked me on an old sofa that sat against the back wall, and then popped out of sight down a back hall. "Your uncle told me all about you," she called out. "He thought you'd be great for this place."
"You were always his favourite relative." Emerging back in view, she added, "Isn't that nice? Here - you must be parched!" She bounced down on the couch beside me and thrust a bottle into my hand. "Drink up!"
Dazzled, I did as I was told. It was water – cool and cleansing. Joy was right. I was thirsty. As I tipped back the bottle, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.
"I've been working here for a couple of weeks now, keeping this place going until you got here. What do you think?" Joy swept a feather-decorated arm around to indicate the shop.
Actually, I had barely noticed anything else besides Joy. Now I focussed on the rest of my surroundings and realized that I was in a space that more resembled a living room than a store. There were shelves of goods, for sure, with more stuff like what I'd seen in the window; plus there was an old fashioned till on the counter. But there was also a second couch like the one I sat on, and some comfy chairs. They were all covered with plush throws, and set out around a big rag rug. A coffee table in the middle held a pot of just that, plus some books and magazines. A wooden fan spun lazily overhead. The room had a cozy, lived-in look.
"Cyril couldn't be here, so he asked me to welcome you to his home – your new home. There's a suite upstairs and a little kitchen just through there," Joy said, nodding to the back hall. "Groovy, eh?"
It was nice ('groovy was not a word I had ever expected to hear in the real world). "Uh, yes," I agreed, while trying to decide which question to ask first. I went with something easy: "Do you work here?"
"Sure – well, more a sort of faithful customer, like. I've just been helping out until you got here."
I felt a sudden pang at the thought of this lovely creature going away. "Are you leaving, then?"
"Nope, not yet – got to get you settled in, first." Her smiled widened. "You're probably beat. Like a massage? I'm pretty good at it"
Well, I wasn't a bit tired anymore, but I was achy. Overwhelmed at the pace of developments, I nodded agreement. "Yes, please."
"Lay down right here. I'll get some oil, while you get out of that ..." - there was a tiny pause, while Joy apparently suppressed another wise-crack – "dress." She stood and rummaged through a nearby selection of massage oils.
Meanwhile I began to unbutton my pinafore. In the space of two minutes, I thought, this stranger has me taking my clothes off. What next? I soon found out.
Holding an amber bottle triumphantly, Joy turned and grinned. "Best you take off that bra for this, and I think the panties can go, too. You definitely won't need the shoes and knee socks, either."
My first response was to cringe, just a tiny bit. I'd never even stripped in the locker room back at school, if I could avoid it. Somehow, though, it seemed perfectly reasonable here, and slowly I began to remove the rest of my sensible cotton defences. Off came the bra, and my breasts sprang out free and high, my nipples tightening in the breeze from the fan. My skin was so sensitive I could feel the warm air caress me, everywhere.
This was getting easier. Shoes and socks went next, and good riddance. Suddenly they were nothing but a barrier to sensation. When I had shed them, I rubbed the smooth tingling skin on my shins and wriggled my toes on the thick rug in pleasure. Much better!
As I exposed myself, I admired my body. I found myself revelling in its mechanical perfection in a way I never, ever had before. I had always envied the skinny girls, but now my full breasts and hips revealed themselves to be appealingly rubenesque. Damn, I look pretty good! I swung my thick long hair to flow over my shoulders and saw it wasn't just brown, but a sultry auburn. And those annoying freckles – I examined my face in the nearby mirror. Yup. Still there. But I'd never realized just how sexy that dusting of colour across the bridge of my nose looked.
I was definitely light-headed, now. "What was in that drink you gave me?"
"Just bubbles, I think – it was Perrier. Nice tits."
Instead of bristling at this crude, guy-type compliment, I simply nodded, acknowledging my dues. And, rather than hunching out of my underpants, as I normally did, I stood and drew down the top with my thumbs. Wiggling my hips, I slid the scrunched cotton down to my ankles, then straightened and tossed them away with a toe. It was an erotic display, if I do say so (in spite of my utilitarian drawers), and I did it without a second thought. Not only that, but when I had stripped to the skin, I honest–to-God stretched, languorously, while rubbing the fine down that decorated my mound. I may have been a virgin, but in the wee small hours of the night I had occasionally polished the pearl (as my brother called it), and so I recognized the tingling buzz building between my legs. I wouldn't have been caught dead doing anything like this a week ago. Now, though, it just felt natural.