Chapter 5 – Lucky Stars
After a good hour or so of training, Lucas had explained almost everything he thought Tom needed to know to make a great hot dog salesman. By that time, the museum had opened, and Tom remembered that he had initially come down here to take a look at the museum before keeping guard tonight. Something that he had forgotten in the excitement of having gotten a job and found a place to stay when his family moved on.
“Sure,” Lucas said. “Feel free to take a look around. Things won’t really pick up here till about 11:30. I’ll be fine till then.”
Tom wandered off into the museum and mosied around for a good forty-five minutes. He didn’t stop to look at the exhibits. He was mostly focused on the bigger picture of getting the lay of the land and understanding how each section of the museum was laid out.
He started off by studying a map at the main entrance and then doing a quick walkthrough to see how it actually looked from the inside. He paused at the end of each exhibit while he studied the map once more. By time he made the rounds and arrived back at the beginning of the museum, Tom felt he had mastered the nuances of the floor plan and could run through it without getting lost or turned around.
“Is everything okay there, sir?” a large, burly guard asked.
Tom thought he sounded somewhat suspicious and jumped when he heard the man’s voice.
“What? Sorry. I’m…” Tom stammered.
“Can I help you find something specific?” the guard asked.
“Oh, no. Sorry. You just spooked me. I was concentrated here. No. I’m helping out the hot dog guy out front, and he gave me a break. So, I’m just getting an overview of the museum now. That way I can come back later and focus on the most interesting exhibits. I mean they’re all interesting, but I mean the ones that grab my attention.”
Tom realized that he would sound even more suspicious and stupid the longer he stood there stammering like that. So, he decided to change tactics and ask a question to let the guard talk.
“What’s the most interesting exhibit around here?” he asked the guard.
“You mean which one do I like? Or which exhibit do people spend the most time on?”
Tom shrugged. “Both. I’ll have to check them both out.”
“Hmm. It’s a good question. I notice most people tend to concentrate down that wing.”
“Let me guess. The Chinese firearms. That’s always been a member favorite. It’s gained a lot of attention recently. And also the new Egyptian mummy that came in last week.” the guard said with a shake of his head.
“You don’t like it? Art asked.
The guard shook his head. “I don’t like being around the dead. Especially, not with the legends that surround it. I’ve heard noises around here at night. I’m sure there are ghosts.”
Tom wanted to roll his eyes and snicker but refrained. He had read about the legend of the mummy on one of the fliers he had received at the door. But it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. Tom didn’t imagine it would take much to scare this superstitious old man.
“What about you though?” Tom asked trying to change the topic. “You haven’t told me which one you like personally.”
Tom looked up into the man’s face because the guard was at least three inches taller than him. The guard’s face softened as he twisted to point down in the opposite direction.
“The Empyrean chamber. It’s a small room down that way that most people miss or just don’t pay much attention to. The crowd usually heads off in that direction, and by time they circle back around to the Empyrean chamber they are too tired to check it out.”
“What do you like about it?” Tom asked.
“It’s local history. Made right here in Walden. Maybe that’s why people pass it over. They come here to see something foreign and exotic. You know how it is. But back in their homeland, these aren’t any more special than our own history and art.” the burly guard said as his face glowed with pride.
“So, what’s in this Empyrean Chamber?” Tom asked.
The guard looked around over his shoulder before leaning in closer and answering quietly in a hushed voice, “It’s our own Area 51.”
Tom wanted to roll his eyes again. Next time, he would make sure to get advice about which exhibits to see from someone who wasn’t a crazy, old nutcase like this.
“Yep, it started back when I was just a kid. We always had tales of strange creatures and beings roaming around these parts. And it all came to a head back twelve years ago. The city was overrun with at least fifty alien children. The ones they picked up and were accounted for. They say it happened in other cities as well.”
The part about kids getting picked up twelve years ago caught Tom’s attention. But he discarded the man’s theory behind it. Seriously, who believed in that kind of stuff anyway nowadays. Surely there had to be a logical explanation for it. The old guard looked like he was getting ready to go into a long, boring spiel about the events that Tom probably didn’t want to hear, and it already 11:30.
“Hey, I need to get back out there to help Lucas with lunch. I don’t want to be fired for showing up late my first day.” Tom interrupted him.
The guard had just taken a deep breath to launch into his speech when Tom cut him off. The old guard let it back out slowly with a loud sigh. His face looked crestfallen.
“You’re just like all the rest of them. You don’t care about our local history here either.”
Tom felt terrible for letting the old man down.
“Say, why don’t you come out and grab a hot dog later on. The first one is on me. Then you can give me the low down on what you think happened that night. Okay.”
Tom figured he would regret the inviting the old man out there. He would probably get his ear chewed off before the afternoon was over. But it did seem to cheer the guard up.
He looked down at the floorplan of the museum once more on his map and then glanced down the hall in the direction the guard had indicated. Tom trotted back out the front door of the lobby and into the bright sunlight.
It looked like he had shown up at just the right time to make Lucas realize how much help he could be. The hot dog cart was getting slammed. There were at least twenty people lined up for hot dogs.
Tom trotted down the steps and passed between the two massive fountains of flowing water on each side. He could see the relief flood Lucas’ face when Tom showed up. Neither said a word. Tom just jumped right in and started taking orders at the other end of the hot dog cart.
They didn’t have much time to talk after that till almost two p.m. Tom finally sighed with relief when things seemed to slow down.
“What was that? Is it always like this?” Tom gasped.
Lucas grinned. “That was a good day, my friend. It’s not normally like that. It must be because of the new Egyptian mummy everyone wants to see. It’s been bringing the people out in droves.”
“I guess,” Tom muttered. “If that were a good day, I’d hate to see a bad day.”
“Bad days are boring,” Lucas said. “I much prefer the busy days like this. Besides, we’ve sold almost everything and made more than I expected. Let’s wrap up and head on home.”
“What? It’s not even two yet. You should stay and sell more hot dogs,” Tom said in exasperation. “We’re on a roll here.”
Lucas chuckled and shook his head.
“Nope. I enjoy my free time. I just want enough to pay my bills. I’m a happy man. I don’t need a lot of money. There will be more of it tomorrow.” Lucas said as he started to close down the hot dog cart.
Tom just shook his head and kept on serving the rest of the hot dogs to those who came over to the cart. He didn’t understand this Lucas guy. Once he learned the ropes and Lucas gave him his own hot dog cart to run, he would stay out here selling hot dogs as long as there were customers to buy them.
Lucas waited until Tom had served the last hot dog before taking the umbrella down. Then he peeled off several bills and slapped them on the cart in front of Tom.
“What’s this?” Tom asked curiously.
“Your wages for the day,” Lucas replied.
Tom’s eyes bulged, and his finger shook as he picked up the money.
“It’s fifty dollars,” he stammered. “I didn’t even work three full hours.”
Lucas grinned and deepened his voice while saying, “You deserve it, son. I liked your hustle. Keep it up, and there will be a lot more where that came from,” in his best Italian accent.
“Thanks,” Tom said, his face beaming with a huge grin.
He shoved the fifty dollars deep into his pocket and wondered what he should buy with it first. Immediately he chided himself mentally for spending any of it. He would find a safe place to store it in his bedroom and save every penny he made until Marshmallow and Pops decided it was time to pull up and leave town again.
Only this time, he wouldn’t go with them. He would use the money to support himself, and that meant saving it for a rainy day. And knowing his family the way he did, he figured it would come sooner than later.
Continue Reading Chapter 6 – Cryptic Creeps >>>