The Collector of all Things Uncollectible By Ivanka Fear

“The Collector of all Things Uncollectible” By Ivanka Fear

Ivanka Fear, author of “The Collector of all Things Uncollectible”, is a Slovenian born writer and former teacher, residing in Canada. She writes poetry, short fiction, and novels. Ivanka earned her B.A. and B.Ed., majoring in English and French literature, from Western University. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., including Spadina Literary Review, October Hill Magazine, Black Moon Magazine, Last Leaves Literary, Orchards Poetry, and Blank Spaces.

*****

“Do you wanna go for a drink after you close?”

Being reserved, I didn’t date anyone I hadn’t met through mutual acquaintances. Although Scott had been frequenting the library for weeks, I wouldn’t say that I knew him.

“Thanks, but I don’t drink.”

Keep it polite.

“How about a coffee, then?”

“I don’t drink coffee either. I’m into herbal teas.”

Too much information.

“Really? Me, too. Why don’t we go to my place and you can check out my selection?”

Well, that’s a line I haven’t heard before.  There is no way I am going to this guy’s place on the pretext of seeing his tea.

At 9 p.m. the library officially closed. Only two of us were working that evening in the small branch. Kim did a final walk through the building, turning off computers and checking aisles and exit doors. I shut down the main system and told Scott he needed to leave so we could finish closing.

After work, Kim headed to the parking lot and I began the ten minute trek to my apartment building. A car on the side of the road flashed its headlights and a window rolled down. “My offer for a drink is still open. We can go wherever you like. Any suggestions?”

I was about to say no when a thundercloud opened up and the rain lashed down. Suddenly, the inside of Scott’s car looked a lot more inviting. I opened the door and slid into the leather passenger seat.

It was a dark and stormy night.

The cliche spooky story starter popped into my head.

And here I am in some stranger’s car.

The absurdity of it brought out a short laugh, which I tried but failed to suppress.

A car on the side of the road flashed its headlights and a window rolled down. “My offer for a drink is still open. We can go wherever you like. Any suggestions?”

“What?” Scott asked.

“What do you mean?”

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, it’s silly. I was just thinking I was like a character in some really bad suspense novel, with the storm and getting in a car with a stranger.”

“Well, I’m not a stranger,” Scott chuckled, “and we’ll soon be out of this storm. So, where to?”

I felt more at ease as I realized how ridiculous my imagination could be. Scott and I had many conversations about books and the weather the last few weeks during his visits to the library. We had gotten to know each other as acquaintances, if not friends.

“A cup of tea might be nice. But I can’t stay long.” I hoped he would get the idea that I wasn’t interested in anything more than friendship.

“Sounds good. I know just the place.” He grinned as he pulled away from the curb.

During the short drive, we talked about books, which I considered a safe topic. Scott commented on how we both liked the same type of novels – thrillers, suspense, mystery.

“Do you like watching mystery movies, as well?” he asked. “Or just reading?”

“I love them. Movies, books, stories, TV shows…”

“Really? Me too! I’ve got a great collection of old Hitchcock movies on DVD.”

“I didn’t think anyone collected DVDs anymore.”

“Actually, I collect quite a bit of old stuff,” Scott confessed. “I’m afraid my house is a mess with all the antiques and collectibles. I have a hard time throwing anything out.”

“You have your own house?”

“Well, it was my parent’s house. They’ve been gone for a couple of years.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” I felt like I was intruding into his personal life.

“No, it’s okay. They were sick. Dad didn’t last much longer after Mom passed on. But they’re always with me.”

When we pulled up in front of a stately two-storey older home, I remarked what a nice place it was. I didn’t want to be rude, but there was a lot of clutter around the house. Old lawnmowers, bikes, a couple of early model cars, and assorted tools decorated the side yard. “Do you like to fix things?”

“I like to try,” he chuckled. “I’ve got quite a collection of tools and I think I’m pretty handy.”

Scott unlocked the front door and invited me into his home. A short-haired tabby cat greeted us.

“Oh, you have a cat!” I loved cats and as far as I was concerned, all cat lovers were decent human beings. Instantly, I felt safe being in Scott’s home with his cat.

“Yeah, I guess you could say I kind of collect cats, or they collect me.”

“What do you mean, they collect you?”

“Strays just show up at my door. Wish I could keep them all, but, well, you know… I don’t want people thinking I’m some kind of crazy cat guy.”

I laughed and bent over to pet the cat as it rubbed against my legs. Scott closed the door and showed me into the living area. The house was beautiful with its wood moldings and french doors. Although, I noticed, once again, the clutter.

I guess it’s what you’d expect from a guy living on his own in a huge place. Could use a woman’s touch. I’m surprised he doesn’t have a girlfriend or a wife. Seems like a nice guy, and not bad-looking.

“Sorry about the mess,” Scott apologized. He removed stacks of newspapers from the sofa and placed them on the floor. “I like to keep up on current events, and clip items of interest. The problem is, I have a lot of interests, so I have quite a collection of newspaper clippings.”

I took a seat on the sofa and invited the cat to join me. “What’s his name?”

“Petey. He had a brother, but he died last year.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. You must miss him.”

A cabinet in the corner overflowed with cat figurines. “I see you collect cat statues.”

“They were my Mom’s. She loved cats as much as I do. We’ve always had cats in our home, for as long as I can remember. There have been four others, besides Petey and Georgie. We decided to keep them in the backyard.”

“You have a fenced yard for your cats? Does that keep them in?” I figured they would try to jump over the fence.

“No, I meant we put them in the backyard after they died. Had a little service, said a few words, and buried them.”

“Oh, of course.” A sudden chill swept over me as I envisioned a scene from Pet Cemetery where dead pets came back to life, but not quite as themselves. “I guess the bylaws out here would allow that.” Scott lived on the edge of the city. I didn’t think my landlord would be too happy to have a pet cemetery on the grounds of our highrise.

“Why don’t you pick out a video while I put the kettle on? I hope you like Oreos?”

“Love them. But I wouldn’t know where to start looking.” Videos, books, and magazines overflowed from bookshelves lining part of a wall. “You’ve got quite the collection!”

“Check out the third shelf. My Hitchcock movies are there, alphabetically.”

Scott left the room and I flipped through the DVDs. Everything seemed to be organized by genre, series, and title.

So, there’s order in this madness.

Knick knacks of one sort or another adorned every possible surface, but the place wasn’t dirty. It wasn’t even particularly messy. There was just a lot of stuff around.

After vacillating between Vertigo and Rear Window, I tossed them aside in favor of Psycho. Scott returned with a plate of cookies and invited me into the kitchen to select my tea. He wasn’t lying when he said he had a good selection. It was like a mini David’s Tea store. As well, the cupboards contained all manner of teacups, mugs, and glassware, neatly stacked. I chose the organic peppermint and Scott selected the banana nut bread flavor. We took our mugs to the living room, popped in the video, and sank into the sofa next to Petey.

“It’s nice we have so much in common, don’t you think?” Scott put his arm around me.

“Well, there’s tea, and books and movies, and of course, cats. But I’m afraid I’m not much of a collector. I’d say I’m more of a minimalist. I tend to throw things out. Especially if I have no use for them.”

We spent the next couple of hours watching Psycho and jumping at the scary parts, even though we knew they were coming. Scott was a perfect gentleman, though, and I felt comfortable with him.

If he asks me out again, I’ll definitely say yes.

“Another cup of tea?” Scott asked.

“Thanks, but I really should get going. Can I use your bathroom first?”

“Sure, down the hall and to the left.”

Passing the dining room on my way, I noticed a set of beautiful Chinese vases on the buffet. When I returned to the living room, I said, “I love your vase collection. Where did you get them?”

“I found them at an antique auction years ago. I thought they’d be perfect.”

“They are. But I see you don’t have any flowers. Don’t tell me — that’s the one thing you don’t collect,” I joked.

That was when I noticed Scott had refilled my mug and slipped Vertigo into the DVD player. “Look, I really need to leave now. I like you, you’re a nice guy, but I’m kind of old-fashioned. I hope I didn’t give you the wrong idea by coming to your place on the first date. I like to take things slow.”

“We can take things as sl…ow as you like,” he drawled. “No pressure.”

I grabbed my purse and headed for the front door. “Really, I’ve had a nice time, but I’d like to leave.”

Scott gently touched my arm and said, “Belle, I’d really like to keep you…”

“You’d like to what?” I turned the doorknob, but it was locked.

He wants to keep me?

A wave of panic swept through me.

No one gets to keep me. I’m not about to be part of some freak’s collection!

“I’d like to keep you here a while longer. But I’ll take you home now if that’s what you want.”

***

Scott dropped by the library a few days later. “So how about Vertigo tonight? I’ll even pop some popcorn.”

I felt ridiculous at my paranoia for thinking Scott was trying to “keep” me in his house. Probably Psycho wasn’t the best choice for a first date. “Sure, sounds nice.”

As we snuggled on Scott’s sofa, munching on popcorn, sipping iced tea, and watching the conclusion of Vertigo, I confided my fears. “You know when you said you wanted to keep me for a bit longer? It kind of freaked me out. I thought you wanted to keep me, like one of your collections.”

“That’s pretty crazy thinking, Belle. And besides, it takes more than one to make a collection.” Scott chuckled as he topped up my iced tea and added more sugar.

When the credits rolled, Scott took Rear Window out of the case and winked. “What do you think? Can I keep you… a bit longer?”

As I made my way to the bathroom, I stopped to look at the vases on the buffet. Upon close inspection, I noticed names had been inscribed on them. Harry, Belle, Belle, and Belle. The remaining two vases had no inscriptions.

“Scott…?” I shouted.

“What is it?” He ran into the dining room.

“Who are Harry and these Belles?” A touch of vertigo came over me.

“Mom and Dad. And my first and second wife.”

“Your wives? They died?”

“Yes, one drowned and one fell down the stairs.”

“Did you…? Did you…?” I couldn’t catch my breath.

“I wanted to keep them close, always.”

I slid toward the floor, as Scott reached out to keep me from hitting the ground.

This can’t be real.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Everything faded to black.

*****

If you’ve enjoyed “The Collector of all Things Uncollectible” By Ivanka Fear, you can visit our free digital archive of flash fiction here. Additionally, premium short fiction published by Mystery Tribune on a quarterly basis is available digitally here.

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