Tuesday, 3 April 2018

The Magic Shop

            On Thursday morning I had trouble squeezing the death out of my bones with yoga and even remembering songs in French couldn’t gouge the goo of sleep that was caught in the knots of my brain.
            I went down to Freshco at midday to replenish my fruit supply. I bought grapes, bananas, bacon, ham, peanuts and soymilk. As I was leaving I saw an elderly man outside the window by the shopping carts. He’d just put his shaggy toy poodle inside a bag, which he lifted up to put into a shopping cart, but at about a meter off the ground the bag slipped out of his fingers and he dropped it. The dog was still in the bag when he lifted it for second time and successfully put it into the cart.
            On the way out I was walking behind an extremely slow-walking large man that I couldn’t get ahead of until we were outside.
            That evening I twice practiced playing my song “Insisting on Angels”. Chords sound so much twangier in the late afternoon than they do in the morning.
            I watched a spooky Alfred Hitchcock Hour teleplay called “The Magic Shop” based on a story by H.G. Wells. Leslie Nielsen as Grainger plays the father of a little boy named Tony. It’s Tony’s birthday and he gets a lot of great gifts but he also gets some money with which he is told he can buy anything he wants except for a dog, which he can have next year. His father bought him a fish tank and they go downtown to get plans for the tank to prepare for the fish. Tony also wants to go to the magic shop but both parents had looked and could find no magic shop even though Tony insists that it’s there. When Tony is downtown, sure enough, he sees the magic shop. The shop seems empty for the first few minutes. There is one of those sideshow mirrors that distorts Tony’s reflection but does not reflect his father at all. The owner is a strange man named Dulong who shows Tony a few of the usual novelty items. Grainger asks which of those Tony wants to buy but Dulong says that what Tony wants is real magic and Tony agrees. Dulong says that Tony is special because he was able to open the door to the magic shop, which is locked to others. Only the right sort gets past the door. After a while Grainger gets impatient because they still have to get to the pet shop but Tony says he wants to stay. Dulong asks him if he really wants to learn everything and Tony says yes. In another room he shows Tony a cabinet which he gets inside. Dulong spins the cabinet but when Grainger stops it and opens the door, Tony has disappeared. Grainger gets down on his hands and knees to explore the box and to find Tony but when he gets up Dulong is gone as well. Grainger hears Tony laughing. He goes back to the main part of the shop and Dulong is there. He demands to know where Tony is but Dulong just says he’s not far. Grainger sees Tony’s refection in a mirror. He charges Dulong but when he reaches him he is nothing but a head made of plaster. Everything goes white and Grainger wakes up in the middle of the street. The magic shop is gone and replaced by a travel agency. The crowd thinks Grainger is crazy when he keeps insisting on there having been a magic shop there. He is taken away in an ambulance. The parents have the police searching for Tony though they think they have been negligent parents. The next morning though, 24 hours after Tony came down for breakfast on his birthday, he suddenly comes out of his room. He tells his parents that he can’t tell them where he was. Tony says that he was gone for weeks and not hours. Tony privately displays that he has acquired magical powers as with a gesture he kills a flower arrangement on the table. They take Tony to a child psychologist but Tony still won’t talk about what happened at the magic shop. The psychologist tells the parents that there was a Dulong that was executed for witchcraft in 1692. Later there was a Dulong’s Magic Shop in 1901 that was destroyed by an unknown force. The psychologist suggests that they normalize Tony’s life by getting him a dog. They let Tony go to the pound to pick out his own dog. He comes back with a dark coloured adult German shepherd, which he names Dulong. They go outside and Dulong immediately attack their next-door neighbour whom Tony has never liked. Tony assures his parents that he will teach Dulong to do everything he says but then he says cryptically that he will also do everything Dulong says. Later the neighbour is attacked by the dog again and this time the man kills the dog with a garden hoe and tells Tony’s parents that the dog just rotted away into little pieces immediately after it died. Tony says, “You’re too late, because he taught me everything. But he was mine and you won’t get away with it!” That night, with a gesture of his hand from his bedroom he sets the neighbour’s house on fire. The house is destroyed with him inside. The parents think that somehow Tony set the fire. They go to his room to confront him about it. Tony is holding a book and digging into a page with a knife. Grainger’s cheek starts to bleed and we see that Tony is cutting into a picture of his father in a family album. From that time on the parents become the prisoners and slaves of their son and there is no escape.
            I found the original Wells story online. It starts off in the shop and the boy’s name is Gip. The manner of language is much more British with slang that I’m not familiar with. In this case a drum is placed over the boy and he disappears. The father chases the shopkeeper out the door into darkness and then the father bumps into someone on the sidewalk. Then the boy shows up carrying four parcels but the shop has disappeared.
            The parcels contain toy soldiers, which the boy says he can make come to life whenever he wants. That’s about it. The story doesn’t end in a sinister way like the TV version.

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