Shakespeare made my tuna bacon and cheddar melt, and it’s delicious! At least, he said that’s his name. But I’m skeptical. Though he does know an awful lot about Shakespeare’s life and plays for one who works behind a deli counter. What I know for sure is that this guy makes a mighty mean, tasty sandwich. This is the third time this week that I’ve come here for lunch. The first two times.. Monday and Wednesday, I got my sandwiches to go. This time I’m eating here. I want to figure out what goes on out back. I’ve heard rumors about this place. Really crazy stuff like, the food is magic, and even weirder, that there’s an elevator out back that will take you to space. Yup.. to space. I dropped a few hints and asked Will a few questions, but he’s tight lipped. Won’t spill a thing. He keeps changing the subject. He just wants to talk about books. Only a couple minutes ago, we had a great discussion about Italo Calvino’s book If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler. But now I’m half done with my sandwich, and I’m no closer to getting out back to see what’s going on. Should I just say I’m curious and come right out and ask?
The Bard comes over to my table and sets down a drink. He says, here, drink this. It’s a Manhattan. You look to me like a Manhattan. It’s a favorite. How does he know? I ask him this, and say, this is the only deli I’ve ever been to that serves alcohol. He says, well, I’ve been around for many years, and believe it or not, I have a liquor license. I don’t let it get around, but you’re special. You drink this, and I’ll show you the back of this place. That’s obviously what you want. So I gulp down the rest of my sandwich and finish my cocktail, and he says.. Come with me.
The back room is chock full of old stuff. Some of it’s junk, but there are some gorgeous antiques back here. I see an old phonograph, an old TV, like from the 60s, and box after box of books and record albums. Shakespeare says, you look around out here for awhile. I’ll be out front. I look toward the back of the room, but don’t see an elevator.. just an old red door that looks like it came off a barn. I’m disappointed, but what did I expect? I look to my left and see a carved wooden box. It’s oak, I think, about five inches in diameter. And on top, it’s decorated with a beautifully carved monkey and tiger. All of a sudden, I hear a voice. I turn and see an African Gray Parrot perched on the TV about six feet away. I start a little, and she says, hello, Jeannette. She knows my name. Then I turn to see Shakespeare watching me from the doorway… That’s Anna. We’ve been together a long, long time. She’s my best friend. With that, he goes back behind the counter. Anna continues to watch me. I go to open the box, and she says, Pandora! Pandora! Use caution! Use caution! I hesitate, but can’t resist.. so I open. There’s only one thing in it.. a little gold tiger charm. I take it out to examine it, and hear a ding behind me. The red barn door has been replaced by elevator doors. But they’re not purple like the rumors say. They’re the color of the midnight sky. They glow and they’re covered with stars. I’m still holding the box, and I walk to the doors. There are are two buttons to the right.. not just one. One is an arrow pointing up and the other says.. back. Back? I hear Anna behind me. Jeannette Pandora! Jeannette Pandora! But I press the back button and board anyway. I can’t help myself. I see four choices. England 1606. France 1790. Canada 1920. Greece 1950. I choose England 1606. The year of Macbeth. I still hear Anna’s voice. Jeannette! Jeannette! And I think, well, this day hasn’t gone as I expected. Certainly not a normal Friday! I’m clearly not dressed appropriately for 1606, but really, what could possibly go wrong?
By M. Raynes