One way museums are staying linked with the public during the Great Lockdown is by participating in themed contests on Twitter. This week’s “curator battle”: find the creepiest exhibit in your institution. The #creepiestobject Twitter thread is glorious. And of course my writer friends were inspired to create weird micro-fiction around the pieces. An open Facebook group was formed and a call went out to join CreepyCuratedCreations. We had 48 hours to come up with 250 words based on one of the exhibits. I went with “Wheelie” from the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation. Creepy old toys found immured in old mansions, you don’t say? My interpretation (with some help from a famous Kubrick shot) is below the fold.
Port Hill, Prince Edward Island
August 30, 1868
The pull-toy doesn’t pull half well at all. Little Glovie, the youngest of the house, passes his grand-dad’s portrait in the greater dining room. It is a death occasion, so the portrait has attracted bits of crepe and candle wax. Glovie never knew the man with the lively brow—rather an aging magnate, pale and formless as the toy that follows him along with a feeble squeak.
The shrunken dog on wheels was a gift from his father, offered just after the funeral. It has the coat of a ram and the Reverend’s crosspatch look when boys are loud in the churchyard. Surely it was packed too tightly in its box, for its nose is crushed and one of its wheels aslant. Still it’s some distraction from rustles and trembling china in a house where he daren’t speak.
Over mahogany floors and Arab carpets he roams, the pull-toy’s slanted wheel forever resisting. Glovie wipes his nose and looks at the snoutless one he wrenches along to appease his father. Now the gliding skid over polished boards—now a whispering over wool—now the clunk and glide—now the whisper again. The pull-toy may be sluggish, but the sound of its path puts life in the voiceless house.
In the conservatory, near the chair where the string likes to catch, the squeaking suddenly stops. And yet the string is loose then taut then loose, for Not-Nose is still moving. Not with a glide or clunk or whisper now, but on the patter of paws the size of thimbles. Glovie’s neck grows frigid, but still he moves along, his ears having fully blossomed. He will not turn around.