Visions of the Heart
a novella by Charles Keenan

episode 2
   Nate walked past a candy shop beginning to feature heart shaped boxes, two clothing retailers each beginning to prominently display all manner of red garments, and a jewelry store before arriving in front of the small shop’s display window which was fogged with a mysterious dust that looked like it was from ages past. The window was cluttered with all manner of gadgets and lights, and a small neon sign flashed “you are here” next to a hand lettered sign that read “singular innovations”. An ancient brass bell tinkled as Nate opened the door and walked inside. Alerted by the bell a middle aged man stepped out of the shadows from behind a counter and asked, “Yes?”. Nate was caught a little off guard and cast his eyes down while mumbling something about window shopping. The shopkeeper said, “Okay - you want me, you call me - okay?” then he  retreated back into the shadows and walked through a doorway that was cleverly camouflaged by staggered shelving. The store was not very wide and only a single story high, but apparently it went back for quite a distance because Nate could see aisle after aisle after aisle of dimly lit shelves through the doorway. The front wall of the store was devoted to a large window on each side of the front door, and each window held colorful, albeit dusty, displays. The remaining three sides of the store had glass cabinets in front of walls covered with shelves. The side cabinets included a swinging door large enough for the shopkeeper to pass through. Each glass cabinet was filled with small signs, shiny devices and blinking lights much like what was included in the front display windows. He knew the shopkeeper was in the back and not far away, and the quiet in the store made Nate feel comfortable as he began looking around.
    Most of the items in the display cases were unusual devices that Nate had rarely seen, with some that he felt he had never seen. There were a few common devices such as cell phones and music players but they were just a small percentage of what was for sale. Approaching one wall Nate realized that a radio was playing very softly and saw that it was connected to a cabinet filled with lights. When the music hit lower notes blue shapes would light up, while mid-range notes were red and high notes activated yellow lights inside the cabinet. In front of the wall was a display case that held some sort of toy with ping pong balls and little hoops. It seemed that the object of the game was to wear an electronic headband to control the path of a ball through the hoops using only brainwaves. Nate was fascinated by this product but the soft music faded away as he continued walking to the next wall with a case that was filled with large display calculators and telephones next to solar powered electronic dictionaries and translators. On the wall behind the display case were electronic devices that talked. The third wall was a bit of a mess with jumbled cables and video monitors scattered across a few shelves. This seemed to be more of an experimentation section with a soldering iron propped beside loose resistors, capacitors and diodes. On a perforated board there was an LED display with twisted leads connected to a few transistors and a 9 volt battery. One shelf held a half dozen cardboard boxes some of which were overflowing with plugs, headphones and coiled wires. All of the other walls and shelves had included small, neatly lettered signs describing the product and the price, but this last wall did not.  
    Nate made his way back to the first wall where the display case held the game about controlling ping pong balls with your mind because he was curious how this game worked. The images on the box showed a ball suspended presumably by a small electric fan near an excited teenager wearing an electronic headband, but Nate could not read much from the little card or from the box beneath it. He studied the game for another moment or two and then called, “Excuse me?” towards the doorway into the back of the store. “Yes! Yes!” answered the shopkeeper as he walked down the back aisle and emerged from the doorway. Now standing on the opposite side of the counter the man asked, “Yes?”.
    A train passed overhead rattling everything in the store as Nate pointed to the game. When the train had passed he asked, “Can you tell me more about this?”. The man gently but enthusiastically removed the box from the display case as he repeated, “Yes, yes, good product, very good”. Nate had remembered reading something about this a few years ago, and he watched intently as the shopkeeper opened the box and showed the parts. He listened closely as the man began explaining the game. “This would be for your children, no?”, the shopkeeper asked and Nate blushed a little as he said it would be for his girlfriend. “Oh, I have more...just wait”, said the man before disappearing into the rear of the store. He soon returned with a similar, but larger box. On the front were similar images but of two teenagers each wearing their own electronic headband, each controlling a ping pong ball through a separate set of hoops. “Dual controls on this one”, the shopkeeper explained, and Nate studied the new box. The man took a step back to allow some room for Nate to be alone with his thoughts, but soon asked, “You not sure?”. Nate felt this was very close to the unique gift he was looking for, and said to the shopkeeper, “I really like this idea, but it will be a gift for Valentine’s Day and I keep feeling that a Valentine’s Day gift should be more about the heart than the mind”. “You right. You right”, said the shopkeeper and quickly walked around behind the displays to the third wall with the electronic parts and cables. He reached up and pulled a particular cardboard box down from a shelf. Mumbling he returned that box and pulled down another and then another box. “Wait. Wait here, please”, he asked Nate and then disappeared into the rear of the store again. This time he was gone for several minutes, but finally returned with a shoebox. He placed the box on the counter and removed the lid.