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I've Got a Secret

by Rose Madeline Mula

I stumbled upon the most wonderful find today. I'd love to share it with you, but I can't. All I can tell you is that my treasure is located in lovely Kennebunkport, Maine, summer home of the Bush dynasty—at least Bush the Elder. Bush the Younger seems to prefer his Texas ranch where he can play cowboy in his ten-gallon hat and high-heeled boots.

But to get back to my treasure: It's a charming little antique shop—actually a mini-museum-filled with exquisite, pricey objets d'art from all over the world. I can't reveal the name of the shop because the proprietor (whom I will call Mr. X) does not want any notoriety. Can you believe it? A business owner who disdains publicity and refuses even free advertising? Alas, it's true.

Mr. X is not concerned with making money. He doesn't need any. He earned enough while toiling in Manhattan for many years as a corporate honcho, said he, to support what apparently is more of a hobby than a business—collecting and displaying his precious wares and recounting their history to anyone who wanders in and shows even a slight interest. "I don't care if people buy anything," said Mr. X. "I just want them to enjoy looking. Their appreciation is payment enough for me."

"You can tell this Venetian glass compote is an antique," he said, caressing a $1,500 confection, "because of the gold dust embedded in its base-the old craftsmen always did that." An intricately carved, highly polished (and highly priced) china display cabinet—an exact replica of one that might have graced the digs of Marie Antoinette—came from the estate of a prominent, recently-deceased Kennebunkport doyenne, he told me. And that rare Chinese urn once resided in the imperial House of Chan—no, wait. I think that's a Cantonese restaurant in Ogunquit. I'm confused because he told me so many stories, each more fascinating than the last.

But Mr. X's most intriguing tale concerned an unusual, oversized wooden Canada goose with a barrel stave body nesting in a loft that overlooks the precious artifacts below. It doubtlessly has the lowest monetary value of anything in the shop, and it is the only item that is not for sale. He keeps it as a memorial to a pet Canada goose he had owned as a child. Strange, but true. Mr. X (or, rather, Master X at the time) acquired this unusual playmate when he heard a fluttering sound while playing on the beach one day. In a nearby patch of sea grass a Canada goose, its wing broken, struggled unsuccessfully to fly. Little Master X ran home and told his grandmother who returned with him to rescue the goose. They took it to a veterinarian who said it should destroyed because it would never be able to fly again. Master X was devastated, so Granny insisted that the vet patch up the creature. He did (at a fee Master X was never allowed to divulge to his parents), and they took the goose home where they pampered and coddled it.

"It lived for fifteen years," said Mr. X. "I made a special bed for it and a little harness so I could take it for walks every day." A flightless fowl being led through the streets of Kennebunkport on a leash must have been a strange sight indeed, even to Maine-iacs accustomed to eccentricities.

Saving Master X's goose wasn't Granny's only act of kindness. Another was her penchant for taking home strangers she met while shopping or strolling. Ignoring her family's warnings that these people might be burglars or murderers, she'd serve them cocktails on her patio overlooking the Atlantic, followed by a wonderful dinner. But there was a catch, Mr. X recalled. After dessert, the guests had to listen to Granny play the piano and sing for an hour. Unfortunately, she didn't do either well. "But her tin ear was her only flaw," said Mr. X. "She was a truly special lady."

He credits Granny with instilling in him a love of life's finer offerings and the gracious past. No web site for Mr. X, and absolutely no E-Mail. Not even a ballpoint pen. "I write all my letters longhand—and with a fountain pen," he boasts. Actually, I'm surprised he doesn't use the quill with which John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence.

One question stopped the free flow of Mr. X's narration: "Do George and Barbara shop here often?" I asked. "They do," he whispered cautiously, "But I can't tell you when."

Unfortunately, I must be equally circumspect and not disclose the name of his shop. However, if you poke around town, you'll find it. Just look for the goose in the loft.

But, shhhh! Don't tell Mr. X I sent you.

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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