ominous rainstorm in queens

One sunny Saturday morning, I got the idea to go back to my old neighborhood, 92nd Street in Jackson Heights, for a while, just to see what it’s like now.    I also really wanted to visit St. Gabriel’s five blocks away in East Elmhurst.    When I first got into my car, it was the perfect day, with sunshine and clear skies.    Unfortunately, though, that didn’t last.     By the time I  got to Astoria Boulevard, about an hour after I first left, the sky became very dark and it began to rain terribly.    On my way from 92nd Street to  St. Gabriel’s I decided to pull over and to park for a while on Astoria Boulevard.     In order to pass the time until the weather conditions improved I walked into the first store I noticed.   It was a dark, forlorn looking antique store, filled with quite a collection of artifacts, books and mounds of what appeared to be decades-old dust.    I was so happy simply to be inside someplace, safe from the bad weather, that I didn’t mind taking a chance on staying inside for a while.    After a few minutes, I rang the bell on the desk, hoping to get some service.    A large, gaunt, very old man, dressed entirely in black and grey,  came out of the back room and asked me what I wanted.      He introduced himself as Igor and explained that he and his wife, Olga, were the owners.     His glassy-eyed fixed stare and weak voice gave the impression that he was very ill.     He asked where I was from.    I told him that although I’m now living in Long Beach, I was a neighborhood kid, having lived on 92nd Street long ago.     The more I looked around the old place, the more I got the idea that I appeared to have wandered into another world entirely.    It was one big cliche, something from an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” or “The Twilight Zone”.      He gave me a tour of the establishment, even taking me down the long winding stairs to the cellar, explaining that that was where the couple kept all their supplies and records.    I couldn’t help noticing how cold, damp and musty it was down there.     Although it was quite a genuinely seriously terrifying experience I kept trying to convince myself that no real harm could possibly come to me.   I wondered when would the predictable plot twists kick in?   Maybe he’d try to sell me some obscure artifact that would grant me three wishes-or would some long lost ghost appear from beyond the grave?     Eventually I was able to conclude that the fellow was merely a harmless eccentric old gentleman, no more threatening to my well being than anyone.     After a few hours we passed a window, through which I noticed that the weather had gotten very much nicer, with sunshine in a cloudless sky.      I politely excused myself and explained to the old fellow that I was in a hurry and that I wanted to take advantage of my chance to visit St. Gabriel’s.    We bade each other good-bye in quite a gentlemanly fashion.     I took a brief walk over to my old parish, relieved finally to be able to enjoy an afternoon in one of my favorite places.   Perhaps, though, that brief detour through such a tense unwelcoming environment can serve as a warning to me that certain things from the past must never again be referred to.

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