Down the block and on the other side of the street from the school is an old, dusty junk shop.
It is the place where people might go if they were looking for unusual gifts, one of a kind things, and gag presents.
It is the kind of place where you could easily lose your bag by setting it down and confusing it with other bags.
Ms Basil knows that all too well, as she must keep a collection of misplaced bags behind the counter, always.
The good news is that people usually eventually remember that that was where they last saw their purses.
The bad news is that sometimes it took them a great deal of time to remember.
Ms Basil was straightening up one night after a particularly busy Saturday when she found an abandoned bag.
It was a large one, made of leather, and it was remarkably heavy for its size.
She had a very clear sign posted on the wall that she was definitely going to rummage through purses left behind.
She also solemnly swore not to knick anything; her rummaging was purely for finding the owners.
So, into the bag she went, looking for some means of contacting the proper possessor.
Sometimes she got lucky and a phone was unlocked, sometimes it was a billfold with a proper address.
This time, there were a lot of torn rags and towels, strips of heavy flannel, some bits of paper, and a huge brass orb.
Well, it wasn’t *exactly* an orb. It was kind of oblong, wobbly. Ms Basil took it out and realized it was egg-shaped.
She put the brass egg on the counter and dug through the rest of the purse, but there was no identity at all.
Mighty confounding, that, Ms Basil thought, for someone to have a purse that big and nothing of value in it.
Maybe it was a decoy purse for robbers to grab, but the real items of value were in a little clutch or wallet…
Isn’t that something that people did those days? If not, they certainly should have, Ms Basil thought.
Still, the shop was closed, and she didn’t open on Sundays, so Ms Basil put the rags and the brass egg back in the bag.
She stashed the purse under the counter with all of the rest of the missing items, and then she went upstairs to bed.
Some time in the night, Ms Basil awoke and thought she might’ve heard something moving about downstairs…
…but when she sat up to listen, she heard nothing unusual, so she rolled over and went back to sleep.
The next morning, she had her tea and toast, and she sat at her little kitchen table in her housecoat and read the news.
She loved finding out all the gossip about local folks; it gave her all kinds of things to talk about in the shop.
Ms Basil had just about finished up the first two pages and most of her eggs when she heard a soft crash downstairs.
She grabbed a long pipe that she kept by the upstairs door and quietly crept down the stairs.
The stairs came down to the storage room behind the wall that was behind the counter, with a doorway into the shop.
She peered around at the doorway into the shop and, finding no one immediately visible, turned on the light.
Someone – no, something was digging around in the cabinets under the counter.
Ms Basil sighed in relief. It was probably just a cat or dog or some other small animal that had found its way in.
The crash from last night was the jewelry case on the counter, probably knocked over when the animal tried to get out.
It was scratching and making a small mewing sound. Definitely a cat, then!
Ms Basil opened the cabinet door – it was coming from the one with the lost purses – and out tumbled a…
To be fair, she wasn’t entirely sure what it was. It definitely almost sort of looked like a cat… kitten… uh, *cub*…
It was certainly larger than any kittens she’d seen of late, and there was something wrong with its tail.
Kittens usually had hair on their tails, didn’t they? This one probably had mange or something, it was all scaly and green.
And worse than that, it had a strange growth on the end that looked for all the world like a …
The tail turned around and looked at her. Yup, it was definitely a snake.
Ms Basil was not prone to fits or faints like other girls. She’d been on her own most of her life, she was tough.
She gave the snake a stern eye and looked for how it had wrapped itself onto the little cub. It really looked like a tail.
The little cub looked towards her, and she realized that the poor thing must’ve just been born, its eyes were still closed.
It gave a little mew, and then a… bleat?
Ms Basil slowly reached down and gently picked the animal up; behind the cub’s head was a smaller one, like a lamb.
It’s furry little paws and scaly back claws clumsily fought against the sudden upset of not being on the ground.
Ms Basil freely admitted to being a softy when it came to baby animals, no matter how… unusual; she cooed at the thing.
“Now, now,” she said to it, rocking it close, “how about we go upstairs and find you some milk, eh?”
The snake hissed and Ms Basil tutted at it. “You’re just a green garden snake, little thing. Are you hungry or not?”
As though it understood her (really, what creature doesn’t understand kindness?), it lowered its head a bit.
Ms Basil looked back in the cabinet to try to see how it had gotten in, and there was the purse from Saturday.
The brass egg had been shattered, and there was clear fluid all over the shredded fabric. “Well, that explains it…”
She grabbed a clean towel from under the counter (she didn’t like disposable ones) and wrapped the baby thing up.
She carried it back up the stairs, cooing at it all the way, wondering if she still had a proper litter box somewhere.
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