hwango: (hermit crab)
[personal profile] hwango

The Fordham Museum of Nature and Science had stood for decades as a monument to the twin joys of knowledge and discovery. The answers to so many questions about the world and its workings lay within its walls. As such, it made Carl a little sad that during his time working there the most common questions he was asked tended to be:

Where is the bathroom?

Where is the food court?

Has anyone ever tried to steal the t-rex skeleton?

and of course

Do you have a lost and found?

The answers to which were

There's one right over there, and others are shown on this map.

The end of the West Hall on the first floor.

Of course not, it's cursed.


Yes. Can you describe your lost item for me?

Technically the official answer to the third question was supposed to be simply "no," even thought the truth was that the answer should actually be "yes." Carl didn't like lying about it, so he gave the slightly more embellished reply. Then he would laugh and hope there were no followup questions.

There were usually followup questions to his answer about the lost and found. People wanted to know why they couldn't just rummage in the box themselves, and Carl would wish there was an exhibit about How Much People Suck, because then he could direct them to that rather than just leaving it at "it's museum policy."

The reason it was museum policy is that if you lose your $300 phone and no one turns it in, that's just bad luck. If you lose your $300 phone and someone DOES turn it in but then the museum staff just lets someone else pick it up out of the lost and found box and walk off with it, then that's somehow the museum's fault and people go crazy.

So as part of Carl's job he was the Gatekeeper of the Box of Misplaced Treasure, where overpriced marvels of modern telecommunication technology mingled with mismatched old gloves.

Carl blinked in confusion as he realized that someone was standing in front of him trying to get his attention, and he had apparently been deeply lost in thought. His embarrassment deepened as he realized that the woman standing in front of him was dramatically overdressed for an afternoon at the museum, and it should have been impossible for him not to notice her approaching his customer service counter. She was wearing the most elaborate dress - no, gown - that he had ever seen on a person in real life, and her hair was twisted up into intricate and improbable shapes that were likely a danger to people standing next to her. She was also wearing enough jewelry to make a metal-detector melt into a puddle of slag.

"I'm sorry, could you repeat that?" he stammered, trying to steer his brain back on track. She smiled indulgently and made a dismissive gesture with a gem-encrusted fan as if to say that it was perfectly common for people to be so befuddled in her presence and to think no more of it.

"I have misplaced my tiara," she said, "and I was wondering if any sharp-eyed and honest soul had brought it to your lost and found."

Two distinct thoughts fought for supremacy in Carl's mind.

Who wears a tiara to a museum?


I can't believe I'm going to have to ask her to describe her lost tiara.

"Could you...describe your item for me?" he asked as he reached down to start pawing through the box, hoping that she couldn't see how much he was blushing.

"It is crafted of gold and many rubies and diamonds," she said, as if this were the most reasonable question in the world.

Carl was thinking how supremely unlikely it was for something made of gold studded with diamonds and rubies to be turned into the lost and found when he brushed aside a scarf and was momentarily dazzled by something that glittered even under the cold fluorescent lights. Surprise gave way to a sense of triumph, which then quickly gave way to further surprise and some soul-crushing humiliation.

There were two of them.

There were two diamond and ruby covered tiaras in the box.

"Can you...can you be more specific?" he managed to say as he tried to identify differences between the two. They looked remarkably similar.

The woman said something about the cut of the gems that meant nothing to Carl. He was about to ask her if she knew about how many of each gemstone there were until he realized that both of the tiaras had the same number of each.

In the end he gave up and broke protocol, holding up the pair of them for her to inspect them herself.

She leaned forward a fraction of an inch and gazed thoughtfully at them both for a moment. Then she shook her head gently but ruefully. Fortunately, no one was standing next to her at the time.

"I am afraid that neither one of these is my missing tiara," she said.


"Are you certain?" Carl said even as he realized how stupid a question that was.

"Indeed," she replied, then gave an elegant little shrug. "Perhaps I shall come back later and see if some one has found it by then."

"Uh...okay," Carl said. She gave a parting wave of her fan and wandered off. Carl put the tiaras back in the box.

"Sometimes I really wonder about this place," he said to the t-rex skeleton across the way. "How much longer am I stuck working here, anyway?"

"a couple more years" whispered the ancient fossilized skull.

"Stupid curse," Carl muttered.
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