Written in April, 2015.
On 72nd St. and Greenfield Ave. in West Allis, Wis., stands a storefront window decorated in painted images of a jungle scene - bamboo shoots, insects, lizards, tall trees. The store's name reads "Swords and Dreams" in yellow and "Reptile Rescue" in blue and red.
Upon walking in, visitors are greeted by a dated vending machine on one side. On the other sits a plastic jar full of water, quarters, nickels, and a small cup in the bottom. Drop a coin through a slot in the jar's top. Make it in. Win a prize. Hanging from the entranceway ceiling is a paper Easter decoration.
Take a few steps and you enter the store. Or is it two?
On the left side of the shop samurai swords, battle-axes, and scimitars hang from the walls.
Zippo lighters sit in a display case, along with a variety of pocket-knives.
Behind a counter, one knife sets sit open. A ceramic deer figurine guards the front window display. Amidst the dozens of weapons, one large turtle lumbers around a bare glass aquarium under the weight of a yellow and green shell. His cage-mates are a thin pile of hay, a faux-rock bath, and an empty paper plate turned upside down.