Monday, December 7, 2009

Late Shopping

He stopped in the doorway, fearful of entering. Early sixties, tall and broad, dressed in a heavy great coat over a smart suit and shiny black shoes. He brushed the dazzle from his eyes and inched forward into the shop.

It all looked so delicate, so precious, so perilously balanced on the tiered glass shelves.

“Can I help you?” A woman’s voice.

Pretty, mid twenties, dressed in a plain blouse and knee length skirt, she stood in front of the counter. Behind the counter stood a thin, angular man, arms folded across his chest, coolly weighing up the prospective customer, sneer barely disguised.

“I want to buy a vase. It’s for my wife... I’ve left it to the last minute, as usual.”

“Everything we have is on display,” the man behind the counter said, sweeping a finger in front of him.

The young woman tutted. She took the old man by the elbow, carefully leading him on a circuit of the shop, pointing out thin stemmed crystal, twisted metal and stark ceramic vases every few feet.

They arrived back at the counter.

“Did you see anything you think she’d like?” she asked.

“It’s all very nice, but I was hoping for something more colourful. Something, brighter?”

“There’s a pound store-”

The girl interrupted the man behind the counter. “I think we might have something in the back.”

“We certainly-”

“The old stock that was here when he took over,” she reminded him. She vanished into the back and returned with a brightly coloured pottery vase.

The old man’s face lit up. “Oh that looks perfect. She loves bright things. How much is that?”

“Forty pounds!” the man behind the counter said.

She shot a glance over at him. “It’s old stock. You’re doing us a favour by taking it off our hands. No charge. Special offer, today only.” She smiled at the old gentleman.

The thin man reached out to pull the vase from the girl’s hands. “At least let me wrap it up. Christ knows, I don’t want anyone seeing you leave here with that.”

As the old man was about to leave, the wrapped vase in a carrier bag in his hand, he turned and said, “Thank you. Thank you, both, very much. I was ever so afraid I’d left it too late, but I promised her I wouldn’t let them put her in a plain old urn.”