Thursday, 19 February 2009

Sugary Shop Girl

Patrick, the retired road sweeper, is writing his will at the counter.
“This is a bit morbid now, isn’t it?” he says cheerfully.
Mum’s been overseeing a lot of his form filling since his wife died. She insists she doesn’t want anything in return but he’s repaying her anyway, in doughnuts.
This week there’s been a record amount of cakes passing through our door.
It used to be just Patrick but now another elderly regular has started dropping them in too. There are currently two lemon muffins on the bottom of the stairs.
There was a time when Patrick only brought in Tottenham cakes; he’d drop them off in packs of four.
Tottenham cakes are like breeze blocks covered in pink icing.
Mum eventually cracked.
“I have to tell you something,” she confessed one day, “we just don’t like the pink ones.”
Patrick didn’t get it.
“But they come from the bakers next door,” he said.
“I know...” Mum winced. “We love all the other’s just the pink ones...”
A part of Mum must’ve regretted speaking out. But somewhere, a landfill site of pink cakes was growing, and she couldn’t cope with the idea of such colossal waste.
Anyway, now he brings us in doughnuts, mainly iced rings but occasionally other types too.
Today it’s three jam doughnuts; one for me, one for Mum and one for my neighbour, who’s on a diet.
Patrick suddenly looks up from his will.
“Never been a wine drinker meself,” he says. “But I had a drop the other day and I tell you what, you can really get hooked on that stuff.”
“That’s why I’ve moved to beer,” I say.
“Makes you fat,” Mum says.
“And sherry?” Patrick says. “How about a nice drop of sherry?”
Mum nods. “Yes, sherry’s okay.”
Later on, he comes back with a bottle of the stuff. We put it besides the lemon muffins and the three doughnuts on the bottom of the stairs; we’re a bit caked out this week and not yet ready to take on this new lot.
It’s not over though.
While Mum’s upstairs, Blanche comes in. She’s slurring her words but I’m up for a chat. She once said she was writing a play so I ask her how it’s coming along.
“If I write it,” she says, “it will be a big hit.”
“Great, then do it!”
“A big, big hit. Better than all this rubbish they do on the telly.”
“Fantastic. So finish it and send it off.”
“No,” she says. “I can’t.”
“Copyright. If I send it off they’ll copy it.”
“So you’re not going to do it?”
She leaves as another customer rushes in to look at a floor lamp.
While I’m switching the lamp on to show him, Blanche opens the door and throws a small box onto the nearest display shelf.
It’s not just any box; it’s a box with the baker’s logo on it.
By the afternoon, there are so many edibles at the bottom of the stairs we’re in danger of tripping up and breaking our necks.
My local Spanish friend comes in with a thermos of coffee.
Oh, what coffee.
It transports me straight back to my days in Barcelona when there was no need for long winded menu boards because coffee was coffee and milk was just milk.
“Ah, what nostalgia!” I sigh.
And then I hear a clatter as Mum trips to avoid the cakes.
I turn to my friend.
“Would you like a doughnut?”
She starts to say no then hesitates.
“Oh alright, go on then.”
One down, I think.
And so spreads the sweetness of our little shop.

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