Sunday, 15 March 2009

Shop Girl Lets Off Steam

People are starting to notice we exist.
Some even realise we’re closing down.
A few make sympathetic faces at us.
“Oh dear, did the recession get you?”
I know they’ve only popped in because their friend is in the bakers buying a sausage roll.
“Nope, it didn’t get us,” I say. “We’ve been meaning to do this for years.”
Then I get the urge to make something up. Like, say we’re moving to Peru to breed llamas.
Most of the locals don’t believe we’re closing down.
I’m no longer certain of anything.
The thing is, what with being noticed, we’re finally selling some lights.
It’s not enough to warrant opening another check out or putting a ‘queue here’ sign outside the door. Nothing as dramatic as that.
The only shop that needs one of those signs is the pie an’ mash shop.
People are out there at 10 in the morning, excited at the prospect of jellied eels.
I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way about jellied eels.
Having said that, I promised P, my old school mate, I’d try them before we closed.
I can’t back out, especially now that the pie an’ mash bloke has smiled at me and said good morning for the first time ever.
I’ve been waiting all my life for the pie an’ mash man to say good morning to me. Every day I pass by him as he leans against the green shutters, smoking an interminable roll up.
I tried to smile at him months ago but he just narrowed his eyes at me.
Now the hostility has truly gone and I feel at ease with the whole street.
Well, nearly.
It’s the window cleaner.
I can’t help it. Every time I see him I feel irritated.
It’s the way he huffs and puffs outside the shop when I haven’t put the shutter up.
It’s not like I don’t put it up on purpose.
Our shutter isn’t the fancy electric type. It’s probably the oldest shutter on the street. Even the mysterious wig shop next door has an electric shutter.
She can put her shutter up whilst giggling on the phone because all she has to do is press a button. I, on the other hand have to ask a passerby with a bit of muscle to help me with mine.
The window cleaner can’t do it because he can’t lift his arm; which might be a clue to why he does such a rubbish job of cleaning our windows.
When he arrives I go outside to see if I can get some help.
My only shutter-lifting candidates are two skinny blokes who look stoned.
I hesitate then ask the younger of the two.
Between us both we manage to lift it.
Relieved, I head inside.
After a while I see the same young bloke talking to the window cleaner.
I get the impression he’s asking him for money. As much as I dislike the window cleaner, I feel bad that he might be getting hassled while cleaning my windows.
“Was he asking you for money?” I ask, as he walks through the door.
“What?” he snaps.
Maybe he’s misheard me.
“That bloke....I wasn’t going to ask him to help because he looked a bit spaced out.”
“He was only talking to me!” he cries, missing my concern.
My intention to be friendly starts to fail.
“Calm down, I thought he was asking you for money.”
“He wasn’t asking me for any money, he was just talking to me.”
“Right, good, fine. I just thought he looked a bit spaced out that’s all.”
“It’s his job!” he cried. “He’s probably tired! He doesn’t just sit at the counter taking money all day like you.”
At this point, I completely lose the plot.
“You have no idea what we do in here!” I yell.
And then I tell him to go.
“You don’t need to be like that love,” he smirks. “Start again, shall we?”
I’m seething.
“We can start again next week!” I say, through gritted teeth.
I shut the door behind him.
Then I lock it and go upstairs.
CLOSED, until the kettle has boiled.

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