Thursday, 23 July 2009

Shop Girl: Blast from the Past

She’s on a mission and she’s annoyed.
Her heels bang across the wood floor as she strides up to the counter.
Fading blonde hair and big red hoops.
She lays the plastic bag in front of me and starts to pull something out.
“I bought this ‘ere ten years ago,” she barks, “and yesterday it fell off the wall.”
I must’ve misheard her.
“I was upstairs and I thought a bomb ‘ad gone off.”
Did she actually say ten years?
I look at the blast from the past; an alabaster wall bracket from my childhood.
“It must’ve just been stuck on with glue,” she says, “and I paid good money for these, about sixty quid and that was the reduced price.”
“Wow,” I murmur, “you’d pay a lot of money for these now.”
“I know,” she says, missing the point.
I handle the broken pieces with care, test whether they will slot smoothly together.
“If it’d gone through my telly I would be asking money for it.”
I was 15 years old when she bought these wall brackets. I was in school in Spain. I blink away an image of the old playground and look at her.
There’s no way I’m apologising.
“Good job you're still ‘ere,” she continues.
What a pity we are, I think.
“I need you to get another one,” she says. “I’ve got two and I need them to match.”
“I’m not sure that’s going to be possible.”
These wall brackets belong to an era of craftsmanship that disappeared a long time ago.
We have reminders of that time still hanging from the ceiling: fittings with heavy glass shades, twisted cast brass arms, leafy details, verdi gris finishes and one last alabaster bowl.
“Or maybe you can fix it so you can’t see the cracks.”
Some of the aggression has left her voice, possibly because I’m being so calm.
I’ve no idea how I’m being so calm.
I take her number. I say I’ll ring her when I find out what can be done.
I just want her to get out of my shop.
“Let me take your number too,” she says. And I know she’s the type to ring every morning and nag.
When she goes it builds up, what I should’ve said and what I should’ve done.
How long have you had your car? I could’ve said. What about your telly? And your kitchen? Sofa? Curtains? Hand bag? Hair cut? Will you try to take them back when they conk out?I picture things getting out of control, the arrival of the large husband, gut squeezed into a football shirt, then the son, daughter and son-in-law all taking turns to brandish the baseball bat and demand compensation.
“You should’ve asked her for the receipt,” the date says when I tell him. He wouldn’t take this rubbish so why should I?
She rings me the next morning.
“I was thinking if you fix it, it might come unstuck again,” she says.
“Yes, it might.”
Perhaps in another ten years.
“Well that’s no good.”
“To be fair,” I say, “they’ve done pretty well for ten years.”
“That’s not the point. They should last as long as I need them, be it 20 years or the rest of my life.”
Is it a mark of detachment that I’m not yelling reason down the phone at her?
I don’t think so.
Maybe I’m saving it up for when she next comes in;
the calm before the storm.

1 comment:

Mr Jon said...

I'd be tempted to take a hammer to it and when she turned up again explain, "We sent your lamp to Monsieur Martin, our material reconstruction expert in Paris, and he said this is the best he can do". But, I suppose sticking it back together with superglue or Araldite would be kinder.