Olde Sweet Shoppe

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I’d had the dream since a child but what child didn’t dream of owning their own sweet shop?

Things for me though had just fallen into place like it was meant to be my fate since birth. Or maybe, I just got lucky?

My uncle had a general shop which had been his father’s corner shop in the forties. The general shop sold everything you could want and things you didn’t know you needed. The stock was often seasonal and local; milk from the farm down the road, autumn apples and cider, flowers from Mr. Langes’s allotment and tools from the town’s smithy.

I always remember the smell when I entered, announced by the Victorian bell, it was a strange mix of pipe tobacco, freshly baked bread and sickly sweet ice buns, varnished wood and newspaper ink.

The sight was always one of a packed room and colourful packets and many objects placed around. It seemed you might get lost in a maze of goods and the placement of things made little sense as there was no direct order. You could find washing up liquid next to tinned peas, hair brushes next to carrots etc.

My cousins worked in the shop and I’d hang around with them. We’d take some fruit or sweets or crisp and pop and go out to play. Why didn’t they have to pay for things? I asked them. If we only take a few things it’s never noticed, came the reply.

The golden years of childhood in the seventies and eighties faded. I entered the adult world as did my cousins and we kept in touch. I moved away, moved back, did random jobs and had many relationships.

I saw the post online one evening, alone in my rented apartment. My cousins were closing the shop. I sent one of them a message to ask why and it was a simple answer; too much money being lost and no customers. It was the fate of all small shops now.

I had written back before I had given it any real thought; could I rent the shop from you and start up a sweet shop? 

I don’t know, she typed back, I don’t want you to end up in the financial issues we are facing. 

Quickly tapping on my laptop keys I answered, I understand, please let me give it a try.

Reflecting on the past and how things came to be is difficult but also interesting. I smile as I stand behind the polished counter and serve child after child, adults and families who are constantly returning and bring a new wave of people with them.

The shop no longer smells like it did before; it was cleaner and sweeter now. There are shelves bottom to top across three walls and one of those is behind my counter and the pick ‘n’ mix selection. The floor is open to the crowds and the window display is a rainbow of bright colours and calling temptations.

My cousins can’t believe I was able to turn things around for their family business. They’ve helped me a lot and we work alongside each other to keep this little shop going.

I’m on the internet too which has become my main source of income. I ship to anywhere and import too. American candy and Japanese snacks are my highest earns. It’s hard work and I don’t get a break but I love it and it’s like where I’m meant to be.

Houdini #FridayFictioneers

Dad’s shouting woke me. Rolling over in bed, I rubbed my face and tried to understand through the fog of sleep what was going on. I heard footsteps along the hallway then the stairs. Mum’s voice in the kitchen and dad replying.

I got up, climbed down the bunk bed’s ladder and went, yawing and groggily, to investigate.

‘Look in the sink!’ mum cried as I entered the kitchen.

Confused, I did so and what I saw shocked me fully awake.

A fluffy, brown, fat hamster was trying to climb up the back of the sink but he kept sliding down because he couldn’t get a grip on the smooth surface.

‘Houdini!’ I yelled and grabbed the wiggling hamster, ‘I thought you were lost forever.’

‘So it’s him, then?’ dad asked.

‘Houdini has been missing a whole year,’ mum pointed out, ‘are you sure?’

Peering into my cupped hands at the ball of fluff and I nodded.

‘Where has he been?’ mum wondered.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/07/08/10-july-2020/ with thanks.)

This is a true event from my childhood. Houdini was so named because he would escape and we’d never find out how he did it. He would be missing for awhile but this time it really was a whole year that he was gone for.

A few years after Houdini passed away, we got a new washing machine and a hamster nest was discovered in the vent. We believed it to have been Houdini’s nest and he had lived in the kitchen were there was always access to food and water.

Duckie #3LineTales

three line tales, week 232: rubber duckies in bubble bath

The bright yellow duckies had always attracted me. I loved playing with the one I had as a toddler in and out of the bath. Often, I went to bed with it too and my parents were baffled by my attachment to the plastic bath duck.

When we went to anywhere that had a ‘hook a duck’ or something similar game stall, I had to play like an addict at a gambling machine. I didn’t want the stuff animals or other toys for a prize though, I wanted to keep all the duckies!

‘She’ll grow out of it,’ my dad often said but he was wrong. Now, I’m twenty-eight and my collection of plastic duckies has just got me a place in the Guinness World’s Records.  

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2020/07/09/three-line-tales-week-232/ with thanks).

Raspberry Picking

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On the back playing fields, growing along the far edge where the children didn’t play, the raspberries grew.

I only knew about them because once I’d had a friend who lived in the houses down the lane there which backed onto that part of the field which had been left wild. It was his parents or grandparents who told him about the wild berries growing around here and he told me one summer.

Since then, I always come back here in summer to pick the wild raspberries and taste a burst of summer sweetness.

The branches hang heavy with the plum red berries which peer out shyly from large leaves. When they are ripe they fall to the long grass and bugs delight in their feast.

I bring a basket and spend a few hours taking the ripe raspberries off the plant and collecting them. Sometimes when I pause for a few moments, I put a raspberry in my mouth and enjoy it like it’s my first ever one.

At home with my prize, I put some in the freeze to keep and others I make into pies and smoothies.

I don’t know what it is but there’s something so satisfying about picking your own food.

Rubiginour #AtoZChallenge

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Rubiginour – rust coloured

I didn’t think it was going to be still there because it had been so many years but the car was right where I reminded it being from childhood.

The woods had grown thicker, the trees ageing just as I had aged. Children and animals still kept most of the undergrowth down though I could tell no one had been near the car for awhile.

The woods ran along the back of the school and also the park. Children came here to build dens and teenagers came to hide out. The car had been for years and no one knew why it had been abandoned but it sure made a great thing to play in.

I remembered all those long hot summers when we would come here. His red rusty coloured hair would flash in the sunlight that dappled down through the trees. He would laugh like the bubbling brook that ran though the trees. He would sit in the driving seat, dirty hands running around the leather steering wheel.

‘Where do you want to go today?’ he’d asked me as I got into the back seat.

‘To the beach,’ I’d say or name some other place as I pulled my summer dress down.

He’d make car brumming sounds and we’d pretend to be driving.

Look around now almost forty years later, I could still sense childhood magic flooding the air. Somewhere children were playing, their voices raising and falling as the wind played in the new leaves on the trees.

Walking over to the car, I could see that rust was doing a good job on the blue paint work. The bumpers had fallen off, the tires were flat, One headlight was missing and the other cover in moss. Autumn leaves lay like a blanket over the front, windows and roof. Surprisingly none of the windows were smashed but they were brown and grey with grime.

I peered inside and saw that time and animals had been rotting down the leather seats. Springs were poking through and there was a lay of dirt across everything. The dials and everything in the dashboard looked intact but couldn’t be read because of all the spider webs.

I petted the car’s roof like an old dog and followed the path I had taken back. I had a team of people waiting for me to give the instructions on the edge of the woods.

‘Did you find it, mum?’ my oldest son asked as I arrived back. He looked so much like his father with his bright red hair flashing gold highlights in the sun.

I nodded, ‘just as I remember she was. Right through there,’ I added and pointed behind me.

‘And you are sure about this?’

I signed and touched his arm, ‘it was your dad’s dream but I feel it’s the right thing to do in his memory now.’

‘I might not be able to restore it,’ my nephew joined in, he’d been to have a quick look.

‘Then I’ll have her in my garage,’ I spoke, ‘she was always there for me and your father when we were children and now it’s time someone looked after her.’

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Dear Diary

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Dear diary, it’s snowing!

I woke up this morning, confused as normal about the darkness and what time it was but then I saw it was after nine and time to get up. I drew back the curtains and saw huge flakes of snow that were falling quickly to an all ready snow covered garden.

It made me happy. Snow always has that effect on me. I guess because it reminds me of being a child and all those winters spent in snow covered countries skiing with my dad. I’ve not been on a slope, real or fake since his death four years ago.

It still hurts too much because that was our thing. The one activity that my mum couldn’t take away from us. I’ve not actually spoke to her since his funeral. I want to forgive her, I really do but it’s just so hard. She ruined my childhood with all her venom for dad.

I know though that in the next few months she wants to a solid part of my life again because of the baby. I’m hoping that might help fix things between us. She has repeatedly told me how sorry she is and how she’s moved on. I know things weren’t all her fault and it’s not like dad caused their marriage breakdown.

They were just teenagers, first time lovers, when mum got pregnant with me. They married because that’s what mum’s dad wanted. Granddad was old fashioned and wanted right done by his only child. Eight years or so later, they decided they couldn’t be together anymore.

Mum said dad ruined her, if she hadn’t got pregnant, if she hadn’t married, she could have had a life, a better career and met someone like her current second husband who was far more suitable for her then dad had ever been. And that’s what I heard all throughout my life even when I had grown up and left, the little contact I had with mum she would always have to bring stuff up like this.

Lately though, mum’s contact has all been remorseful and calm. She said she felt I was old enough to understand her position better now that I was married and pregnant myself. She hoped I’d have sympathy for her, be able to let everything go and we could start again because she did want to be a grandmother.

I would like that. I would like to fully trust her and for us to have a relationship. I know dad would want that too, he was always telling me not to blame him or mum for them hating each other. They were young, they were forced into things. Everyone makes bad choices, it’s the way of the world.

 

Adventures Await

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In imagination he could be anything he wanted; a knight, a dragon, a explore. His childhood world never let him down.

FooFaraw (Part 2) #AtoZChallenge

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FooFaraw; a great fuss or disturbance about something very insignificant.

I turned the handle and opened my bedroom door, feeling a slight prickly of fear. Would it look like I had left it when I was eighteen? Or had my great-aunt Dorothy thrown everything I’d had to leave behind away?

The door creaked loudly then bumped against the wall. I let go of the breathe I’d been holding. My bedroom was just like it was. The walls were a pale blue with nothing on them – Dorothy had banned me from putting anything on them- the curtains were drawn over the small window and the ceiling was covered in spiderwebs.

My childhood bed was made, the desk and chair tidy, the single wardrobe was open and empty and the bookcase held a few kiddie books. It was like the room had given up waiting for my return and just settled into a life of abandonment.

I sat down on the bed, the springs squealing. I had hated it here. Dorothy had never loved me or been kind to me. She had repeatedly told me she should never have taken me in and should have given me to the children’s home. The only reason why she didn’t was because my parents had left her money in their will for her to look after me.

Dorothy had physically, mentally and emotionally abused me. Letting all her angry out for her sister’s – my mum’s- happy life before she had passed away and also the fact that Dorothy now had to take care of me. I had no happy memories here. On my eighteen birthday, I had left and the trust fund my parents had left me opened up a whole new world for me.

I hadn’t wanted to keep in touch with Dorothy but we had sometimes over the years. Later it had been nurses and care home staff writing and phoning me. Till the last day and the news she was finally gone, having left everything to me.

But I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to go back to that life. I was different now, free of all of that. There was nothing here for me. I had taken all I wanted before, so why I had come back here?

Because I had wanted to prove it didn’t matter? That everything she had done and said had only made me stronger? That the past was just that and I had escaped from it?

I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. I was making a fuss over something that meant nothing to me. I wasn’t that child anymore. I was a businessman, a husband, a gentle father, a millionaire.

I got up, closed the door behind me and went downstairs. I took nothing from the house. I closed and locked the front door behind me for the very last time.

I got back into the car. My wife looked at me put I avoided her questioning eyes. We were silent until Alexandra couldn’t take it no more and had to ask; ‘what was in there?’

‘Nothing but dust and spiders,’ I said.

‘So, it wasn’t worth you dragging me out here then?’

I shook my head.

‘I’m hungry, let’s go,’ Alexandra snapped.

‘All right. On the way we’ll drop the keys at the housing agency and let them take care of everything,’ I added.

Starting the sports car’s engine, I took a finally look at the house, a sense of complete freedom ran through me.

FooFaraw (Part 1) #AtoZChallenge

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FooFaraw; a great fuss or disturbance about something very insignificant.

Closing the car door, I lent back on it and took in the house before me. It was smaller then I remembered. The surrounding garden had grown wild, though a neighbour had been trimming it down but the place had the air of long time abandonment.

I tried to recall the last time I’d been here, but couldn’t, nor when I’d seen my great-aunt, Dorothy. She had been in a nursing home for years, the promises of getting better never happening and she had died alone.

Whilst, I had moved country, made something of myself and had a family. I’d left the past behind me and that included the woman who had brought me up. Dorothy had been the only family I’d had.

‘Do we have to look inside?’ my wife, Alexandra asked, ‘can’t they just stick the for sale sign up and  be done with it?’

Her voice drew me back, I looked over the car bonnet at Alexandra shivering in one of her best and most expensive coats; soft blue velvet lined with white rabbits’ fur.

I shrugged and replied, ‘there might be photos and stuff.’

Alexandra put her lips together and looked disgusted at the sight of the house before her, ‘why would you want them?’ she asked.

‘Don’t know. Just, I want to look.’

‘Seems pointless to me,’ she grumbled.

‘Why don’t you wait in the car?’ I suggested.

Without a word, Alexandra opened the door and got back in.

I opened my door again too, put the car keys on the seat, told her I’d be back soon and closed the door.

I walked up to the house. Tall plants brushed my legs, leaving water droplets behind and my shoes crushed on weeds growing in between the path. At the front door, I put the key into the lock and was transported back to the past; I was a teenager coming home from school once again. It was like the last forty years hadn’t happened.

The door was stiff and I had to shove it open. The familiar scent of moth balls, dried roses, herbal creams and varnished wood hit me. Then over that came the smell of mould and damp, stagnate water, stale air, rust and rot. I gagged and turned away, wanting to throw up but I held it down.

I had no idea when someone has last been in here but had to have been a good few years. I walked through the hallway, the wooden floor and walls dulled, dust covered and on the ceiling loops of spider webs draped down like bunting. A black sixties cord phone sat on a small table next to the coat hangers where a pink house coat hung forgotten.

The living room was like I remembered; filled with great-aunt Dorothy’s collection of dolls and figurines, a bookcase of old books, an eighties TV in a huge wooden box, a record player, two arm chairs covered with knitted blankets and on the wall a few photographs of Dorothy’s life but none showed her with family and none were of me.

In the kitchen, the smell was bad. No one had really cleaned things out. The sink tap had dripped, the plug had become blocked and there was the source of the stagnate water. I hurried away and upstairs.

Avoiding the small bathroom, I peered into Dorothy’s room. A place forbidden at all times to my younger self. Someone had been in here, no doubt a friend or nurse had come ever so often for more of her things. The wardrobe and chest of drawers were open, clothes poking out. Books were missing from the shelves and other things too.

I shut the door behind me and turned to the last room; my bedroom.

To Be Continued…

Shoot Out #CCC

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My English village has a strange legend. There’s a field with a small pathway running by it called High Noon Lane. Back in the 1800’s, an American cowboy arrived looking for a money lender that had stiffed him. It’s said they meet in that field at twelve PM and shot each other dead. The area was then named after that event.

As children it was believable and we would reenact the dual. As an adult, the legend stuck with me and I liked to think it was true, though there was no historical proof.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/crimsons-creative-challenge-19/ with thanks).