The Shop

by thomasmagnahastings

Resident one comes down to the kitchen at 6am and reads a note she sees fastened to the fridge door. Letting out a yawn, she prepares a bowl of cereal taken from a cereal box belonging to resident two, who had left the house very early that morning. Five minutes pass before resident three walks sleepily in, wearing a dressing gown. The two residents who are present smile and blink at each other around the wooden kitchen table. Resident one starts to talk about the incident.

‘Have you seen that note up there?’

‘Where?’ replies resident three.

‘You know, there’, says resident one, pointing vaguely toward the note before diving into her bowl of cereal, not sure whether resident two was about to walk into the room. Resident three nodded indifferently, fished around her dressing gown pocket for a pair of smudged reading glasses and walked over to inspect the note.

‘I see… Yes, we could do with a shop around here. Right here in the kitchen. Do you know how pissy it is to have to walk up and down that hill every morning?’

‘What do you mean?’ resident one replied goadingly, ‘It’s not like you have anywhere else to go…’

‘Yes, well, all I’m saying is that, if I had the choice, I’d rather purchase my goods from inside, if I could. Directly…’ she trailed off. Silence fell across the table. Then, staring at the white bowl, resident three suddenly lashed out, as if just spotting something, ‘How can you filch her cereal? You know how hungry she’s going to be when she walks through that door.’ There was a pause, and then as if to herself, she muttered in a different tone, ‘Any minute now, any minute…’

Resident one smiled and creased her eyebrows before dunking her spoon back in to the bowl, to scoop out the last bits of cereal. They ignored each other.

*                        *                        *

‘Come here, darling. Come here’, resident three whispered a few minutes later. Nothing happened.

She bent down, and made some kissy kissy noises. Still, nothing happened.

‘Come here dumpling, my little sweetheart, come on.’ Nothing.

Resident three squeezed the back leg of her chair, reassuring herself. Resident one squeezed the back leg of her chair, annoyed.

‘Why don’t you come here, what have I done?’

Resident one, annoyed, drops her spoon. ‘Enough! Enough of your silly smoochy rhetoric, I’ll do it OK!’ And with that, she pushed the bowl away from her, got up and walked out of the room.

Resident three looked morosely across at the milk-lined bowl — she could hear rustling noises coming from the room upstairs. A few minutes later, resident one charged indignantly back through the kitchen door, returned to her wooden seat and set down a low, wide plastic container on the tabletop.  Opening the lid of the container, she started to organize piles of loose change. Soon she had counted the coins out in to neat little towers, which she then transferred one by one from the box to the opposite end of the table. She asked resident three to oversee the process.

Dictating in a pronounced and even voice, she called out, ‘Pennies. Twelve. Two pence pieces. Twelve. Five pence pieces. Twelve. Ten pence pieces. Twelve. Twenty pence pieces. Twelve. Fifty pence pieces. Twelve. One pound coins. Twelve. Two pound coins. Twelve.’

Looking briefly up from her work, self-contented, she made an aside to her colleague; ‘I always keep a spare float on me, just in case I need to start up shop.’

‘G-d you sound like Mother Courage!’ snapped resident three, a little angry.

‘Who’s that?’ she glanced over, not listening, before taking up officiously from where she had left off, ‘Right, well what have we to sell then? Come on, I’ve done my bit. Did you make a note of the cash?’

‘Yes, twelve of everything.’

Resident three calmed down and began to look enterprisingly around the kitchen, before settling on the cupboard above the fridge. She got up and walked over, climbed awkwardly on to a high stool and pulled open the cupboard doors. There at the back lay a dusty pile of newspapers she had collected over the previous winter. She had meant to use them for starting fires, but the council had asked her not to. Apparently, their cooperative was situated in a “high density pollution zone”, meaning she was not permitted to light fires indoors.

‘Here’ she said, returning to the table, her arms laden with the great dusty pile of newspapers. ‘I don’t mind getting rid of these. I’ve got no use for them now, since the council came by…’

‘Right OK, well put them down here next to me.’

Resident one carefully arranged the yellowy-brown newspapers out in front of her, with the cashbox hidden discretely behind.

They sat down in their respective places. Breakfast was over now and they talked freely. They continued talking for a few minutes before the conversation ran dry. For a long while they sat in silence, looking expectantly toward the door, waiting. Around lunchtime, resident one got up to use the toilet, and asked resident three to take her seat. She returned in a couple of minutes, refreshed, and they switched back to their original seats without a word. Some time passed. At about 5 O’clock, resident one turned around and said, ‘Well, I think it’s about time we put these things away, don’t you?’

Resident three opened her eyes, looked up at the clock on the wall, looked back, and replied, ‘Yes, I think it’s about time.’

Just as resident one got up to put the cashbox and newspapers away, they heard the sound of a key turning in the lock.

‘Quick, quick!’ cried resident one, ‘put everything back.’

They waited in silent anticipation as they heard resident two make her way down the corridor toward them. As the door opened, they looked knowingly at each other, as if to say, “Business”.

Resident two entered the room and glanced quickly at them, before going over to the fridge. Opening the door, she bent down to the bottom shelf, pulled out a soft drink, got up and turned around to leave the room.

‘Wait!’ cried resident three, ‘Don’t you want to see what we’re selling today?’

‘Selling?’ said resident two, bemused.

‘Yes’, replied resident one, ‘Selling’.

‘Oh I’m sorry but I’ve just been out at work all day, I’m knackered and I don’t understand what you mean exactly. Can’t we do this tomorrow?’

‘Do what tomorrow? We’re about to close shop, there won’t be time otherwise.’

‘Right…’ returned resident two. ‘Well in that case, let’s talk about it on Saturday at the meeting, shall we?’ Hesitating by the door, she turned around as if about to leave, before quickly adding, ‘You know, there are some things that need to be discussed. You can’t just do whatever you want around here. I mean, who are you to start a shop in my… in our house. Just because I’ve been out working?’

With that, she quickly turned around and walked out of the room.

Resident three looked over at resident one. ‘Right, I guess we better pack this all away then.’

‘Yes, I guess so’, said resident one.