Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Gift Shop

When the rain suddenly came down, I was laden down with bursting flimsy supermarket bags, one in either hand. My elderly neighbour's shopping list had been ridiculously long for one person. So it wasn't really my fault when I swept a jar of happiness off the second shelf up from the bottom of the shop I'd dashed into.

The clattering of the rain on the pavement outside together with the bell and the brushing of the shop door against the mat as others too, took shelter, did nothing to muffle the shattering of the jar on the floor. Those already inside, browsing gingerly amongst the trinkets and keepsakes took in a collective sharp breath.

The rectangular shop seemed to become an arena, with me standing in the centre of onlookers who were now taller, enabling them to see beyond the cluttered shelves. I was sure that the raindrops on my cheeks would now be steaming away into a cloud above me and mixing with the evaporated happiness. In no time, the shopkeeper would be over and that cloud would yield a bolt of lightning.

I couldn't bolt. It was there for all to see and I was surrounded. All I could do was to scrabble around on the floor, pick up the sharp fragments and lay them in a pile next to the perpetrators, my bags.

'I'm very sorry madam but we have a policy. Breakages must be paid for.'

This was what the mealy-mouthed shoppers wanted. Their smug smiles sent a silent ripple of applause around the shop.

I handed over the money. There was no receipt. The storm outside had stopped and as I made my way to the door, the browsers' futile sifting through the displays for pricey bargains resumed pointedly. But I had broken the one thing they'd been looking for.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Primary Care

You don't expect that when you're paying. I can live with it, though. Receptionists are the same wherever you go. They used to be OK. That was when I came in with George. All over me, in fact. Smiles, couldn't do enough. Yes, I know it was George they were really interested in. Still, the treatment he was getting impressed me and well, here I am. I wanted a bit of it for myself. Regular check-ups, nice nurses, a spotless surgery, appointments whenever you need them and medications handed out over the desk without having to go the chemist. Never got any of that from my GP.

See that one over there? The one looking out of the window? I saw him last time I came in. He's had a leg off. Was in the army. Not working any more, of course. Still gets around though. Testament to how good this place is. And that female over there? She was like a barrel six months ago. Comes here to the weight loss clinic. You wouldn't believe it to look her now. Not an inch of fat on her. Holistic, I think they call it. They can do everything here. I don't even mind which one I see. They've all trained for years and years.

I bet you're wondering what my problem is. Well, between you and me, I'm not ill as such but when you're in your forties and you live alone, contact is good. When I get called in, I'll have to lie down and be examined all over. I won't have to say anything. Some bits are undignified, I admit. The thermometer up your bottom, for one. But on the whole, I'll be treated with respect. They'll talk to me nicely, tell me just how good I am and then when it's all over, I'll get a special treat.

I'm not the only one, you know. It's not something they advertise but there are about six of us altogether. We've all got a special arrangement. Just because we don't have pets with us, doesn't mean a thing. Our money's as good as they next person's. Worth every penny, I'd say.