Good with his hands

It had been Mavis’ idea to shut early. “Too quiet,” she’d said, despite knowing there’d be a rush when the schools turned out. Today, I guessed, she couldn’t face children running around while their mothers tried on designer wear for a fraction of the price, and then tried to haggle.

“Maybe,” I’d said, hoping she’d change her mind, but she was as strong as her Yorkshire tea – decision made, job done.

So went down the blinds, “the blinkers to the world” she’d say, and that was it, afternoon off to do with as she wished.

Never time off, she’d make sure of that, but do chores that could have waited, nothing worth losing money over. I knew why she was doing it, the shop was no longer the haven she’d bought into, but one that had become mine. Without it I just had Mavis for company and… well, you can have too much of a good thing, as the saying goes.

I’d always been the practical one, said I’d help her with her ‘business-on-a-whim’, but a little goldmine as it turned out, even with mornings like this one.

I stood back as she locked up and tucked the keys into her bag… zipped it up as if it contained the crown jewels, then she took my arm and we walked home, stopping only to look in the charity shop’s window.

Awash with activity, a queue at the changing room, another at the till – all middle-aged women saving money to make their housekeeping go further – I wasn’t surprised at what happened next.

Mavis squeezed my arm and looked at the door. We’d been married for 40 years so I knew what was going through her mind; buy from the charity shop, sell in hers. Win, win.

I nodded. She released her hold on my arm and opened the door, striding over the threshold  a woman on a mission.

While I waited outside, I knew when I was surplus to requirement, my attention turned to the young man behind the counter; a gap-year student helping the British Red Cross instead of backpacking to more exotic locations. I never went to university, instead taking an apprenticeship at a local engineers… where I met Mavis, an assistant in the accounts department, good with figures while I’m good with my hands. So things would have been different if I’d gone to uni, maybe I’d have met someone else; a blonde instead of a brunette, with a willowy figure instead of petite and curvy, just like the lady now staring back at me.

***

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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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