Thursday, May 24, 2012
The Shopkeeper [Friday Flash Fiction]
[new writing motivation! http://fridayflash.org]
The storefront caught her eye, what with the beautifully done piece of chipmunk taxidermy nestled between handmade bags, clothing, and nature-related tchotchke. The storefront was pleasing too with its lack of aluminum, it was freshly painting wood—a light green that wasn't too pastel. She contemplated her aversion to pastel paint as it reminded her of ice cream shoppies with fragile, unstable chairs and the cloying smell of sugar.
She stepped out of the bright sunshine into the cool of the store. The first item that caught her eye was a small handbag sporting a cat appliqué in black felt with green crystal eyes. Within a split second, she envisioned how the bag might look with her black wool skirt and red sweater. Quickly replacing that image, she imagined what her friend would say about the bag. Would she like it, think it was the cutest thing, or think it was tacky? She quickly decided it was playful, yet the quality and craftsmanship allowed it to sidestep tacky. It was super cute. She reached out to touch it.
"Isn't it fabulous?"
She stayed her hand and looked to her side to see the eager face of the shopkeeper. Few things made her more nervous than an eager shopkeeper. Her mind flashed on desperate times and an image of the woman hunched over a ledger book crying and shaking her fists at the sky. She squeezed her eyes shut for just a beat longer than it would take to blink and during that brief rest she focused on her eyelids.
Her eyelids popped back open as they do thousands of times a day, but this time they opened reluctantly. She wished her time in relative darkness could have been longer. She knew she'd have to say something, well, more precisely, she'd be compelled to say something, to placate the woman or perhaps just placate her fear of desperation and a failing businesses.
No, it wasn't her fault if the store didn't make enough money, but wouldn't it be nice to buy something to support the local economy? On the other hand, her budget these days didn't allow for the frivolous use of money. If she spent her money on a luxury, she should be sure the luxury was perfect and not just another momentary whim she'd later regret.
Her restored vision revealed the still smiling face of the shopkeeper, looking directly into her eyes.
What would she say? How about…"It's so nicely done," she said, motioning to the bag.
"They've just been flying out the door. You might want to grab that one, it won't be around long." The shopkeeper picked up the bag and brought it closer to her customer.
"See the eyes? They're real crystal."
"I see." They certainly did look like real crystals. Looking at it in the hand of the shopkeeper, it felt far away. It no longer felt like a discovery. A discovery? That's dumb, someone made it and someone else arranged it on a shelf. But still, it felt like hers for a moment; it seemed to fit. Now it seemed that taking it into her own hands could only be accomplished by asking the shopkeeper to hand it over, to inspect it on her own. She sighed inwardly. Really. It isn't worth it now. She felt a wave of irritation and shyness come over her, while at the same time her mind began the desperate search for a response. It was as if her mind was a room filled with doors, only a select few hiding a witty and thoughtful response; the others hiding a lame response that was sure to fall flat as soon as it left her mouth.
"They certainly do look like real crystals." Oh dear, her response had given nothing for the shopkeeper to work with and the inevitable question was sure to surface. The one that would make her inwardly cringe.
"Can I help you with anything today? Are you looking for something in particular?"
As expected, she inwardly cringed. She knew she could fall back on the old standard "just looking, thanks," but knew that her brain was chomping at the bit and was about to blurt out something. Before her brain could think much more, she gave the shopkeeper a quiet no thank you and a quick smile. She turned and headed toward the door. As she walked she attempted to look nonchalant, like she was going to continue looking. She knew she was done and wanted to be outside. She could feel the shopkeeper's eyes on her back. They gave her the willies.