Voyeur

The little bell suspended above the door tinkled. Martin looked up from his book, pushing his glasses up his nose. The bell was his idea. A touch of romanticism in a shop that specialised in quite the opposite.

The customer, an elderly gentleman in a buttoned up beige coat, nodded at Martin and smiled. The shopkeeper returned the friendly gesture, sniffed and turned back to his book. His eyes weren’t quite what they used to be, and he gently massaged the fragile skin beneath his glasses as he read.

The customer perused the shelves of magazines, his hands clasped behind his back until he spotted an issue of interest, at which point the wizened fingers uncurled themselves from their slumber at the base of his spine and with a few gentle tugs, the glossy book was removed from the shelf, to be quickly leafed through until a decision had been made and it was returned to the squeaky embrace of its brothers.

Martin cocked his head to the side. Something was odd. A displacement in chi energy within the small, dusty shop. He extended his spine, raising his torso above the desk. The customer glanced over, a little alarmed at the sudden movement. Martin smiled again and moved his eyes over to the small fountain in the corner of the shop. The encouraging trickle of water continued to entertain the dead air that hung above Martin and his customer. Martin frowned and sank back into his chair, thumb rubbing against the corner of the page he was on.

The customer bent down, disappearing behind one of the shelves as he explored the lower racks of magazines. Martin’s eyes returned to the slightly smudged ink of his book, but his mind continued to wander, flitting around the inside of his head, brandishing a comically large magnifying glass as his subconscious desperately tried to locate the source of the chi-problem.

He’d discovered Feng Shui a few months ago, had found it a beautifully simple and cleansing idea and had immediately reorganised his shop to provide a healthier flow. He had considered bringing an expert in, but after careful thought decided that it was unnecessary. To tell the truth, since he’d introduced the new layout, he hadn’t been feeling the benefits, particularly. Still, it was something to talk about at dinner parties.

Not that he ever got invited to dinner parties. He found small talk rather difficult, especially when the conversation turned to occupations. Teachers, lawyers and doctors would all proudly wave their occupational flags above their smiling heads, which would then, one by one, turn to Martin.

The customer resurfaced, his face a little red from the strenuousness of the squatting position he had been forced to maintain. He walked over to the counter and pushed the magazine, face-down, towards Martin.

The shopkeeper stood up, feeling his knees complain, and checked the price of the publication, punched weary fingers into his tired till and finally pushed the magazine into a thick brown-paper bag. The customer smiled, pushed a few coins across the scarred counter and made to exit the shop.

Then he stopped. The customer turned around and moved slightly guilty eyes up to Martin’s face. Martin tilted his head to show that he was listening and happy-to-help. The customer moved back to the till.

‘Do you have anything else?’ Stuttered the elderly gentleman in the beige coat.
‘What were you looking for?’ Replied Martin.

There was a pause, during which the elderly gentleman in the beige coat searched Martin’s eyes with an air of desperation. Martin smiled vacantly back at his customer, who sighed and leaned forwards, tilting his mouth downwards, away from Martin, towards the floor.

‘Anything you don’t keep out on the shelves?’ He muttered conspiratorially.
‘All of my stock is already out on the shop floor.’
‘Ah, I see. Never mind then, thank you.

The elderly gentleman in the beige coat turned away from the till, a steady blush beginning to colour his gaunt cheeks. Martin waited until he had reached the door, before coughing quietly.

‘Of course, we do have stock that’s only available on request.’

The customer stopped, let his head sag, turned back to Martin and forced a smile to crack his burning face.

‘Yes. I think that might be for me.’

Martin pulled a leather book from a drawer under the counter. Using the tattered black ribbon to locate the last page, he opened the book and dragged his finger along the list of tiny handwritten names.

‘Are you Mr Cliffton?’
‘No.’ The elderly gentleman in the beige coat stepped away from the counter a little, a deep blush still painting his cheeks.
‘Mr Johnston?’
‘Uh, no.’
‘Mr Christianson?’
‘No. Say, do you read out all of the names like this usually?’ The elderly gentleman leaned across the counter, his eyes heavy with concern, his cheek muscles tight with a panicked guilt.

Martin ignored the customer’s question, pushing his glasses further up his nose and leaning closer to the book.
‘Mr Shepherd?’
‘Yes. Yes, that’s me.’
‘Fantastic, I’ll just pop upstairs and get your special items.’
‘Thank you.’

Martin moved out from behind the till and climbed the stairs, a grin relieving his stoic features of their duty for a few moments. Embarrassing his more voyeuristic customers was a simple pleasure, but it was one he delighted in experiencing. Yes, it was cruel, but sitting behind that till all day was dull, and any amusement that could be found in the industry had to be exploited, simply to avoid dying from the oppressive monotony of his empty shop.

The hunt for the package didn’t take as long as Martin had hoped, and he soon found himself taking details from Mr Shepherd; the elderly gentleman in the beige coat.

The bell sang as the customer swiftly left the shop. Martin picked up his book and once again let his eyes dance across the pages.

Advertisements

One response to “Voyeur

  1. I could not turn away from the page!!

    Seriously, I have to say, I’ve not read anything like that since J. K. Rowling. Your beautiful and poetic use of words really gets into the mind of the situation and also deals out a decent mystery as to what these people are referring to (even though it’s screamingly obvious). Love the way you draw your reader in.

    I would most definitely buy your book, if you get one published. So much better than half the writers and books I’ve glanced at out there.

    LIKED, SHARED, FAVOURITED

    More please 🙂
    John x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s