“Closed Shop”


On a sunnyish Sunday morning as boring and rambling as a Bank Holiday Monday, Walker the rambler walked into Kendal. He was hungry so decided he’d visit the first store he found, which happened to be an Aldi. There, an odd gang of souls, mainly odd men but the odd odd woman, were waiting outside. It was 09.45 and the shutters were down, the closed sign saying closed and another saying it would open at ten and not before. So the odd gang of souls had to do as they were told and wait.

“Fifteen minutes,” said a man with glasses to another without glasses.

“It’ll soon pass,” said the one with twenty twenty vision or contact lenses, who knows?

“What bargain are you after?” asked the first man.

“None in particular,” lied the second.

“Me neither,” lied the first, “Just one or two bits.”

“Me too,” lied the second.

“I make it ten now,” said the first.

“It’ll soon pass,” repeated the second.

But it did not soon pass. Because Walker the rambler, stomach rumbling, was subjected to ten minutes that felt like hours of the most banal, brutally inane tripe that had the nerve to try and pass itself off as conversation. Cars was a topic of debate, as was football, The Town’s upcoming fixture with Colwyn Bay, Brexit, May, Corbyn and the Jews and most tedious of all Trump – was it fake news that he kept the Queen waiting or not? At this point Walker felt bound to open his mouth but despite his polite intervention he didn’t get very far. The two men had formed a bond, two being company a third making a crowd. This was a closed shop. They didn’t want a crowd because they feared any newcomer might get ahead in the queue, nab the bargain they’d seen in the local paper and which was in limited stock. A newcomer would lengthen the odds. And so they turned their backs on Walker and continued their conversation.

I am glad I am not like you, thought Walker, I am glad I am not you – a closed shop grimly watching a closed shop in a car park as dead as Sunday and portentous as a Kafka novel. Walker looked up at the sky, wispy cloud and birdless, not much to break up the monotony. And then back at the gang, facing a window, a reflection of odd and meaninglessness.  But then it changed…

“I lost my wife last week,” said the one with glasses.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said the one without glasses.

“They opened her up and sewed her back up again.  Two weeks later she was gone.  Married thirty-one years and just like that,” he said, clicking his fingers, “Aye.  She would’ve been fifty today.”

“That’s no age,” said the other man.

“I’m coping,” said the first.

After an awkward pause, the shutters finally came up and they began to shuffle forwards. The closed sign had now flipped, saying they could come in, even Walker could be part of the gang. But he hesitated. He realised he’d been harsh and unfair to judge these men, particularly the one with the glasses, because he was the same.  He was just like every one of them there, in front of and behind him, flesh and blood and in the scheme of things every bit as mortal, odd and meaningless.




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