You might have been laughing, or chatting loudly, as you approached the open door in the yellow house, but once you crossed the threshold, all noise and cheer were instantly snuffed out. The shop itself was crammed full of happy things, like ice lollies, crisps and sweets, but you selected and paid for them in silence, as if you were in a funeral parlour. It was usually the dourest one at the till – why they decided he was best suited to that particular role is a mystery. You’d put up your chosen treat, and slowly, slowly, he’d tap the buttons on the register, and push it past him when he was done. He would growl out the cost, as if it was a punishment to him, and take the coins without another word.
We always made our selection and paid our money as quickly as we could; it wasn’t a shop for browsing, you were better to know what you were going to buy before you got there, and make sure that the pleasant idea of it didn’t get swallowed up by the gloom.
He was not alone however: in the back of the shop there was another man, who looked almost identical, and a woman who I later learned was his wife. The husband never spoke either, but that could well have been because his wife did all the talking for him. In the back of the shop, that is. Once she moved nearer the front, she too was reduced to an occasional nod and glimmer of a smile. She always looked like maybe she knew she was trapped now, but was makng the best of it. But, it’s hard to say, and perhaps her marriage was brighter than it looked. They had no children – children might have revolutionized the shop. Although, there were already plenty of young people tramping in and out every day. There were plenty of bright colours. But the silent man at the desk cancelled it all out. What a strange, ill-fitting match it was. What a depressing shop of treats.