She was having a tip-top grand old time, sitting on the high stool playing shop with the contents of the store cupboard. “Would you like one or two tins of peaches, madam?” “I’m sorry sir, we’re all out of eggs today.” “That will be twenty-six pence thank-you” Because there was no cash register, she made the beep beep and ching noises herself. Quietly though.
Granda had a Visitor. She had seen the dark, important shadow of him going past the half-open kitchen door. Granny had filled the tea pot and sliced the fruit loaf, spreading a thick layer of butter on each piece. Remembering the bad look her brother had got when he remarked, ‘wow, look how much butter he took!’, she stopped herself from saying anything. Besides, the customers were waiting and the shop didn’t run itself.
As time went by, the circles on granny’s cheeks got redder and redder. Granny was always rosy, but today she was more than that. Every time the doors opened and closed there was a Presbyterian rumble from the sitting room. She didn’t really know what Presbyterian meant but it was a word often used at home and here so she had learnt how to say it: pres-be-teer-ee-un. When she heard the word she looked at the serious faces who said it and knew it was a word you didn’t smile saying. It didn’t scare the shopkeeper because she knew papa. Papa was Presbyterian but papa was always kind. He wouldn’t let any dark-suited, deep-voiced man near her. No matter how loud he laughed or how much butter he ate. No matter if he was a Presbyterian.
The shop was nearly all emptied now. All the tins and packets were out on the high table, neatly lined up. She patted her apron pocket and nodded. It had been a good day for the shop today. One last thing. Someone was pointing to something at the top of the other cupboard. It would be perfect for putting granny’s smiley biscuits on. She nodded to her imaginary customer and moved towards the pretty thing she wanted. It was a big green bowl with leaf patterns and gold edging.
She listened at the door. Granny was in there talking too. She walked the stool over to the cupboard and looked at it. She put her foot on the rung at the bottom and reached. Her fingers brushed the bowl but couldn’t grab it. Laughter was still bouncing from the sitting room. She got up on her tiptoes, stretched, reached and grabbed. The bowl was sticking out over the edge. She tried again. When it was nearly in her hand it rushed too quickly.
When the crash happened the laughter stopped. Everyone must have heard. Now her cheeks were like her granny’s. Her wee heart was thumping. Granny appeared, leaving both doors open for all to see and hear. She looked at the precious china wedding present on the floor, stepped round it and put her arms round her grand-daughter. The dark Presbyterian didn’t come in to see what she’d done. Papa kept him distracted with the Bible as granny closed the kitchen door and swept up the mess,
“Don’t worry, I never liked it anyway.”
She looked at the closed door and winked,
“And no-one needs to know.”
The shopkeeper rubbed her tears away with her shopkeeper’s apron and got another hug.
“Grannies never tell.”