Hearsay

Hearsay

(A small act of kindness at Christmas time………….)

She didn’t look up when she heard them walk in because she didn’t need to.

The ice-cold blast from the opened door hitting the warm air circulating in the shop announced the young couple had arrived, just as Mark had said they would.

The little village grocery shop, sandwiched between a Bookmakers and a Dry Cleaners, was long and narrow and shaped just like a shoe-box.  In fact, the rear storeroom, sensibly situated behind the cash register counter, boasted more available square footage than the shop itself.   Wall to wall shelving and two central aisle sections was the capacity limit, and it took a lot of effort to keep the shelves fully stocked, especially at Christmas time, owing to the limited space.  This, of course, made it easy to notice if something was missing and not knowingly sold.  Mollie believed that the false security camera fooled no-one.

However, Mollie did think that the shop always felt warm and welcoming, especially this time of year when the radio played non-stop Christmas songs and a  little silver Christmas tree was sitting in the large front window adorned with garlands of reindeers and candy canes.  Mark told her that the new fluorescent lighting definitely helped in the poorly lit shop, but was probably accountable for his recent dreadful headaches.    In January, he planned to re-arrange the shop floor layout and take advantage of some available storeroom space.  He wanted the till area nearer the entrance, to benefit from natural light, and hopefully deter theft.

The paying area was currently placed at the furthest corner of the shop, resulting in restricted views of some shelves, especially those by the shop front door.  Despite his height, Mark was not tall enough to see across from where he stood when serving customers, and for the last few weeks on a Friday evening, several cartons of Aptamil baby milk had been stolen. Mark was convinced the young couple who visited the shop just before closing were the culprits.  Last Friday, Mollie had been in the storeroom waiting for Mark to do the till read and then go home, when he alerted her to the fact that the alleged shoplifters had just walked in. The pale, young woman looked in need of sleep and appeared swamped in a huge grey ‘Puffer’ style coat.  Her brown curly hair was attempting to break free from the confines of a red knitted beanie hat, and she kept her hands in her pockets as she lingered by the entrance.

From behind the storeroom door, Mollie heard a  young man ask Mark for a ‘Packet of Rizlar rolling papers please,’ followed by a mumbled  ‘Thanks.’ Mark assumed his lack of warm outer clothing was some kind of fashion trend and figured he must be chilled to the bone dressed only in faded jeans and an oversized Nike sweater.  Later, when Mark checked the shelf, they were minus a carton of baby milk and a bottle of infant gripe water.  Mark was hopping mad and determined to put a stop to it.  He had a plan.  Next Friday would be different, but he needed Mollies’ help.

Since the female of the duo lingered inside the doorway, apparently keeping an eye on a sleeping baby in a pram outside, she stood conveniently at the baby product section.  Mark wanted to have Mollie sit strategically placed on a stool on the same aisle. His plan was to give her a pen, pad, and calculator, and pretend to be stock-taking when they arrived. He reasoned the shoplifter might think twice about taking the milk with Mollie close by,  and told her “When they walk through the door, let me know.”

“How? ” Mollie asked.

“You’ll think of something,” he replied.

And she did.  Think.  Mollie thought about how Mark had told her they came into the shop just before closing each Friday night for the last three weeks.   She thought about how Mark had told her they didn’t seem like your average shoplifters seeking out the spirits and cigarettes but stole baby items only. Why would someone steal baby items only?  Mollie wondered how desperate one might feel to be in that situation, and could only imagine how awful it must be to resort to stealing food to feed your baby.  She felt pity for the couple, not anger.

Mollie heard a raspy “Wait here,” as someone with an overwhelming tobacco odour passed behind her.  She calmly inched along on her stool and deliberately dropped her pen. Reaching down to retrieve it, she asked, “Excuse me, is this yours?” adding, “I think you dropped something…”  No response came from the young female hovering in the doorway, as Mollie offered a folded £20 note.  “Well……I know it’s not mine,” Mollie went on, pretending to be engrossed by what was on her sheet of paper, and from the corner of her mouth whispered, “Take it-he’s on to you!”  Following a  lengthy pause a cold, gloveless hand took the money from her hand without a word being said. “Pay for the milk.” Mollie urged, as she returned to her imaginary task, and noisily tapped at the little plastic calculator.  Momentarily, she heard Mark call, “Bye, and Merry Christmas!”  as the wooden door opened and closed again, permitting freezing cold air into the shop and embrace Mollie where she sat on her little stool.

“Well, that’s the strangest thing,” claimed Mark a few minutes later as he helped Mollie to stand.  “I was so sure they were the shoplifters….. he just bought a basket full of groceries, including a carton of baby milk.“  Mollie did not comment.  “Anyway wife, let’s lock up – it’s Christmas Eve and I’ve recorded ‘Carols From Kings, ’ –  why don’t we  go home and work our way through a nice box of mince pies, eh?”

“That sounds lovely.” Mollie agreed.

And helping her into her thick, woolen coat, Mark handed Mollie her white cane and glasses, switched off all the lights and locked the shop door.

Outside, Mollie felt the crunchy ground beneath her boots, and as usual, reached out for Mark’s arm finding just below his elbow.  “Walk slowly Mollie,” he warned, “Ground looks slippery tonight.”

In the car, Mollie asked Mark to describe the houses that were gaily decorated for Christmas.  It was foggy and bleak, but typically, Mark conjured up a winter wonderland for Mollie, describing sugar-coated rooftops, twinkling trees and enchanted fairy-lit gardens.  He made it sound magical and beautiful, just like his wife.

Mollie leaned back in her seat, feeling warm inside.  She hoped that her simple act of kindness would ease the burden a little for the young couple and lift their spirits also.  Mollie wanted them to be warm and fed this Yuletide, just as she would be.  She felt blessed.  Would she ever tell Mark what she had done?  She did not know.

Jeanette Mahon

About the author

Smudgersnan
250 Up Votes
Hi. I am new to this 'world' of same age surfers! I am keen to socialise in any format. I am a wife, mum and nanna. I love to sew, crochet, read and write. I also visit the pool (while I can!) to swim or attend aqua. I love my garden, although not the work that accompanies it-guess I like to gaze and admire more than digging and weeding! I believe in 'Use it, or lose it' so try to be active, despite my age. I love chocolate and wine, frequently please!

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