9th March

Closing Down

The store had never been busier. You could call this ironic, but there was no irony about it. It’s what happens when you have a closing-down sale. If we hadn’t been dying, the vultures wouldn’t have gathered. There’d have been the usual trickle of customers, and Ken, Jim and myself (we were the only ones left by then) would have been fighting over who was going to serve them. Yes, it was a bit depressing, but we were heading for the dole queue anyway, and at least with it being busy the last days went fast.

It was, weirdly, quite touching, the way people coming up to the tills with armfuls of CDs and DVDs kept apologising. They were sorry about our jobs, sorry about the shop closing, sorry they were picking up such bargains. (I’m lying, they weren’t sorry about that.) It was like hearing people saying nice things about you over your deathbed. ‘You’ll miss us when we’re gone,’ Ken told them. And they said they would, but they won’t. They’ll buy everything online, or download stuff for a fraction of what we used to charge. ‘Miss us?’ Jim said. ‘They won’t even remember our faces.’

‘Is there really another twenty per cent off this?’ one old guy asked, dumping a boxed set of Westerns on the counter. ‘It’s so cheap already.’

‘I know,’ I said, managing a smile. ‘But when we finally shut the doors on Saturday, we don’t want John Wayne still hanging around. Everything must go.’

‘Including us,’ said Ken, beside me.

‘Saturday?’ You could see the old guy’s cogs turning. ‘So it’ll be even cheaper then?’

‘If it’s still here,’ I said.

He started to say something else, but bottled it. ‘Okay, I’ll take it,’ he said, handing me a twenty, and I put the sale through and gave him his change and he toddled off with Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers and all the rest.

‘That old cheapskate was going to ask you to keep it aside for him,’ Ken said.

‘Shameless,’ I said.

The queue snaked round the display units. You couldn’t see the end of it. ‘Can I help someone?’ Ken shouted.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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