Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Astonishment (02/02/12)
TITLE: Mrs. Richie's Notions and Oddities
By Terry Lee
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“Mary! What brings you here?"
“I’m not sure, I—”
Mary gathered her heap of chocolate hair, flipping the mass into a ponytail in three seconds flat. Then she set her hands upon her hips.
“The Lord led me here! I woke up, slid into flip flops, and walked over. Can’t explain it. Maybe I just miss working here. I know you can’t pay me, but I have nothing else to do, so I’m all yours.”
“You’re a dear, Mary, but this place is a morgue. Perhaps the Lord wanted you to travel farther up the street—to the coffee shop perchance? I’ll bet that young handsome Bryce fellow is working today.”
Mary’s cheeks flushed as bright as her Pink Popsicle lip gloss, but returned to their natural hue when she saw Mrs. Richie’s newspaper, the classifieds exposed, and embellished with angry dark circles.
“Looking for a job?”
“Might have to sell the shop. Hate to do it, but since Mr. Richie passed—”
The old woman cleared her throat. Blessed are those who suffer, of this she was sure, but she was willing to relinquish a portion of her blessings in exchange for the company of her husband. Flipping through a stack of unpaid bills, Mrs. Richie thought she might settle for a few extra customers.
“I appreciate the offer, but you are too young and healthy to be cooped up inside this cave. Go. Do something fun!”
Mary thought to protest but was interrupted by the jingling door. A customer! Mary flashed bright eyes at Mrs. Richie, who rolled wrinkle-lined eyes in return. The visitor would browse, fill her senses with notions and oddities, but she wasn’t likely to make a purchase. The economy had efficiently ravaged consumer vitality, and disposable income had all but disappeared from this community. Besides, anyone with money to spend would likely prefer technology of the future, over relics from the past.
Mrs. Richie imagined herself as a dinosaur stuck in the tar. Who could possibly save this fast-sinking beast from extinction? Deeper and deeper she sank, until startled out of her daydream by the customer’s sudden move toward the counter.
“May I see that pendant?” the soft-spoken woman asked, smiling brightly and pointing into the glass.
“Lovely choice,” said Mary, jumping to the woman’s assistance. “A Nineteenth Century Reliquary Pendant, Spanish Colonial.”
Mary locked the sale long before she could finish reciting the pendant’s exuberant history.
“You’ve seen the price tag?” questioned Mrs. Richie, but the smiling soft-spoken woman waved her hand and the register balance increased by two hundred and ninety-five dollars.
Mrs. Richie’s heart pounded at the thought of affording utilities and food, when the door jingled again, welcoming two more customers. Before these customers’ purchases were complete, in walked five new customers, and before these were gone, ten more arrived. The bewildering trend continued, customers entering and purchasing with increasing avidity. Each customer made at least one purchase, and some made several. Every customer took a business card, promising to return. They snapped up bookmarks, crosses, antique linens, and figurines. They bought oddly shaped candle holders, mirrors, and frames. One gentleman bought an English Bible printed in the 1500’s. This delightful man paid the asking price of three thousand dollars!
The register spilled with cash as Mary kept busy, stocking shelves and assisting customers in finding the notions and oddities of their dreams. At closing time Mrs. Richie shut the jingling door behind the last customer and threw her arthritic hands toward the ceiling.
Mary laughed out loud and Mrs. Richie joined her until she could laugh no more. Mrs. Richie thought to toss the classifieds into her waste bin, but was caught by the glimpse of an advertisement.
“CASH MOB,” the ad read.
“Support local businesses by surprising them with a Cash Mob. Bring neighborly love, and an open wallet. This month’s Cash Mob will be at ‘Mrs. Richie’s Notions and Oddities.’ Go to our SocialSite fan page for more details.”
Mrs. Richie fell back into a Georgian mahogany chair.
“Did you know about this Mary?”
Mary’s mouth, frozen agape, answered that she had not.
Mrs. Richie visited Cash Mob’s SocialSite fan page and glared in wonder. Hundreds of neighbors—yesterday’s strangers—pulling together for the sake of one.
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