Wednesday, January 9

Sketch of Miss Doyle

MISS DOYLE STOOD behind the till and was still. Her hands were placed palm-down on the desk. On the top of her right hand was a star-like scar she had received when, during a childhood punishment, her mother’s nail had caught into her skin; the scar had been an odd fascination of hers ever since and right then it glinted in the light the way scar tissue glints when it is in the mood. A thin halo of condensation was forming around her hands but the clock had not yet struck half-five. She did not think of the clock but stared at apparently nothing.
What she was actually staring at was the ‘OPEN’ sign her nephew had recommended she get.
‘Charlie saw it in the fish & chip shop down the road and thought you should get one, didn’t you, Charlie?’ Charlie just smiled and pointed to the undusted ornament of a Victorian woman in a pink dress. His fingers were fat. She wondered when they would ever become slim.
The sign was against the window with just enough space between them so that the reflection could be seen. The little LEDs flashed round in circles, multicoloured circles that pirouhetted without any music and blinked their pining lights out for people to see; only there were no people, only an empty pavement and the reflection of an empty antiques shop.
‘You can’t get it in black?’
‘Only if someone donates one in black. Have you tried Gunn’s?’
‘Oh, I tried there but they said they don’t have anything like it.’
‘I’m sorry, Mrs. Hatcher.’
What thoughts tangled themselves in her head, though she stared at the sign, lightly hypnotised by its repetitive patterns. The red bubbling over the green to form an O, then round-about the poised head of a P, singing in the blue rain an E and bouncing yellowishly an N. She watched it all, time & time again, not once tiring but finding new interests within it. Her eyes never quite glazing over.
After some time: twenty-four-minutes-to-six.
‘Oh,’ says she, aloud, rushing to the door to finger the switch at the back of the OPEN sign, collapsing it into sleep, and rummaging in her dress for the keys to the door. Resting on the handle, she looked at the street. Not many people moved about. There was something she was waiting for. With the OPEN sign extinguished she felt that she was invisible and could observe undisturbed. So observe she did; her wide eyes fluttering here and there, moist, alive, pupils open, her last bit of energy left spent peering from the shopfront, waiting.
Then, as soon as he was there, he was gone.
He passed by the window as if he were a phantom.
Her heart swelled; her body shook; her quiet knees teetered, and she locked the front door and felt, hearing through her arm, the lock ease into its home. With silent paces, she walked to the back of the shop and turned off all the lights, finally in darkness, invisible.

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