longs emporium, a short story by the christian. Date added: 2010-03-01. Times viewed: 521.
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- Intro: helping an old man run his shop has its rewards
i had been going into mr longs shop for a few years,we seemed to hit it off but i didnt quite understand why, possibly because of his son Billy, he was handicapped, my brother was similar so i could empathise, he always had time for a chat if i was feeling down i may have been up most of the night with peter, he always gave me a cup of tea and a biscuit and listened to my woes, or if i wanted to bitch about another lost boyfriend, but i had noticed he was looking older,and moving slower, i did enquire if Billy had a carer, Peter did and it was a help,but he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.he attended a day centre monday till friday and saturday and sunday he brought him to the shop with him.
Why would a normal sixteen year old dote on her handicapped brother the way i did , my friends used to ask, i would reply because he was my brother and he gave me his love unreservedly and i loved him back simple as that, It was saturday it was a lovely day one of the first of spring, i told mum i was taking peter to the park,he loved the park he could wander around without being held he didnt really do running but it was as close as he could get to it and he really enjoyed it , we were walking past Longs emporium and i decided to get him a football,he loved me buying him and they wernt expensive, so in we went, that was the first time i met billy, he was a little lad, and as is the nature of them he was lovely ,so loving and so giving without conditions, him and peter seemed to get on would it be unkind to think they were on the same wavelength maybe so,but its the best comparison i can make, i suggested i take Billy with us, and mr long immediatly protested , he couldnt expect a young girl to take care of his lad, i ignored his plea and helped put his coat on along with his hat and mittens,as we turned to leave a woman came in with a young girl,similar ages with myself , she looked at billy and laughed "look at the state of him" she shreiked, as the woman turned to her i expected her to be chastised she nodded her head in agreement and laughed, mr long turned to me and intoduced them as his daughter and grand daughter, they were in for some money,and added they would not look after Billy on sunday whilst mr long visited his ailing war buddy in their words "you'll have to find someone else" i bade them farewell and we headed off to the park they had the time of their lives, we done the swings fed the ducks threw the ball to each other and best of all slid down the chute, not the little one thats for kids,but the big high one, we returned to the shop as mr long was closing, he thanked me over and over , he could see the joy in his sons face and was so grateful, as i was ready to leave, i asked if he found someone to look after billy, he shook his head disconsolately, "what time do i have to be here at" i asked him, "is two o clock ok "he replied smiling, "thats fine just leave me and i'll run your shop for you" he looked at me stunned "you'll run the shop as well" he asked, smiling i replied "well duh !!" we laughed and he put a hand on each side of my face "you are a good person " he told me and i took peter home listening to him babbling on about his new best friend he seemed to have named belly!
i arrived at the shop on my bike with ten minutes to spare, again mr long thanked me repeatedly and he left to see his friend, i surveyed the shop trying to identify where everything was , it was fairly busy till late aftenoon, it died down,i decided to clean up a bit the shop was old and mr long wasnt fit to climb ladders so it was a bit dusty to say the least, it didnt take me long to scoot round and in a short space of time it began to look as i remembered it years ago,i cleaned the windows which helped a lot because they were filthy, as i sat admiring my handy work, his grand daughter came in with some of her friends , "wheres my grandad" it was like a demand , "hes gone to visit his friend,remember " i replied ,she began to ask her friends if they wanted a can of pop, and opened the fridge, as she turned to leave i stood in front of her "thats two pounds forty please" i held out my hand, "yeah right this is my grandads shop" i told her i had no instruction to let her have anything so i hoped she would see it from my point, suffice to say she didnt, as she tried to barge her way past i took her arm and as i had been taught, i turned her and pushed her down, i took the can of pop from her and replaced it in the fridge and invited her friends to do likewise, they did without protest, i opened the door and gestured for them to leave as she did she tripped and fell over the step to make matters worse some boys she knew were passing at the time and her short skirt didnt hide anything from them, she had only been gone ten minutes when her mother appeared to establish what i was doing in her fathers shop,my reason for being there was a reflection on her and her daughters character,by now i was angry, and was voicing my opinion of her and her daughter, where it would have ended up i dont know because mr long returned, she left telling her father of my lack of respect to which he laughed sarcastically,he looked around the shop in awe, i think it took him back to better times, before i left i suggested to him if he needed time off i would be willing to help, he had obviously been thinking, he asked me if i would do every sunday afternoon, he would pay me the going rate of course i agreed and so my career as a shopkeeper began as mr long got older i done more and more, i left school and worked with him as shop assistant come carer to billy,his daughter and grand daughter got more odious as time passed, their demands for cars clothes money holidays , sat heavy on my mind how horrid could two people be, we had long conversations about them and he knew my feelings and i knew his,they were his family he was responsible.
As the years passed we had expanded into other ranges of goods,my younger influence had impacted and we moved with the times , the shop was thriving, and mr long had suggested i invest some of my earnings in it, he committed to giving me shares with every milestone we reached, i agreed but left it to him to sort the detail, i was content Billy and Peter were bosom buddies, Billy stayed with him at weekends they were good company for each other and they watched out for each other ,even venturing out together to walk the dog,there was even the odd occasion they would gang up on me, i soon nipped that in the bud,but it seems the minute you relax something comes along and bites you.
as usual i cycled to work arriving two minutes before we opened , i ran in and put on my overall and as usual mr long told me id be late for my own funeral, only that morning the first thing i was aware of was he didnt say it, i came around to the back of the newspaper counter to find him lying there he had been dead for a while according to the doctor that attended, the people taking away his body had just left when his daughter arrived, she told me i was finished in there and ordered me from her shop, as she tried to open the till, i laughed at her antics as she tried to force it with a six inch ruler, "its tamper proof " i told her over my shoulder as i left, i arrived home and she phoned me obviously thinking who would run the shop, i agreed to return the next day, and asked her to put a note in the window explaining what had happened i spent the remainder of the day sitting with my mum crying for the loss of my old friend .we buried mr long three days later, it was a damp miserable day,which really reflected my mood, i cried till i couldnt produce any more tears , i sat in my bedroom being comforted by my little brother, he asked "will we have to look after belly now " and it occured to me Billy what the hell is going to happen to him, luckily he was at a respite centre,but id have to find out what would happen to him afterwards, i rang Sally she was peters carer , she would find out for me and ring me back, she did and he was to be fostered in the short term, i determined to look after him for as long as it took for ever if necessary, peter was so excited belly was coming to stay.
it might be unbelievable but its not so much more hard work looking after the two of them as it was looking after peter alone, they helped each other , they cared , i often thought if certain people could look and learn from those two lads then life would be so much simpler, i looked out the window of the shop i could see her and, her grand daughter coming down the street, they came in the shop and as if to make a point her daughetr took a can of cola from the fridge, unperturbed i held my hand out to her sixty pence please, she laughed at me, i stepped toward her and she moved swiftly behind her mother, "we're selling the shop " she announced i looked at her "to who" i enquired, she told me the name of a chain store they had hundreds of shops all the same, all lifeless,i pointed out that as far as i knew i had some shares in the shop and she looked at me in surprise, "the first ive heard about it" she snapped, they left and i sat considering what old mr long would be thinking,he'd be horrified,a i began an inventory of the shops stocks just as my mentor had taught me and a few days later i got a call from the solicitors asking me to attend a meeting to discuss the shop sale, i suggested i wouldnt be needed as the sale was a foregone conclusion, he suggested it would be in my interests if i did, as i walked up the stairs to the solicitors office i wondered why they were always up dingy stairwells,i was shown immediatly into the solicitors office and there sat cruella de ville and the poisoned princess, awaiting their pot of gold, my insticts told me to turn and leave but i took my place alongside them, the solicitor then announced he would read the will , as i expected his house and his wealth went to his daughter, there was a provision made for billy, i had ninety shares in the shop i was so pleased i sat grinning , he had remembered me, tears welled in my eyes as i recalled some of the laughs we had the four of us in the park , i returned to the business in hand just as the solicitor announced his family would inherit the remainder to the one hundred shares which was the total shares held for the shop i sat trying to get it logical in my head, there are one hundred shares, i own ninety of them, i said it over and over, as i watched my fellow inheritants, i witnessed their realisation, i owned the shop, me not them, i stood up and declared "i own the shop" i repeated it over and over, as they sat crying , just as they thought it couldnt get worse the solicitor announced there was a mandate that they would forfeit the shares and they would default to me if they tried to sell the shop without my consent,of course they were going to contest,but they would forfeit everything if they did and lost,the solicitor gave me a letter as i left i was walking in a daze, i got home it took me an hour before i could tell mum my news, we sat unable to take it in, as i sat i opened the letter and read it i could see mum becoming upset, as i read i understood why,his letter told me he was my father, he explained how he tried on numerous occasions to tell me, to my shame i thought he was trying it on, it explained peter and belly and their similarity , i was so sad but somehow that time in my life had become so much clearer, mum and i hugged as she apologised for keeping it from me i thanked her because i knew my father and for her choice, as was my mums way, the answer to all of the drama was a nice cup of tea.
Its a shop come garden centre now, it gives us a really comfortable living although its long hours and very hard work, but as i look around its more than a humble shop,i see my fathers life we have a landscape gardening division run by my husband william who succeeded his father and he understands what i see, because he sees his father as well, old people are like books and we should learn by reading their pages, and in ten weeks i'll know whether i'll be a book for a son or a daughter, sadly peter and belly are no longer here but i often look back and enjoy thinking of our time in longs emporium.
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