Friday, January 04, 2008

The Glass Cage

Story contd.

There wasn’t time to mope; lots of laundry to do and all the household tasks that had been left for a week. It was lovely to see the boys and hug them. A week apart made us so much more appreciative of each other and they were quite angelic for about 24 hours.

Mary, my partner, rang – very excited; this was the first summer the shop had been open and we were very busy – we needed more part-time staff so that there would be at least two of us on duty. She had been so busy with sales that she hadn’t had time to enter them up on the client’s cards. I said I would go in to do it once the boys were in bed. We were both excited and pleased with the way the shop’s fame was spreading.

There was a letter for me the next day, but I was rushing to drive the boys to school, and then to open the shop before half past nine, so put it in my bag for later. As soon as we opened there was a stream of customers. When we first started Mary’s father had rigged a buzzer on one of the stairs to warn us when any one was coming. Now there was a constant buzz, buzz, buzz, and what with that and the old fashioned till -bell it was like an inspiration for Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.

Mary came in briefly and I was glad of the help but soon she had to go to the bank and I was alone again. Just before lunch a Persian man (he told me he was from Persia) arrived with his two daughters who were going to be boarders at one of the local prep schools. He handed me a long list of uniform which he wanted for both girls. We always closed for lunch but I decided that, although I would lock the shop as usual, I would devote my lunch hour to trying to find everything they needed.

It wasn’t easy; he was very demanding and the girls were very shy hiding behind; the changing room curtain we had fixed in the corner – even to try on hockey boots. By the time I had found everything they needed, including lacrosse sticks, I was panting with exhaustion

I sank into the office chair to remove all the price tickets and add up the amounts. When I told him the price he made me an offer. I couldn’t believe it. I felt smoke must be coming out of my ears. I had worked my butt off during my lunch hour, persuading the girls to try everything on, grovelling on my knees amongst the hockey boots, and he had the effrontery to make me an offer…

I drew myself up to my full five feet four and a half inches and said.

‘I’m sorry sir but we do NOT barter. That is the price you must pay if you wish to take the goods.’

The thought of having to try to match the garments with the tickets if he decided to leave, gave me palpitations. Selling was only part of the job - everything sold had to be entered on the customers file so she could collect her money the next time she was in. All the articles would have come from maybe twenty different customers so you can see the problem.

Both he and the girls looked rather startled at my obvious outrage and he slowly brought out a roll of notes and paid me in full. That taught me never to remove the tickets until I was certain the customer was serious.

Whilst waiting for the boys to come out of school I remembered the letter. It was from Gary- a poem and a note with a telephone number and the message ‘Please phone.’

When I read the poem I was moved and felt my resolve weakening. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to phone – it was only polite.

His voice sounded just like him – relaxed and friendly.

Gary it’s Pat. Thank you for the poem – it’s lovely. How long did it take to write it?’

There was a pause and I thought we had been cut off.

‘Well it more or less wrote itself. It’s great to hear your voice Pat.’

He said he had found one of the books he had told me about – a play he thought I should do as my first; he had even designed a set for me.

When I met him it was different. He seemed to have lost the golden glow he had in the college and I felt awkward and uncomfortable. A woman I knew – she was northern like me and was used to saying what she thought – had told me I seemed to have a glass cage around me. Somehow I knew what she meant and thought that one day I should break out of it. But I knew this was not the time. I had been swept off my feet once before and it was not going to happen again. When I told Gary it couldn’t go any further he said everyone would assume it had anyway. This riled me and I said the important thing was that I knew it hadn’t.

It must have been almost a year later when I was browsing through one of my quotation books looking for something apt for a friend’s birthday and a familiar line caught my eye. It was the poem Gary had written for me but my book said it was by William Blake.

The Garden of love

I went to the Garden of Love,

And saw what I never had seen;

A Chapel was built in the midst,

Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut

And "Thou shalt not," writ over the door;

So I turned to the Garden of Love

That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,

And tombstones where flowers should be;

And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,

And binding with briars my joys and desires.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – so I did both. What an ignorant fool he must have thought me. I blessed the guardian angel that had stopped me from straying. This time anyway.



OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh My....! Gary...Bad Bad Boy, He....! You are right Pat....if this is going to happen, at least have it be with someone who is truthful! (lol)
How GREAT that your shop was such a huge success!

Z said...

I think he was being tactful in not telling you. "Course, now we'd just google it...!

PI said...

Naomi: the shop was a much needed delight at that time.

Z: that's an interesting theory but I wouldn't have googled even now; I had no reason to doubt him - he had been honest about being a serial philanderer. I have always read poetry for pleasure - that happened to be one that had escaped me.

PI said...

Z: and I've just remembered I even teased him that one of the lines didn't scan.

sablonneuse said...

Gosh, Pat, I admire you for standing up for your rights with the Persian chap. My mum always told me 'the customer is always right' and I grew up with the idea that you had to bend over backwards to please people. I'm not sure I'd have had your nerve if confronted by a man like that.
As for Gary - thank goodness for the glass cage - but I hope you opened it for someone worthwhile.

R. Sherman said...

You always kill us with the last sentences of these entries, dear. Are you sure you're not getting rich by having us all clicking back here every day?

(BTW, I have a niece who worked a fast food drive-through and learned the lesson about plugging a big order into the register before the bill was paid. Good advice, that.)


Guyana-Gyal said...

You sound like my mum, standing up to the Persian chap, that's how she'd do it, very fortright. When in Persia, bargain; in the west, we don't. Unless it's the tradesman overpricing according to where the customer lives, then you give him a solid piece of your mind, ha!

It's a funny thing about 'bad guys'...they do / act / say the same things almost, no matter where they're from. Recently, I've been trying to warn a gal pal about her 'bad' guy, she keeps saying, 'he's nice.' But as my cousin says, all the red flags are up, our friend just ignores them.

PI said...

Sablonneuse: I was always very conscious that it was my shop (well half of it was)and we provided a much needed service and would bend over backwards to try to help our customers but bad behaviour wasn't tolerated. To be fair he accepted the situation with good grace.

Randall: no I'm not getting rich but I do want you to come back. Soon after this we treated ourselves to an adding machine which made life easier. If only we had had computers...

GG: I suppose we all have to learn the hard way. The sad thing is some people never do learn and go on making the same mistakes.

kenju said...

Pat, I had a poem "written" for me by an old boyfriend - and I was over the moon with happiness. Imagine my disgust when I discovered it had been written by Edgar Allen Poe!

PI said...

Judy: it's a comfort to know I wasn't the only one. Having a romantic streak makes one so vulnerable, but its better than being a hard bitten old shrew. I think:)

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

The rascally swine! He's sounding more and more like a chancer. I'm glad you sent him packing.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

I quite liked his comeback though: "It more or less wrote itself."

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Good move Pat, I could never have imagined you with a bloke called Gary. (I do hope YTL isn't called Darren or Wayne). Belated Happy New Year greetings and thanks for your lovely posts and photographs, you are the Queen Mum of this little part of the blogosphere. I'm glad the story is under way again, it's getting really quite gripping now.

PI said...

Sam: chancer is right but when I found him out I did laugh as well as cry.

Daphne: MTL has a good old Scottish name. Not sure about the Queen Mum thingy- I don't drink gin, I don't eat chocolate violets and I don't live above my means and expect my children to bail me out - but I'd like to have some of her charm. I am delighted you like reading my story.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Glad the shop's going so well. Glad you didn't give in to Gary's blandishments. Looking forward to reading about 'next time'!

PI said...

Zinnia: is that looking forward to reading the story, or looking forward to a besmirched image:)?

Nea said...

But he didn't fool you, Pat, even though he tried, and more fool him for trying.

PI said...

Nea: I did feel an ass though.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...


PI said...

Zinnia: it's that old schadenfreude again:)