Sunday, 16 March 2014

Changes


‘So that’s five pounds and fifty, sixty, seventy five pence change,’ Janey said as she counted the change out into Mr Johnstone’s hand.

‘Thank you dear,’ Mr Johnstone said as he carefully placed the change back inside his little pink purse.

It had been his wife’s purse and when she had passed away he had carried on using it for the weekly shopping allowance. Janey always worried about him as the purse never had very much money in it. Mr Johnstone had been coming into the little village shop as long as she had been there but recently he seemed to have shrunk a little every time she saw him. He was carefully loading his shopping into his little tartan trolley; one item at a time, and a queue was starting to build up behind him.

‘Twenty Benson’s please.’ A tall blonde man wearing a pin stripe suit teamed a garish tie that had a knot as big as his head.

‘Just one moment please,’ Janey said looking at the suit. She leant across the counter and patted Mr Johnstone’s arm. ‘Don’t you worry Mr Johnstone, take your time.’

‘Some of us are in a rush,’ the man in the suit called back.

‘Then I suggest you try the supermarket just out of town.’

‘I realise you probably don’t know who I am, but is that any way to treat a customer?’

‘Mr Johnstone is a customer and once I have finished with him you are my next priority, but I will not push him out of the way. And neither will you.’

‘Fine but you will regret this.’ The man it the suit swung round nearly knocking old Mrs Watson off her feet as he did and stormed out of the shop.

‘You don’t have to worry about me, my dear.’ Mr Johnstone smiled

‘Not at all,’ Janey smiled. ‘These city types need to learn life moves a little slower in the country. There’s no need for all this rushing and panic, is there now?’

 **************************************************************************

‘Papers Janey,’ called Billy the delivery guy as he dumped two piles onto the front steps and turned to fetch the rest from the van.

Janey had already carried the first pile over to the counter and started sorting them for the paper boy when he returned.

‘Where do you want this last pile?’ Billy asked.

‘Just down there please,’ Janey said pointing to the side of the counter. ‘I’d make you a coffee but the paper boy will be here soon.’

‘Yes sorry about that. The new supermarket has a gala opening this morning so the traffic is backed up out of town,’

‘But they opened weeks ago.’

‘Ahhh, this is the official opening and there’s some boy band going to cut the ribbon. There are special give aways and a bouncy castle for the kids. Everyone will be there today.’

‘Oh my gosh.’ Janey froze over the front page of the local paper.

‘Yes that’s the latest boy band. I didn’t know you were a fan.’

‘No not them, the guy standing next to them.’ Jenny pointed at the photo. ‘He was in here last week.’

‘Let’s have a look,’ Billy leaned over Janey’s shoulder to look at the photo. ‘He’s a bit flash looking.’

‘Yes and I pissed him off last week. It’s bad enough having the supermarket there but if he decides to close me down there’s nothing I can do about it.’

‘Come on why would he do that?’

‘Why? Were you not listening? I pissed him off.’

‘Morning all,’ called the postie as he opened the front door of the shop and handed Janey a pile of envelopes.

‘Well I better be off, more deliveries to make.’

‘Yes see you later,’ Janey waved absent mindedly as she stared at the letter she had just received.

*************************************************************************

‘Morning Mr Johnstone. Everything okay today?’

‘Yes, thank you Janey. It’s very quiet in here today.’

‘Yes the supermarket seems to be doing a great trade and a lot of my regulars have started shopping there.’

‘Surely the old folks still come here?’

‘I had hoped but it seems that the supermarket does home delivery and for those who still want to get out they lay on a bus once a week.’

‘I’m so sorry Janey. Will you be okay?’

‘Well I would have been only I have had notification that the landlord is selling up. I may be able to carry on but the new landlord could throw me out or if he puts the rent up…’

‘I’m sure it won’t be that bad.’

‘Well let’s hope not. The auction for this and a couple of other properties is next Wednesday. I have some savings but I’m not sure they will be enough.’

***************************************************************************

The local estate agents had set up in the village hall and most of the residents were there. Janey had closed up the shop and arrived just as the auctioneer was starting his spiel.

The first two items were houses which the tenants bid for and got at a very reasonable price. Janey was feeling positive when the auction started on a number of shops the landlord had owned.

‘So now we will start the bidding on the village shop,’ called the auctioneer as his assistant help up a picture of the shop. ‘Now since the post office concession has been removed, there has been less call for this type of business, but I am sure all the local people will be able to tell you how much they rely on this store.’

‘Not now we have the new supermarket,’ a voice shouted from the back.

Janey scanned the room trying to work out who had shouted but the hall was so full there was no way of telling. She did notice a lot of other heads nodding in agreement. She wanted to save the shop and it was going to take her life’s savings to do it, but what if no-one came anymore? Then everything would have been wasted.

‘Settle down now will someone start the bidding at £100,000?’ the auctioneer scanned the room. ‘No okay £75,000. Yes I see I have a bid, £75,000. Now what about £80,000?’

The bidding continued, a number of people raising the hands, until it reached £160,000.

‘It this my final bid? With the tall man in the corner we have £160,000.’

‘£180,000,’ shouted Janey her hand jumping up in the air.

‘£200,000,’ called the other bidder

Janey thought hard. £200,000 had been her ceiling. She couldn’t afford any more but she had to keep the shop open, ‘£210,000’

The man in the corner shook his head.

‘Is that it?’ The auctioneer asked scanning the room. ‘Any more bids? If not we are selling at £210,000. Going once, going twice.’

The auctioneer raised his hammer ready to strike the desk…

‘£250,000’ Janey swung round. There in the doorway was the man from the supermarket.

‘Wow, okay any further offers,’ the auctioneer asked. He looked over at Janey and she shook her head. ‘In that case, sold to Mr… You name please sir.’

‘Peterson. Jake Peterson.’

***************************************************************************

Janey had four weeks left on her lease and Mr Peterson had told her he wanted her out at exactly five o’ clock on the final day. There was no leeway. The store was practically empty for the first two weeks and Janey began to think that maybe he had done her a favour. If she had won the bid at £210,000 she would have been ruined within six months. All her regulars had started going to the supermarket and she couldn’t blame them. The food was cheaper and there were more options. The bus they laid on for the old folks meant that where they had relied on Janey before, now they only popped in for forgotten items or to chat. Mr Johnstone never let her down. He was in, as usual, every morning buying his supplies for the day ahead but his small contribution was not enough. She was done for.

‘Morning Janey, how are you today?’ Mr Johnstone asked as he arrived for his shopping one blustery morning.

‘As well as can be expected thanks Mr Johnstone.’

‘Still no sign of the regulars coming back?’

‘No, and I have to close in two weeks so I can see why they don’t bother. They’re used to the supermarket now.’

‘I’ll be sorry to see you go. Do you know whether there will still be a village shop?’

‘’Cuse me love. Need to measure up,’ called a man half hidden by a ladder pushing though the shop door.

‘Measure up for what?’ Janey asked

‘Mr Peterson sent us. He reckons he can get an aerobics suite in upstairs and a descent number of exercise machine down here.’

‘What are you talking about? This is the village store.’ Mr Johnstone said.

‘Not after the end of the month. Mr Peterson is opening a gym for all the fitness freaks over on that new estate. Thinks he’ll make a fortune in membership fees.’

‘But that’s over five miles away. How will they get here?’

‘By car Granddad.’

‘Oi. No need to be rude.’ Janey piped up.

‘Sorry. But they can park outside there’s no restrictions.’

‘But the bus needs access and it will clog the roads up.’

‘Not my problem lady now can we measure up or not?’

‘Once Mr Johnstone has finished his shopping and not until. Now you take your time Mr Johnstone.’ Janey smiled.

Mr Johnstone seemed much slower than usual finishing his shopping that day.

***************************************************************************

Finally the 31st March arrived and after a slow day, there was a rush of customers at five minutes to five. When five o’ clock came round the store was still full and Janey was trying her best to get them all served.

‘What’s going on here?’ Mr Peterson stood in the shop doorway.

‘I’m going as fast as I can but these people need serving.’

‘No they don’t your closed.’ Mr Peterson stormed over to the counter and grabbed Janey by the arm pulling her towards the door.

‘Wait a minute there’s no need for that.’ called one of the old dears.

‘Yes there is. This woman has belittled me in front of people one too many times. Now get out.’

As they got to the shop doorway Mr Peterson pushed Janey and she missed her footing. She teetered on the top step for what seemed like an age until she finally tumbled down the three stone steps. As she lay in a pile on the floor she heard some clicking noises. The next minute her handbag and coat where thrown on top of her and the clicking continued.

‘Mr Peterson, Joe Longton of the Gazette can you answer a few questions please?’

‘What… erm… what are you doing here?’ Mr Peterson looked around to see more residents and a number of men clicking cameras in his face.

Whilst he was still trying to think of an answer a large car pulled up and the crowd parted as Mr Johnstone emerged. A young man she didn’t recognise helped Janey to her feet and Mr Johnstone walked over to her to check she was okay.

‘Mr Johnstone what’s going on?’ Janey whispered.

‘Wait and see.’

From the other side of the car a large white haired man emerged and pointed at Mr Peterson. All the colour drained from Peterson’s face.

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the white haired man asked.

‘Councillor Jacobs. This is nothing for you to worry about.’

‘I think it is. The planning permission for the supermarket was based upon there being no disruption to local businesses. Now I hear you have put this young lady out of business and you’re planning to turn the village shop into a gym.’

‘I haven’t put her out of business. People prefer the supermarket.’

‘Underhand tactics Peterson. Buses for the old folks, discount voucher only valid for ex-customers of this store. All sound very dodgy to me.’

‘You can’t prove it and even if you could what are you going to do. Knock down the supermarket?’

‘I won’t, but your father has told me to tell you’re needed at home. He is sending a new manager to look after the supermarket.’

‘I can’t believe you called my father in on this.’

‘Oh I didn’t. Mr Johnstone was his university lecturer and I think they have been chatting over old times recently.’

‘Well I still own this store and I am turning it into a gym.’

‘Jake, Jake you just don’t get it do you?’ Councillor Jacobs said shaking his head. ‘You bought it with your father’s money as a company asset. He has decided to continue it as a village store and he would like Janey to stay on. That’s if she wants to.’

‘Oh yes please.’ Janey said, tears filing her eyes as she hugged Mr Johnstone.

The press started to crowd round Councillor Jacobs and Jake Peterson and she was led away by Mr Johnstone.

‘I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much.’ Janey hugged Mr Johnstone again. ‘But I don’t think I will be open for long if the takings stay the same as they have for the last four weeks.

‘Don’t you worry about that. I have spoken to Mr Peterson senior and he has promised no more dirty tricks. You might lose some people to the supermarket but I am sure you regulars will be back.’

‘Well I best get down the cash and carry ready for tomorrow. Stocks have run a little low.’

‘You do that my dear, you do that.’

 

If you enjoyed this why not check out Jo’s short story anthology now available for Kindle at Amazon UK and Amazon.com

 

2 comments:

  1. Good story Jo. I'm sure we will all be rooting for Janey and her kind heart against the big supermarkets. Good that Jake Petersen got his come-uppance. What a villain!

    ReplyDelete

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