Reply To: Monthly comp – December 2018

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Untitled (398 words)

In the dark before dawn the phone woke me. Its light made me squint. A window was broken at the shop, said a female police officer.

I pulled on a thick jumper and skirt and, with a thumping heart, drove into the centre of town. My shop – high-quality second-hand women’s clothes – was in a small road off the high street and when I parked outside it, the door’s glass hung around a jagged hole. The alarm jangled, as did the frequent question shouted by my bank balance. Time to sell up? Glass shards on Christmas morning looked like a signal to quit.

The display window was intact. Two mannequins in wide-skirted party dresses stood just as I’d arranged them yesterday. A glazier’s van waited nearby, probably called by the police, for a quick repair job. On the pavement a handful of people stood around and inside the shop I turned off the alarm. My heart-rate settled to average.

Back outside I joined the guy from the vegetarian café. All the street’s premises had been attacked, he said, with a hammer or some such. Doors mostly. The windows were of toughened glass.

There were four empty shops. Targets for criminals. I looked at the dark windows. It was easy to be gloomy. The rise of internet shopping, the business rates weighted against us, the council’s demand that traders pay more towards the town’s Christmas lights. Now we’d been physically attacked as well.

The veggie guy was silent and sombre and I kept quiet too. Should I sell or expand into smart but used children’s clothes? That idea had come a few days earlier. Go in deeper and also get online, or get out? My talent was fashion, and it took imagination to sell clothes, to put looks together and make enticing displays. But no-one should deny internet reality.

A police officer came to ask questions and handed us incident numbers. She said the CCTV might reveal the culprit. I told her it seemed to be someone who didn’t like shops, and heard my own resignation.

Above the street the sky lightened. The doorway to a large, empty shop opposite me had a flat entrance – no step. My mind’s eye, or maybe my heart, brought along parents with prams and grandparents with stiff legs and maybe electric buggies, all going in to look at clothes arranged amid plenty of space.