Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shopkeeper's fantasy

In Kingsley Amis's comic novel The Folks That Live on the Hill, the Asian brothers who run the shop where Harry Caldecot ran into Popsy a while back now await opening time:
It was a bright clear sunny morning in the few minutes before the off, before the double doors from the street were thrown back and over the spotless composition floor and among the impeccably squared-off shelves, the videos sorted and spaced, every journal the precise distance from its neighbour so that the identifying signs of all were clearly visible, the greetings cards set out in their categories for every relation and relationship and contingency, including not a few wishing people well in tackling their new responsibilities or congratulating them on having passed their exams—before over that floor and among those shelves and the rest the British (or English) children came with their soiled clothing and snotty fingers, their seniors dropping sweet-wrappers, knocking piles of envelopes off shelves, holding the corner of a magazine back for a couple of seconds only but long enough to render it unsaleable at full price, dislodging and instantly treading on markers or tubes of paint or glue, putting everything they took out to look at back in the wrong place—oh, and fumbling with purses, mislaying lists, thinking about looking for credit card or pen and cheque-book and cheque-card on being told a second or third time the sum required. Howard had more than once said he would like to get everything set up one morning and then simply bloody not open the doors and let them gawp and go on gawping at what lay just out of their reach. Charles could see that was just Howard's fun (he was far too greedy to mean it for one thing) but every other five minutes he also saw what he meant.... [pp. 185-186]

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