Ruby Kitching, Thursday 10 May 2012
Rachel had been looking for a small wooden box for a while and had left home ten minutes earlier than usual to allow enough time to browse the local bric-a-brac shop before picking her son up from school.
It was a warm spring day and the high street was busy with the excitement of all the possibilities that warmer weather can bring.
Turning into the shop, she took off her sunglasses and adjusted her eyes to the light. She scanned the mass of objects around her and was surprised to find just what she wanted tucked under a side table. She picked up the box and released the catch, taking in the sweet almondy air inside, when it occurred to her that what she was looking for wasn’t necessarily small, wooden, or even a box.
‘Can I help?’ asked the shop owner appearing from behind a tall chest. He was a kind, youngish man who was not too pushy. She always felt good buying things from him.
‘I’m not sure - something too small won’t hold enough, and anything too big’ll be difficult to store,’ she chuckled, recognising the banality of it all. He didn’t offer any alternatives, although she would have welcomed them, which only reinforced her feeling that the ‘perfect’ box wasn’t good enough.
Distracting herself from the quandary, she flipped some mounted prints on a stand and considered the merits of a looking into a plastic stackable box to do the job – lightweight, cheaper and better at preserving her precious things should they end up in a damp cellar or leaky attic. But a plastic box to store memories of her late mother didn’t seem right.
Rachel’s mother had died a year ago. Every day leading up to her death had been spent assuming she’d get better, so there had never been any talk of life without her. In fact, there had been very little talk at all. Rachel had duly taken orders from her mother and administered medication while her father rested. In the year that had passed, she had yet to summon enough energy to sort through her mother’s things. But with her father selling the house, she knew the task was imminent.
She picked up a dusty cat-shaped door-stop, surprised by its weight and looked around for help, but the man had disappeared into his little office. The shop was cold from being on the shady side of the street and she suddenly started to find its crowd of objects rather claustrophobic.
‘Thank you - I’ll have a little think and be back soon!’ she called cheerily in the direction of the little office.
The bell above the door tinkled as she stepped out and she just caught sight of the shop owner giving an ‘ok, right you are,’ sort of nod as she turned back onto the street. She closed her eyes to feel the warmth of the sun on the inside of her eyelids and took a deep breath, relieved to have come out of the shop empty-handed.
This entry to Time & Leisure’s short story competition was written by Ruby Kitching