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Round Robin 5: The Charity Shop

A Round Robin is a writing exercise in which traditionally one person writes a chapter and then hands it on to another volunteer who writes a follow on chapter. This continues until a decision is made to complete the exercise with someone writing a final wrap up chapter.

For RR5, we decided to do something a little different. For this exercise, we have picked a scenario (a charity shop) with a few set characters. Volunteers are encouraged to use the scene and characters to write an episode, without having to follow on from the previous episodes. Episodes can be written as a play or short story.

 

 

 

Episode 1 by Andrew Stock

 

The Wrong One

 

 

Scene opens with two ladies standing behind the counter of the charity shop.

 

Shirl

He’s done it again

Marcia

Yes he has hasn’t he

Shirl

Can’t trust him to do anything right. (Calling) Martin you’ve done it again.

Marcia

Can he hear you? I don’t think he can hear you Shirl.

Shirl

Oh he can hear me Marcia, just pretends to be deaf. Never finds it difficult to hear the tea cups being rattled though does he. (Sighing frustratedly) He hasn’t been the same since Cheryl left. Stupid man, how difficult can it be to open the shutter.

Marcia

You don’t have a problem with it

Shirl

No

Marcia

No

Shirl

It’s just one button. (calling again) Press the button Martin, keep your finger on the button

Marcia

Is that what you do Shirl?

Shirl

What?

Marcia

Keep your finger on the button?

Shirl

Yes

Marcia

Hold your finger on the button and press it

Shirl

Yes

Marcia

(Breathlessly) Hold the button under your long, strong finger tip

Shirl

Yes Marcia I hold my finger on the button and keep it there until I am sure I have the desired effect.

Marcia

Oh Shirl you make it sound so…

Shirl

So what?

Marcia

So erm so…. (Becoming flustered) Easy (Giggling)

Shirl

(Ignoring Marcia) Come on Martin for goodness sake, the shop opens in five minutes we need the shutter open.

Martin

(Emerging) The shop opens in five minutes Shirl and it seems that the shutter is stuck

Shirl

Yes it does

Martin

I’ve held my finger on the button but it’s not working

Marcia

Your finger?

Martin

(Winking at Marcia) Oh there is nothing wrong with my finger. My finger is in perfect working order. (waggles finger at Marcia) No, the button, it’s the button that’s not working.

Shirl

Disgusting man

Marcia

Yes disgusting

Shirl

Call maintenance Marcia, report it as a fault

Martin

Don’t worry ladies no need for that I have my swiss army knife, I’ll get right on it. (Marches off)

Shirl

No Martin just call maintenance. (He continues walking off) Oh what an annoying man.

Marcia

Yes I agree Shirl

Shirl

So suggestive wagging his finger at you like that

Marcia

Yes. (pausing) His finger is nowhere near as pretty as yours (She is interrupted as a flash of light and the sound of electricity fusing fills the room. The lights go out)

Martin

(Voice off) It’s ok ..I’m ok. The emergency generator will kick in soon.

Marcia

Oh it is dark in here

Shirl

Don’t worry Marcia we are perfectly safe. (The whine of a generator is heard and the lights come on. Marcia is hugging the bust of a mannequin, her head on its shoulder)  Just what are you doing?

Marcia

Looking from mannequin to Shirl and back again) Oh I thought.. I mean it was just.. I thought that … I thought…. (sighs deeply) I thought it was going to fall over.

Shirl

Well it looks perfectly safe to me. Take it over to the window and start putting up the new display, do something useful at least.

Martin

(Rubbing his arm as he enters) Faulty wiring I think. (closes his penknife and puts it in his pocket) Never had that problem before. (Looking at Marcia) Looks like me and you could be stuck in here…

Shirl

And me

Martin

(Ignores her) Looks like me and you could be stuck in here. If it goes on too long we will have to use survival tactics and share body heat

Shirl/Marcia

Oh God

Martin

It was what I was taught in the SAS.

Shirl

You wasn’t in the SAS Martin you were in the RAC

Martin

As good as the SAS. The things we learned there are far more use than anything those army blokes learned

Shirl

Oh yes of course Martin I forgot. What was it the newspapers reported? Oh I remember now (Putting on newsreader voice) The first SAS man through the embassy window called in a loud clear voice ‘Right who needs their wipers changing?’ (Exasperated) Please Martin call the maintenance man and get the shutter open. (Martin leaves)

Marcia

That told him Shirl. Oh you are so good at being the Manager. I wish they had let you keep the role.

Shirl

I did explain to head office that I was the woman with the most experience but they said they had already hired someone to take over from Cheryl. (Haughtily) Well it’s their loss if they can’t spot natural talent.

Marcia

I would take you on Shirl.

Shirl

I know Marcia but we have been friends since St Catherine’s all girls boarding school. You know of my attributes.

Marcia

Oh I do Shirl (aside) many a time I saw your attributes in the changing rooms

Shirl

(Not listening) But head office are sending the new woman today so we’d best be ready for her.

Marcia

Yes of course

Shirl

Best foot forward then, get that display started.

Pretty

You hoo… Shirl, Marcia, it’s me Pretty. Has Martin tried to open the shutter? Is it stuck again?

Marcia

(Holding a scarf) It’s Pretty Shirl.

Shirl

Yes just drape it over the mannequin, the contrast will make the dress stand out.

Marcia

What?

Shirl

The scarf, put it on the mannequin

Marcia

I was going to but

Shirl

Then why are we discussing it

Marcia

I wasn’t

Shirl

You were

Marcia

No I wasn’t

Shirl

Yes you were

Marcia

I wasn’t

Shirl

Yes you said it’s …

Pretty

(stooping under the shutter) Morning Ladies

Shirl

Pretty.. Oh I see. You said it’s Pretty and you meant it’s Pretty not it’s pretty. Sometimes Marcia you need to be clearer

Marcia

Sorry Shirl

Shirl

Never mind. Good morning Pretty. The shutter is stuck

Pretty

Martin?

Shirl

Of course

Pretty

Ahh

Shirl

Ahh

Pretty

So today is the day then?

Shirl

Yes

Pretty

New Manager

Shirl

Yes

Pretty

Exciting isn’t it. I wonder what she will be like?

Marcia

I was just saying it was a shame they didn’t ask Shirl to be the new Manager.

Shirl

Oh stop it Marcia I told you they wouldn’t ask someone from here to be Manager how could they?

Pretty

They asked me

Shirl

What!

Marcia

What?

Pretty

Yes head office asked me but I said that I wouldn’t be happy managing my friends so I turned them down.

Shirl

(recovering) Yes me too

Marcia

What … but you said

Shirl

Oh don’t go on Marcia just do the Mannequin.

Pretty

What would you like me to start on?

Shirl

Erm start on the books we had a new batch left this morning

Pretty

These?

Shirl

Yes

Pretty

Have you any colour dots anywhere?

Shirl

Colour dots?

Pretty

Yes, to price them

Shirl

No Pretty we are not using those any more to the price the books

Pretty

Oh. A new directive from head office?

Marcia

No it was Shirl’s idea. (Proudly) we are using numbers

Pretty

Numbers?

Shirl

Yes dots are so last week. I decided that after Cheryl left we needed to make some changes to make us more efficient. The dots had to go

Pretty

(Confused) Oh right. So how does it work then?

Shirl

It’s quite simple. The number 1 means the book is worth 50 pence the number 2 is 1 pound

Pretty

Oh right so I pound 50 is the number 3

Marcia

12

Pretty

What?

Marcia

£1.50 is the number 12

Pretty

The number 12?

Marcia

Yes that’s right

Pretty

What?

Shirl

It really is quite simple Pretty. (As though talking to a child) If a book is £1.50 it’s the number 1 for 50pence and the number 2 for 1 pound so 1 and 2 is the number 12.  Simple

Pretty

And dare I ask what £2.00 would be

Shirl

Tell her Marcia

Marcia

22

Shirl

Exactly. 22

Pretty

And £2.50?

Marcia

It’s really simple Pretty. £2.50 is, erm, £2.50 is erm

Shirl

122. Really Pretty you are asking far too many questions when it is quite self-explanatory. Now please will you both just get on with it

Pretty

Yes Shirl but

Shirl

No buts please

Tracy

(Ducking under shutter) Erm excuse me

Marcia

Sorry we are closed you can’t come in yet

Tracy

But the shutter is up

Marcia

It’s down

Tracy

No.. it’s up well at least it’s half way up

Marcia

No.. it’s half way down. We are closed

Tracy

But I’m

Marcia

I don’t care what you say. We are closed

Tracy

But

Marcia

(Calling) Shirl we have an intruder

Martin

(Entering) Who’s intruding?

Marcia

This lady (Points at woman who is holding a bin bag full of clothing)

Martin

Sorry Madam you will have to leave, we are not open.

Tracy

But

Martin

Now none of that when an ex member of the SAS asks you to leave, leave you must (He takes the woman by the arm and thrusts her under the shutter. she drops her bin bag as she leaves )

Marcia

That’s it, come back when we are open

Shirl

What on earth is going on eh?

Marcia

A lady tried to come in before we were open. (Proudly) But we got her out (Points at Martin)

Martin

That’s right no one messes with ex forces

Shirl

(Horrified) What do you mean got her out

Marcia

Erm

Shirl

You idiots do you know who that was

Marcia\Martin

No

Shirl

That would have been the new manager

Martin

Oh God

Marcia

Oh no

Shirl

Quickly find her. Get her back. (Hysterical) Now, Martin get her back now. (Martin ducks under shutter and runs off calling)

Pretty

What on earth is happening?

Shirl

Marcia threw the new Manager out

Marcia

Technically Martin threw her out

Shirl

Anyway it’s sorted now. Martin has gone to fetch her back

Pretty

Ahh good, that’s good.

Shirl

Have you finished those books yet Pretty

Pretty

Nearly. I just have a quick question

Shirl

Right

Pretty

Large hardback books are still £4.50 right

Shirl

Yes

Pretty

And that is what? (Shirl looks confused) The new system £4.50 is?

Shirl

Oh I see. Erm 12222

Martin

(From behind shutter) That’s it in you go. Don’t struggle we are all quite friendly really. Come on in you go. (Tracy emerges into room from under shutter.)

Shirl

Oh there you are, so pleased to see you. I hope our security display was satisfactory for you. I thought it best to show you just how security conscious we are. I mean you can’t be too careful especially after Brexit. Anyway so pleased to meet you at last, we have so been looking forward to you joining us.

Tracy

Yes but

Shirl

Oh how rude of me I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Shirl the senior sales and display coordinator. This is (She nods towards Marcia

Marcia

I am Marcia junior, erm, junior, erm

Shirl

Yes this is Marcia, just Marcia. You have met Martin our head of security (Whispers conspiratorially) He used to be in the SAS

Martin

(Winks and holds up his penknife) How do

Shirl

Behind the book rack over there we have a very, very junior member of staff, so junior in fact we can hardly remember her name. Anyway that’s us I think.

Marcia

Kaz

Shirl

Kaz, oh yes, I had forgotten about Kaz. She’s our lost soul here. On community service I’m afraid but don’t let that put you off, she really is quite a sweetie once you get to know her.

Marcia

But you said she dresses like the undead and has the manners of a football hooligan on a robbing spree

Shirl

No that was someone else

Marcia

No it was

Shirl

(Laughing) Oh dear you are funny Marcia (To Tracy) See what I mean just ..Marcia …anyway I haven’t asked what your name is

Tracy

Erm, Tracy

Shirl

Erm Tracy or Tracy (She laughs realising her haughtiness) so it’s Tracy

Tracy

Yes. Tracy, just Tracy

Shirl

Well it’s so good to meet you. Now why don’t you come into the back office and take your coat off, put your feet up and get a feel for the place. (winking at Marcia) Marcia was just about to put the kettle on. God knows we could all do with a warm drink with all that’s happened already this morning and we haven’t even opened yet.

Tracy

Well thank you, a hot drink would be lovely but I think you have misunderstood..

Shirl

Oh my goodness have I really (Looking at Tracy) Well yes of course I have, you are a coffee person. Make that coffee all round Marcia.  Chop chop

Marcia

Yes Shirl, on my way

Tracy

Honestly I just wanted to drop some items off (Points at discarded bin bag) and perhaps do a bit of browsing.

Shirl

Well that’s very dedicated I’m sure, bringing some donations on your first day. I tell you what, hang your coat over there (Points to the only changing room) and then feel free to try on anything you like.

Pretty

Shirl what would six pound fifty be then?

Shirl

(Bustling towards the book shelves) For goodness sake its quite simple. One first and then six number two’s.

Martin

(Rubbing hands on cloth) Shutters five minutes from fixed. I’ve got to go, got a collection on the new estate. Should be some good donations from there.

Marcia

Ooh I wish I could see where our donations come from.

Martin

Come to mine tonight Marcia, I will give you a donation (Blows her a kiss and exits)

Marcia

Pig

Kaz

What’s this, a limbo dancing competition?

Marcia

You are late

Pretty

Hi Kaz, love the outfit

Kaz

What?

Pretty

I love what you are wearing. Black really suits you especially with the blood down the front

Kaz

You like it?

Pretty

Yes

Kaz

Really?

Pretty

Yes really

Kaz

Shit.. I will have to get something else to wear. (Spots Tracy who has taken off her expensive leather coat and is trying on a jumper) Who’s that? We are not open yet

Marcia

Shh that’s Tracy

Kaz

(Confused) Who’s Tracy?

Marcia

That’s Tracy, she replaced Cheryl

Kaz

She looks like a copper

Pretty

Who does

Kaz

The new boss. She looks like a copper.

Pretty

Have you met the new boss then

Kaz

No

Pretty

How do you know she looks like a copper.. sorry policewoman then?

Kaz

She just does

Pretty

Oh right. (Shrugs) Anyway perhaps you can help me with the new pricing system for the books.

Kaz

Na, I think I will keep an eye on Tracy

Pretty

Who?

Kaz

Tracy, the fascist pig boss

Pretty

Tracy, but …

Jane

(Calling under the barrier) Excuse me.

Marcia

We are closed. (Barrier screeches open) Come in we are open

Jane

I thought you opened at nine

Marcia

We do

Jane

But it’s nine thirty

Marcia

Yes

Jane

So not nine then?

Marcia

Yes nine

Jane

But it’s nine thirty

Marcia

That’s right

Jane

Oh right…. anyway you are open.

Marcia

(Reading from a card she has pulled from her pocket) Welcome to you name if known. If you are leaving a donation please place it in the yellow plastic box point to box so customer knows to the left of the shop just by the record collection not the blue one by the shoes as this is the box for recycled coat hangers point to blue box so that customer knows.

Jane

I’m sorry what was that?

Marcia

Welcome to you name if known…

Jane

No I heard what you said. What I meant was why have you said it?

Marcia

Because it’s on the card

Jane

Yes, I can see that but why do you say it?

Marcia

It was Shirl’s idea, makes everyone feel welcome. You feel welcome, don’t you?

Jane

Not at the moment, no

Marcia

Oh. Would you like me to read the card again?

Jane

No

Marcia

No

Jane

No

Marcia

Oh. Well please feel free to browse

Jane

Yes, but before that

Shirl

(Hurrying over and interrupting) Marcia where is the coffee? We promised Tracy a coffee

Jane

Excuse me

Shirl

Sorry could you wait a moment we are very busy you know. So, Marcia, coffee please. Tracy will not be happy browsing for ever

Jane

No I’m sorry could you just listen to me please?

Shirl

Oh Madam I think you forget where you are. We are a small charity shop who serve a very useful purpose within the community. Rude customers are not to be tolerated as aggression towards our staff will be reported to the authorities. Now Marcia….

Jane

I am not being aggressive I am merely saying that….

Shirl

(sighing dramatically) Oh dear, oh dear. Am I going to be forced to call for Martin our head of security?

Marcia

Martin is on collection

Shirl

No he isn’t

Marcia

Yes he is Shirl

Shirl

(Winking) No he isn’t Marcia he’s out the back

Marcia

No he told me… (Realising) Oh I see… yes he is he is out the back not on a collection on the new estate at all

Jane

Ok listen, I’m not quite sure what is going on here but….

Shirl

Oh I see. Marcia have you not read this lady the card? You really must read the card to all customers. We have spoken about this haven’t we?

Marcia

Yes but…

Shirl

No buts, read the card Marcia.

Marcia

But

Shirl

No buts I said

Marcia

Yes … but

Shirl

Really Marcia no wonder this lady does not know what is going on. Give me the card. (Snatches the card from Marcia starts reading) Welcome to you name if known. If you are leaving a donation please

Jane

Please not again!

Shirl

What

Jane

I said not again, not this dreadful diatribe

Shirl

How dare you? This is a carefully considered welcome to the shop brilliantly constructed

Marcia

Yes brilliantly constructed

Shirl

A solid piece of customer care.  How dare you criticise.. just who do you think you are?

Jane

Jane

Shirl

Jane?

Jane

Yes Jane

Shirl

Jane (shrugs at Marcia) Look Marcia it’s Jane. Jane who wants to criticise.

Jane

Jane from head office, I start today

Shirl

(Hesitantly) Jane…. Jane…. Jane. From. Head. Office (looks horrified from Jane to Tracy and back again) Jane who starts today?

Jane

Yes Jane

Shirl

Not Tracy

Jane

No

Shirl

Ahh

Marcia

Ooh

Shirl

Excuse me (Pulls Marcia to one side whispering urgently) Get rid of her.  Now.

Marcia

Ok Shirl (Walking towards Jane) Right you… Out Now!

Shirl

(Grabbing Marcia) No not her….. Her (Points at Tracy) Get her out of here now

Marcia

But I thought she was ….

Shirl

No, no she’s not the one ..this is the one (Points at Jane) she’s the Manager, not her. I have no idea who that is but whoever she is just get rid of her now

Pretty

(Talking to Tracy) Yes it is a little confusing. To be honest I am still trying to fully understand it. The book in your left hand is fifty pence because it has a number one on it. The book in your right hand is not as you suggest twenty-two pounds, it is in fact only two pound because it has twenty two on it. (Laughing) It’s a new system you see

Tracy

Really? How very odd. It was easier when you used coloured dots

Pretty

Yes wasn’t it?

Marcia

You. Out. Now!

Tracy

What?

Marcia

Out now. (grabs her arm) Standing here pretending to be the new manager

Tracy

I did no such thing

Marcia

You will have to do better than that. Shirl has been onto you from the start. Shirl is brilliant at things like that. Shirl can spot anything, she has a gift. Shirl is the best at seeing things that other people miss.

Pretty

(aside) Not everything

Marcia

Out! (Pulls at Tracy who resists) Come on, before I call Martin

Pretty

But Martin is

Marcia

In the toilet. No in the garage. No in the storeroom out the back yes he’s out of the toilet and in the storeroom out the back

Tracy

But I wanted to buy some books

Marcia

Put them down you imposter, our real Manager is here now and she doesn’t want your sort here. Out!

Tracy

Well. How rude. I wouldn’t buy anything here if you was giving it away

Marcia

You can’t buy something if we are giving it away

Pretty

Ok Marcia let’s just let the lady leave shall we

Marcia

I was just saying you can’t

Pretty

Yes I know but shall we just let Tracy leave hmm? Now why don’t you take those two books with our apologies and thank you for supporting us.

Tracy

Well yes ok. Thank you, I suppose. To be honest I need to get to work anyway. (walks towards the changing room) Erm, where’s my coat?

Pretty

It’s in … Oh I’m sorry… It was there earlier. (Calls to the room) Has anyone seen this lady’s coat, it was in the ….

Kaz

I haven’t had it, why is everyone looking at me

Pretty

No one said you had taken it Kaz, don’t be so… What are you wearing?

Kaz

What?

Pretty

What are you wearing?  Is that …

Kaz

No it’s mine

Pretty

Kaz have you cut the arms off of this lady’s coat?

Kaz

No

Pretty

Oh Kaz what have I told you about taking things from the shop. Is that red paint?

Kaz

Might be

Pretty

Oh Kaz why have you done that?

Kaz

Staff discount

Pretty

No why have you ruined that lovely coat?

Kaz

Your fault

Pretty

What do you mean my fault?

Kaz

(Sulkily) You said you liked what I was wearing

Pretty

And that’s a bad thing?

Kaz

Well yeah, I mean who wants old people liking what you are wearing

Pretty

Old people.. I’m only 55! (She waves her hands placatingly) look never mind that, now we have to sort this out. (To Tracy) Why don’t you pick another coat from the rack in the store with our compliments.

Tracy

But this coat was worth 200 pounds

Kaz

Bourgeoisie

Pretty

(Crossly) Kaz

Kaz

Up the proletariat

Tracy

Right up them

Pretty

This is not helping. Look, what I suggest is to take a coat of your choosing from the rack and those books you are holding all free of charge. (Passes her a bundle) And this knitted toilet roll doll, then if you come back towards the end of the week I will see to it that you are reimbursed for the accidental damage to your coat. How does that sound?

Tracy

Accidental?.. Accidental?.. The only thing accidental around here is that someone with a safety pin in their ear and purple hair is allowed anywhere near members of the public. I will be back on Friday for full compensation (Storms towards the exit)

Marcia

(Reading from card) Thank you for supporting our charity

Tracy

Sod Off! (Snatches a coat from a rack)

Marcia

Rude

Jane

(Walking towards Marcia calling over her shoulder) No I do not want you to change the wording on the card Shirl, I want you to get rid of the card altogether. (Tracy pushes past her) What on earth has happened to her?

Shirl

Erm …she, erm, well… she.. it’s like this… she erm, well…

Pretty

(Walking over) Bereavement. Poor lady has just dropped off her late mother’s belongings and sadly ripped her own coat on one of our shelves. I have promised she will be reimbursed.

Jane

Poor lady. Yes of course she must. (Looking at Pretty) I’m sorry, we have not been introduced.  I am Jane, the new manager.

Pretty

Oh, so lovely to meet you.  I am Pretty

Jane

You are Pretty

Marcia

Shirl is pretty too

Jane

What? Oh never mind. So good to meet you Pretty, lovely to put a face to a name. I understand this position could have been yours

Pretty

No not really.  I am happy working here that’s all

Martin

(Dragging Tracy into the shop) Don’t worry Ladies I have her here. Not sure how you missed it but I saw her grab a coat from the rack and hot foot it away but she was no match for my combat training.

Shirl

Oh God

Jane

What on earth?

Martin

Fine sort of manager. Just what were head office thinking sending a thief to manage us

Shirl

Oh God

Jane

What?

Pretty

No Martin, that’s the wrong one. (Smiles at Jane) Martin wanted you to witness his security skills and we set up a fake shoplifter but unfortunately they were taken ill so would not be available today, we just have not had the chance to tell him.

Jane

Ahh I see… I think. Was he really in the forces?

Pretty

The RAC

Jane

Ahh now I see. (She pats Martin on the arm.  He releases Tracy who runs from the shop) Well done Martin, a fine effort.

Martin

Would you like to see my blade?

Jane

Erm, no thank you

Pretty

So now that it’s all calmed down a bit why don’t we have a lovely cup of coffee and give Jane a chance to have a good look around eh? (Everyone agrees and heads towards the kitchen except for Shirl and Marcia)

Shirl

(Sulkily) I told you Marcia. I said

Marcia

Yes you did

Shirl

They should have given me the job. There has been nothing but problems since that Jane arrived. Just what were head office thinking eh

Marcia

(Watching Shirl head towards the kitchen) (Lustfully) I know what I am thinking Shirl… I know what I am thinking.

 

 

Episode 2 by Sue Barton

 

Justice

 

Just before opening time Kaz clomped into the Charity shop on the corner of High street and Thorpe avenue.

  Her Goth boots gleamed with metal studs and rows of looped chains.  Last thing Karl had given her before he’d been banged up for two years for housebreaking.  Top bloke Karl, always thoughtful like that, looking out for things she’d like.

  She was here at this ungodly hour of 10am on a Sunday morning because of her community service order for shoplifting – second offence.  

  Justice must be meted out,’ the pompous Magistrate had said. Kaz had looked up “meted”.

  She’d been quite pleased when her supervisor had told her she would be working in a charity shop. Better than picking up litter or some of the other shitty job like scrubbing graffiti off buildings.  Although, spending all her weekends in this Geriatric dump, she wondered sometimes.  

  ‘Oh God!’ Kaz heaved a sigh as she flung her bag on a peg in the stockroom.  She’d just spotted that Shirl woman pointing at her watch.  Trust her to be on today.  All Sunday morning with that bossy cow. Oh my god!

  ‘You need to sort that pile of stuff outside?’ Shirl called out before Kaz had had time to check her phone.

  ‘What pile of stuff?’

  ‘Honestly Kaz!  Use your eyes.  Probably none of it any good, that’s why it’s been dumped before we got here. Get a box from the stockroom cupboard, collect everything up and bring it in for sorting.  Go on girl, look sharp while I open up.’

   Kaz did as she was told, but managed to bump against Shirl on her way back to the stockroom.  

  Shirl rubbed dramatically at her arm.  ‘I’ll probably have a bruise.   Clumsy Clara.  You watch yourself or I’ll have something to say to your supervisor.’

  The pile of “unsaleables” grew as Kaz sorted through the soiled clothing, chipped crockery and musty books.  She grumbled constantly.  She had to be here but she didn’t have to like it.  She was going to have to wash her hands big time after this.  She hadn’t put the disposable gloves on, too much plastic waste.

 Back in the sales area Kaz stood against the bookshelves watching a tiny wizened, bird like woman who poked about here and there fingering stuff, picking up, glancing round, putting

down, moving on. Kaz recognized the signs.

  ‘She’s going to nick something any minute now,’ Kaz told Shirl.  You’re the boss, better keep an eye on her.   I’m going for my fag break. I am allowed a break, aren’t I?

  Don’t smoke outside the shop.  Go round the corner to indulge your disgusting habit.’

  Kaz mouthed a few obscenities and fished in her pocket for her tobacco.

  Two girls approached as she stepped outside.

   ‘Ow much for the crappy old bike you got ‘ere,’ one asked.

  ‘What bike?’

  ‘You blind or summing?  That bike leaning against the winda there!’

   Christ!  Kaz muttered. ‘Now some nob’s dumped an unwanted bike on us’.

   Whaa? The other girl said.

   ‘Can’t sell it,’ she told the girls. ‘Not allowed.  Health and safety shit. Why don’t you just take it?  Only don’t say I said you could.’

 She watched the giggling girls wobble off on the bike, one sitting side saddle on the parcel rack.   They’ll probably dump it somewhere she thought.  Job done!

   Back inside Shirl was trying to get the crone to give back what she’d slipped into her pocket.  They were proving quite a match for each other,  

  ‘I’m going,’ the old woman told Shirl, ‘and you can’t stop me.’

   ‘You give me that mug first,’ Shirl insisted.

   The two of them wrangled on.  

   Kaz laughed. ‘Oh! Let her go,’ she said to Shirl.  ‘She’s dead old and probably needs the bloody mug.  Charity shop remember?’

  For once Shirl gave in and watched the old woman leave.

 ‘You can always ban her if she comes back, got a photo,’ Kaz held up her phone.  You look knackered Shirl, I’ll make coffee.’

  Before Kaz had switched the kettle on, the old girl was back.

‘Some thieving swine has stolen my bike, she shrieked.  My precious bike.  Did you see anyone take it?’  She looked hard at Kaz who was amazed that anyone so decrepit could actually ride a bike.

  ‘Fraid not’, she told the fury, as she glanced down to examine her black polished nails.

  As the old woman scurried out, Kaz turned to Shirl and said: ‘See, Justice has been meted out.’

   For once a look of complete puzzlement washed across Shirl’s face as Kaz went to make coffee.  

 

 

Episode 3 by Rosemary Ostley

 

Doing it by the book

 

“Come on in, Shirl, have a seat.  Would you like a cup of something?” enquired Jane as she ushered Shirl into the little room she’d commandeered as her office.

 

“What I’d like, is to know is why I’m here.  Have you found anything wanting with my work?  It hasn’t been easy keeping things together during the interregulation, you know,” huffed Shirl, pursing her lips around the malapropism and folding her arms across her ample bosom, Les Dawson style.

 

“No, no, you’ve been doing a great job, Shirl.  But I want to talk to all the volunteers separately and since you’re the one who’s been here longest, I thought I’d start with you.  I hope that’s OK.  Now, what about that drink?”

 

“Yes, well, maybe a tea, thank you.  Nice and milky with one sugar if you don’t mind.”

 

Jane got up and went over to the kettle in the corner.  ‘Made herself right at home,’ thought Shirl.  Hope she doesn’t expect to just walk all over us.’

 

Once the conversation got underway Shirl began to relax.  In fact, by the time Jane threw her a curve ball she completely missed it.

 

Ever so gently, Jane smiled her a question.  “So, Shirl, how do you get on with the other volunteers here?”

 

“Oh,” began Shirl, “Marcia and I have been friends since school so naturally I welcomed her into the fold.  I sometimes wonder if she’s a sandwich short of a picknick, but she means well.  You have to watch her, though, she’s a bit inclined to daydream and I get a bit fed up with her following me round like a puppy dog.  Then there’s Pretty.  I rather think she wanted your job, but she’s had to come to terms with not being quite up to it.  But I like her well enough.  Martin serves his purpose, but that ‘ex-services’ rhubarb of his makes me laugh.  He wouldn’t have got far in the SAS with his bull in a china shop attitude.”  She laughed and shook her head, looking at Jane for confirmation.  Finding none she ploughed on regardless with, “Now Kaz, she’s a real loose canon.  If I’m honest – and I do try to be – all that ironmongery gives me the willies.  No wonder she’s got a criminal record, really.  She can seem sweet, but you have to be quite firm with her.  But I expect she probably had a bad childhood or something.  They usually have.”  

 

“Thank you for being so… candid, I hope you and I will get along together.”

 

“I’m sure we will, dear,” Shirl confirmed as she stood up to leave.  “Just you come to me for help when you need it.”

 

Jane smiled with what she hoped was a convincing mask of reassurance.

 

“Who do you want me to send in next?” asks Shirl.

 

“No-one just now, thank you.  I have a meeting with Marcia at 2, but for now I’ll let you get back to work.”

 

Back in the shop, Shirl checked behind her to make sure Jane’s office door was shut, then got busy with filling in Marcia and Martin who were on parade today.  Pretty was at home with a sick child while Kaz had gone off to keep an appointment with her probation officer (or so she said).  “Jane wants to talk to each of us separately,” she started.  “Keep your wits about you this afternoon, Marcia, and don’t drift off into another world.”  ‘A world where you and I are together forever,’ thinks Marcia.  Shirl contemplated her and wondered what she was smiling at.  Best not to enquire.  “And mind your manners with her, Martin.  She’s reasonably on the ball, and with help and a little direction from me she’ll probably make a fist of it eventually.  Just cut her a little slack for now.”  Martin stared at her, wondering not for the first time why Shirl was so fond of herself.  But he only had eyes for Marcia and wandered off to pester her.  There’s none so blind, etc.

 

 

Episode 4 by Muriel Waldt

 

The Charity Shop

 

After giving herself a couple of days to settle in and get to know her staff and the layout of the shop, Jane decided that a few major changes were in order to brighten up the place.  She set up a meeting half an hour before they opened on Friday morning and after a few minor points had been discussed and sorted out she decided to get on with her ideas for the window display.  Despite having a well rehearsed speech in her head she heard her mouth blurt out,

‘For crying out loud, who on earth did the window display?  Beige beige and more  beige!  No-one in their right mind is going to be tempted in here with that colour smouldering in the window’.

The look on Shirl’s face was enough to make her mentally wrap her own knuckles.  Me and my gob, she thought.  I really should have learnt a bit of tact by now.  Having already noticed (you couldn’t fail not to) that there was some sort of hero worship (or worse) going on with Marcia, she wasn’t surprised to hear her pipe up indignantly,

‘Well I think it looks marvellous.  Shirl really does have a flair when it comes to the window display.’

Flair! Well, that was debatable, and ignoring Marcia and Shirl’s furious faces she fixed a smile on her own and forced out a reply.

‘Look, I don’t want to offend anyone but in case you hadn’t noticed, charity shops are the in things these days and most of them dress their windows in bright colours to attract customers.  No disrespect but ours is not the most colourful display now is it?’

Shirl had the grace to mumble what could have been no, but Marcia still looked as if she had a mouthful of lemons.  Oh dear, she was going to have problems with that one but for the time being they had to open up and she had a meeting at head office to get to.  Looking round at her little band of volunteers she had to make a snap decision as to who would have the honour of changing the window display while she was out this morning.  Pretty was the best option but she had already asked for the morning off to attend some function at her daughter’s school. Martin was of course not even in the equation.  If left to him they there would no doubt be some sort of bizarre army display, and at the moment Marcia would probably tell her where to stick her window display.  So that left Kaz, the quiet little Goth who so far had only spoken to her in monosyllables.  At some point she would have to think of a way to smooth the ruffled feathers of Shirl and Marcia because she reluctantly had to admit that Shirl had made quite a good job of the actual display.  It was just the colour.  Beige!  I ask you!

‘OK Kaz,’ she said.  ‘You’re on window display duty this morning and when I come in this afternoon I want to see a completely different colour in the window.  One that attracts attention.

 

Later that day, Jane stood in front of the window of the charity shop momentarily rooted to the spot and lost for words.  Me and my mouth she thought for the second time that day; that will teach me to be a bit more specific about colours in future.  Black, black and more black filled the window to bursting point and to her horror one of the models even had a black leather collar dotted with shiny metal studs round its neck and chains draped over the rest of its body. Looking into the shop she could see Kaz leaning on the counter, a contented smirk on her face.  Oh my goodness, she thought, where’s that big hole in the ground when I need it?

 

 

Episode 5 by Veronica Sims

 

The Charity Shop

 

Pretty was rushing around her house trying to do at least three things at once.  She liked the place to be tidy before her children returned home.  She told herself she wasn’t really obsessive about orderliness, after all, it was the way she’d been brought up.

Tomorrow was one of her days at the charity shop, so she had also been cooking two days’ worth of food. The shop didn’t close until 5.30pm and she couldn’t cook a decent meal after she got home on workdays.

 

She was the same at the shop. It was Pretty that made sure the books were divided into Fiction, Non-fiction, Children’s and Cookery  (there had to be a separate category for ‘Cookery’ she had decided, as people seemed to give the shop loads of cook books, especially ones by that Blumenthal chap) After dividing into categories she made very sure everything was in alphabetical order. It worked, they sold loads of books.

 

She also divided the clothes into categories, sizes etc. and sometimes took any clothing donations of suspect cleanliness home to wash and iron rather than reject them.

 

The shop was very important to her.  It took her mind off her loss, her widowhood. She loved her children with a passion, but every time she looked at them, she saw James. Oh! how she missed him; his love, his sense of humour, his adult company. When she was at the shop, she could push her sadness to one side and concentrate on sales, order, and other people.

 

 

There was a knock at the door. Not the children, she knew they had keys. On opening the door she was surprised to see Kaz on the doorstep.

 

‘Hi Kaz, Come in. What brings you here?’

 

Kaz stepped inside the house slowly as if scared to enter; ‘Dinna want to trouble you…’

 

‘No trouble, nice to see you. Cup of tea, squash?’

 

‘Water would be good,’ Kaz said.

 

Pretty led her through to the kitchen, ‘Take a seat.’ She indicated one of the  stools by the counter and then found a glass and poured Kaz a drink. ‘Biscuit? they are homemade.’

 

‘Thanks,’ Pretty opened the biscuit tin and pushed it toward Kaz, ‘Help yourself,’ she said.

 

‘Now, tell me, what’s the problem?’

 

‘Shirl went in to talk with the new one, Jane. I think she might diss me, try to get Jane to get rid of me. She hates me.’ Pretty could see tears starting to form in Kaz’s eyes.

 

Pretty thought for a while before replying: ‘ Well Kaz I don’t think she would do that. I’ve known her for four years and, all right, between you and me, she can be a royal pain at times, but she wouldn’t do that.’

 

‘How do you know that?’

 

‘Because the last person we had on community service stole twenty pounds from  Shirl’s purse. Marcia caught her in the act and , of course, told Shirley. Shirl just said: ‘perhaps she needs it to buy her kids some food.’ She also told Marcia to keep it to herself but Marcia, being Marcia, had to tell me what an angel Shirl was.’ Pretty stopped and waited for a reaction.

 

Kaz frowned: ‘But she moans at me all the time, hates me smoking etc.’

 

‘Oh she is bossy all right and likes to think she is in charge, but I don’t think she would try to get Jane to sack you.’ Kaz started to look relieved.

 

‘I suppose perhaps I could be a bit more useful.’

 

Pretty grinned at her: ‘That would be nice.’ Kaz grinned back.

 

‘Perhaps I give it a try,’ she said, taking another

 

 

Episode 6 by Rosemary Ostley

 

The Charity Shop

 

 

‘Where’s that noise coming from?’ asked Shirl.

 

‘What noise?’ shot back Marcia who was still smarting from Shirl’s comments about the size of her bum in the flowered trousers she was wearing.

 

‘It’s coming from out the back.  Sounds like someone’s sticking a pig out there.’

 

Marcia blanched as the words brought back memories of times spent on her grandparents’ farm, memories she thought she’d buried.  What was it about Shirl that made her want to be hurtful?  Meanwhile, Shirl ploughed on regardless, striding over to the door and pushing it open.  Martin lay sprawled on top of a pile of sacks of clothes, fast asleep and snoring at a remarkably high pitch.  

 

‘Martin!’ barked Shirl, ‘wake up.  What on earth are you doing?’  Martin stopped snoring abruptly, but didn’t wake up.  ‘Mar-tin!!’ Shirl shouted, heedless of customers browsing in the shop.  Then her sixth sense kicked in as she realised that not only was Martin not snoring, he wasn’t breathing either.  But as she started to think about panicking, the snoring suddenly kicked in again.  

 

‘Sleep apnoea,’ said Marcia who was standing too close for comfort, or at least too close for Shirl’s comfort.  ‘My dad used to suffer with that.’  She started to explain but Shirl cut her off telling her she knew quite well what sleep apnoea was, thank you very much.  ‘Go and get Jane,’ she ordered, Marcia meekly trotting off to do her idol’s bidding.

 

Jane was suitably concerned about her employee’s welfare but wasn’t quite sure what to do.  ‘He’ll wake himself up in a minute,’ Marcia told her.  ‘My dad always did.’  A few moments later Martin did just that and struggled to a sitting position, scrabbling for purchase on the bags of clothes.  He straightened his glasses and then noticed the three women standing staring at him.  ‘What?’ he asked.  

 

‘Martin, do you suffer from sleep apnoea?’ Jane began.  

 

‘You gave us quite a turn, Martin,’ scolded Shirl, I don’t know what you thought you were doing…’.  

 

‘Thank you, Shirl,’ cut in Jane, ‘I’ll deal with this.  You and Marcia go back into the shop – there are customers waiting.’  Mortified, Shirl turned abruptly and bumped into Marcia, the two of them fighting to get through the door at the same time.  ‘There was no need for her to speak to me like that,’ carped Shirl.  ‘You were only trying to help,’ reassured Marcia in her most sycophantic tone.  Shirl retired hurt behind the till, refusing to look at Marcia.

 

Some time later Martin emerged from the back of the shop, his hang-dog expression even more exaggerated than usual.  He looked around for Marcia, feeling in need of someone to soothe him, but she was busy with a customer.  ‘Feeling better?’ Shirl asked him.  

 

‘Nuffin’ wrong with me,’ Martin began uncertainly.  ‘If you can’t put some cream on it, it ain’t a problem,’ he huffed.  ‘But old bossy boots out there,’ he grumbled, jerking a thumb in the direction of the back room, ‘says I gotta go see the quack.’  Just then a customer approached the till holding a hideous lime green cardigan they’d been trying to shift for weeks, so Shirl swiftly turned on the charm to serve her.  Martin melted away and took himself off for a walk.  

 

At half past one Kaz sauntered in, the sun streaming through the shop window glancing off her ironmongery and giving her a sunburst appearance.  ‘Lord preserve us, it’s a vision in black!’ Shirl exclaimed.  ‘Where have you been, young lady, you’re late.  Marcia should have gone off duty at one, but she’s had to hang on.’  ‘It’s no problem, Shirl,’ oozed Marcia, ‘anything to help.’  

 

Shirl tried to ignore the look of adoration in Marcia’s eyes and turning to Kaz told her to ‘go and get busy out the back.  There’s a build-up of bags to sort through.  They’re a bit squashed, Martin had… well, he had an ‘episode’ on them earlier.’  ‘Wot sorta episode?’ Kaz wanted to know, with what appeared to be a moue of distaste appearing above one of her studs.  ‘He…’ began Marcia before Shirl cut in over her with ‘never you mind, just go and get on, please.’  

 

Kaz planted both heavy boots squarely on the floor in front of Shirl.  ‘Where is ‘e?  ’Ere, ‘e didn’t kark out there, did ‘e?  I’m not touching anything if someone’s died on it.  It’s against my religion.’  ‘You – religion,’ quipped Shirl with a nasty laugh.  Just then Jane appeared asking where Martin was.  ‘’adn’t you ‘eard,’ Kaz asked turning towards her, ‘’e’s dead.’  Jane stared at Kaz and then at the smirking Shirl, commanding: ‘both of you, my office, right now!’

 

 

Episode 7 by John Broadhouse

 

The Charity Shop

 

The first to arrive at the charity shop to unlock is Martin closely followed by Marcia.

 

“Look at all these bags and boxes just dumped by the door”, commented Martin, “I bet it’s a lot of tat somebody’s decided to get rid of and dump it on us instead of taking it to the tip.

 

“Don’t be so negative Martin, not everyone can get here when we’re open, maybe they have to get to work early, anyway it might be decent stuff, we won’t know until we open the bags, so get a move on and open up the shop before Shirl arrives, you know she’s a stickler for opening up on time.”

 

“I like a forceful woman,” remarked Martin winking at Marcia, “I’ll have this door open in just a minute.  Sod it, the lock’s jammed again.  If Jane had ordered a new one like I asked her too we wouldn’t have this problem. Oh well, it’s a job for the trusty penknife again.”

 

After many minutes and cussing Martin eventually gets the door open just as Jane arrives.

 

“What time do you call this?” remarked Jane, “you know I like punctuality; we have standards to upkeep, mustn’t keep the customers waiting, and why are all these bags strewn across the doorway?”

 

Marcia could see Martin was fuming and she hoped he wouldn’t say something he would regret.  Martin turned to Jane with the penknife in his hand and looked her straight in the eye: “ If you had ordered a new lock as I suggested then we would have been in the shop by now and been sorting out these bags that were dumped by the door.”

 

“Yes, well that was on my list of to do things, but I will make sure it’s ordered today, and for God’s sake put that penknife away,” retorted Jane as she brushed past Martin.

 

“Well that’s a good start to the day,” commented Marcia, “It’s a blessing she didn’t hear you cussing earlier.  If you move these bags I’ll go and put the kettle on, it looks like you could do with a nice cup of tea to calm yourself down, in fact I’ll have one myself.”

 

“What are you stressed about?”

 

“Jane stresses me out with her attitude and the way she treats the staff, anyone with an ounce of common sense would have seen what the problem was.”

 

“Oh Marcia, you’re a woman after my own heart, there’s not much that gets past you.  That Jane reminds me of my sergeant major; Quasimodo with the hump reversed.”

 

“There’s no need to go into fantasy land Martin, I know you weren’t in the forces,” replied Marcia, “so stop pretending, it might get you into a lot of trouble one of these days.”

 

By the time Martin has emptied the bags and boxes, Marcia has made the tea. Having sips from their mugs they survey the contents.  “It’s not all tat, there’s some decent stuff, this silk scarf is fabulous, wouldn’t mind buying it myself, “remarked Marcia wrapping it around her neck.

 

“It makes you look twice as beautiful,” said Martin with a twinkle in his eye as he reached down to retrieve a small item, “would you class this as tat?” Marcia looked shocked as Martin was waving a pack of thongs still in their wrapper.

“I shall leave you to finish rummaging through the contents in the back room, who knows what else you may find, and I’d be grateful if you stopped your attention on me.”

 

“What?” stammered Martin in amazement.

 

“You know what I mean,” replied Marcia walking towards the shop entrance, where she displayed the OPEN sign.

No sooner has she gone behind the counter when a smartly dressed elderly gentleman enters the shop carrying two large Fortnum & Mason carrier bags.  He speaks with a refined voice accustomed to years of military service as an officer or nobility.

 

He feels very out of place in a charity shop and is hoping to deposit the bags as soon as possible and escape, but Marcia catches his eye and asks: “Can I help you sir?”

 

The man stood swiftly to attention and replied in a commanding voice: ”the Mem Sahib instructed me to deliver these to you, hopefully you will find a deserving person they will fit.  Where do you want me to put them?”

Martin picked up on the conversation and swiftly entered the main shop before the gentleman had a chance to leave.

 

“Do I detect a military man?” enquired Martin.

 

“You do indeed, sir, 40 years in the service.  My father and his father were both in the forces.  You could say I was destined to follow in their footsteps, best days of my life, took me all around the world.  Why do you want to know?”

“It takes a soldier to know a soldier, I could tell by your voice and appearance that you’ve been in the armed forces, it’s a pity there isn’t conscription, it would make men or women out of these layabouts like Goths,” remarked Martin.

 

“Rightly so, I couldn’t agree more, what regiment were you in?”

 

“SAS,” replied Martin sticking his chest out.

 

“How extraordinary, I was also in the SAS.  What years did you serve and where were you stationed?”

 

Martin felt trapped and tried to bluff his way out, he started to mumble.  “The memory is not so good as it used to be since I got hit in the head by a piece of shrapnel, I was lucky to survive, it was 50/50.”

 

“Speak up man and stop that mumbling.  Sorry to hear that but it comes with the territory; surely you must remember where you were stationed.”

 

Martin plucked a town he remembered from a book borrowed from the library about the history of the SAS, “Doncaster, yes it’s all coming back to me.”

 

“What a coincidence, so was I, do you remember Johnny Watkins, the commanding officer, great figure of a man, everybody liked him.”

 

“Yes, the name does ring a bell,” spoke Martin trying not to mumble.

Marcia looked on trying not to laugh when Kaz walked into the shop dressed in her Goth outfit.

 

“You’re a damned liar sir and a cad, there was never a Johnny Watkins at Doncaster, I had a feeling you where pretending to be a soldier.  Disgrace on you, you should be taken out and shot if I had my way, in fact I have a mind to report you to the police for impersonating an officer.”

 

“Yeh, go for it gov, he needs shooting.” Piped in Kaz.

 

“Who the hell are you”, bellowed the man.

 

“I work here, part of my community service,” replied Kaz.

 

Hearing the commotion Jane exits her office and approaches the man.

 

“My God, what has the world come to, what sort of a place are you running here, hand me back those bags immediately, you’re not fit to pass these clothes on to anyone.”

 

“Go on, report him to the police, I know their number”, piped up Kaz again.

 

“Let’s keep calm”, exclaimed Jane with an air of authority, “I’m sure we can sort this out.”

 

“Who are you?” replied the man.

 

“I’m the shop manager.”

 

“This mans an imposter, been trying to pass himself off as a soldier, he needs taking out and horse whipping!!”

 

“Yes, add that to your list,” jibed Kaz.

 

“Why don’t you go back to the rock you crawled out of,”, replied the man to Kaz.

 

“There’s no need for that,” replied Jane.

 

“You’re right, there’s no need for me to be in this shop, I will take these to a decent charity shop,” bellowed the man grabbing the bags and marching out of the shop.

 

Jane turned to Martin with an angry expression on her face, “To my office, now”, she said in a stern voice.

 

“I did try to warn him,” remarked Marcia to Kaz.

 

“Shouldn’t have bovvered, the old git deserves what’s coming to him,” replied Kaz with a smile on her face.

 

 

Episode 8 by John Broadhouse

 

The Charity Shop

 

Normally Martin is first to open the charity shop as being the handyman he can sort out any problems, but on this occasion, Jane the new manager had beat him to it.

 

“What are you doing here so early, not like you, did you get a bad night’s sleep?” enquired Martin cheekily.

 

“That’s enough of your sarcasm,” remarked Jane glaring at him, “you should remember who you are talking to.”  Walking back to her office she suddenly stopped and turned towards Martin: “As soon as Kaz and Shirl arrive this morning send them into my office straight away, while you keep an eye on the shop.”

 

‘I wonder what's got into her?’ thought Martin, ‘she's definitely up to something.’

 

Shirl and Kaz entered the shop door together chatting about the spate of burglaries in the area.

 

“Well they can’t blame my boyfriend Billy for it, he’s banged up,” remarked Kaz.

 

“Ho, you two, the dragon wants you in her office, now!” butted in Martin.

 

“What’s it about?” asked Shirl.

 

“Search me, she never tells me anything, but I can tell you she’s in a strange mood so watch your step.”

 

“What have you done this time,” snapped Shirl to Kaz, “that’s got me involved as well?”

 

“Don’t know,” shrugged Kaz.

 

Entering the office door, they saw Jane going through some paperwork at her desk.  Looking up she ushered them to the chairs by her desk.

“I’ve been tipped off by a close colleague that a secret shopper is visiting this shop today so I want all of you to be on your best behaviour, especially you Kaz,” retorted Jane, “we don’t want any bad reports getting back to head office, so get the place tidy and be polite to the customers.”

 

Martin was waiting by the office door hoping to hear the conversation, but what he got was Jane’s glare as she opened the door to let Kaz and Shirl out.  Shirl put Martin in the picture while the three of them tidied the shop as there were no customers.

 

While deep in conversation the main door opened and in walked a lady who resembled an elderly goth.  “Cool,” whispered Kaz, “I wish she was my mum.”

 

“She’s too bloody obvious, she's got to be the secret shopper,” blurted Martin, “better get over to her and be helpful.”

 

“No you don't," replied Shirl sharply, “and that goes for you as well Kaz, we’ve seen what your helpfulness has done in the past.  This is a job for me.  Can I help you madam?” enquired Shirl.

 

“Yer sure can, I’m looking for soft cuddly toys.  Got any? I need lots of them.”

 

“You must have a lot of adorable grandchildren,” replied Shirl.  The old woman gave her a funny look: “they’re for my two boys, so let’s get a move on, they don’t like waiting.”

 

Shirl showed her the soft toy section, which the elderly goth quickly gathered up.  After the lady paid for her goods, Shirl tried to make polite conversation: “Your boys are so lucky to have a caring mum like you."

 

“Do you want to see them, they’re outside?”

 

Stepping outside Shirl noticed two very large Alsatian dogs who tore into the soft toys as the elderly goth tossed them in the air.  Just then a smartly dressed woman appeared on the scene, who got knocked over by the dogs, spilling the contents of her bag onto the ground and exposing a folder marked SECRET SHOPPER.