Well, you certainly didn’t make it easy for me! Your stories had me laughing one minute, my jaw hanging open the next, followed by tears welling in my eyes. I found it so, so hard to choose a winning story. I whittled them down to a longlist, then a shortlist and then there were five. I read the five again and again and again. They each had pick me scrawled across them and I found it very hard not to.
In the end, I chose Debbie Ioanna‘s thoroughly entertaining A Quiet Shop.
A Quiet Shop
Thank goodness they had gone, Molly thought, as she fought her arthritic pains to pick up the discarded books and put them back on their shelves, making sure they were aligned with the correct price labels.
‘Children,’ she muttered under her breath. ‘Every weekend, damned children!’
Molly longed for the days when her shop was placed in between two charming knick-knack shops for tourists in the quiet seaside town of Seahouses, but that was the problem. It was too quiet. She had reluctantly relocated to a busy shopping centre in Newcastle to keep her old grandmother’s bookshop alive. Sure, sales were better than ever and the rent was cheaper, but the noise. So much noise.
‘Archie!’ came a mother’s wailing cry as the door pinged open. ‘Archie! Come back!’
A small person whizzed past Molly at the speed of light, letting out screams of joy as books rained down on him.
‘Erm…’ Molly’s whisper was barely audible as she took sanctuary from behind the counter. ‘Erm, excuse me. Don’t do that. Please!’
‘Okay, Archie,’ the mother appeared and rested her arm on the counter, exposing sweat patches on her snug grey vest top. ‘One book, Archie, just one.’
‘No!’ the child screamed as he ran down every aisle.
‘Okay, whatever you like then.’ The mother looked at Molly. ‘He’s high-spirited. Knows what he likes.’ She giggled.
Molly could only watch as this high-spirited child picked up book after book, dropped them on the floor and trampled all over them.
‘Can you please ask him to stop standing on the books?’ Her faint voice quivered as she could hear pages being torn beneath the child’s feet.
‘Archie. Archie!’ the mother shouted. ‘Come on, which one do you want, pet?’ he ignored her. ‘Which one? Archie!’
The tiny figure once again whizzed past them both and back out the door, into the Saturday shopping crowd.
‘Guess he didn’t want one then,’ the mother laughed. ‘See ya.’
Molly took a deep breath before stepping out from the safety of the counter and examining the damage. She picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice which was now creased and could no longer warrant the £7.99 price tag. She carefully placed it in the basket by the entrance for books reduced to just 99p.
As she glanced out the window panel on the door, she spotted another mother, this time with five of them, heading her way.
‘Oh no,’ she looked up to the ceiling. ‘God, Grandmother, Jane Austen, give me strength.’
I loved Debbie’s story on first reading; it flows effortlessy and I couldn’t help but feel for the poor protagonist. We all know an Archie! The story also features one of my favourite books of all time. The last line left me smiling, making for a very worthy winner. Congratulations, Debbie. Your book is on its way!