'The Key' by Sara Crowley
The mumbling woman stands inside the bookshop rummaging in her bags. Fair enough, I’m not going to judge. I’m all about not judging. She’s not hurting anyone is she? It’s raining outside. Diagonal slashes. The wind whisks spray off the seafront and it mixes with rain. Why should the poor woman have to stay out in that, eh?
I’m tidying the tables; rearranging books into pyramid shapes. She’s staring at me. I smile; bright and cheery. Look at me, I’m not bothered by her at all. I can smell the waft of stale urine but am careful not to show distaste.
Ad is over at the counter and gives me the watch mime, tapping away at his wrist. My feet are killing but it’s not long and I’ll be home and dry, ha ha. Glass of wine, feet up, dinner. I begin a lap of the shop floor.
“Hi,” I say. “It’s six o’clock and we’re closing.”
Most people smile or do a head nod. They go to the exit or counter. The nutty woman doesn’t move. That’s okay. I’m lying anyway, it’s not six yet. I stand by the door so that I can block anyone coming in, and “Goodbye,” those who leave.
The woman approaches me and scowls.
“The floor’s too bumpy, I nearly fell.”
“It has a special anti-slip covering,” I say.
“I might fall.”
My smile has become a lip stretch.
“You have the key,” the woman says.
I don’t have a key, I close the door by turning the latch. Only senior staff have keys.
“I SAID YOU HAVE THE KEY.”
I look at her and a sharp scent that seems to come from her long grey hair catches me.
“I don’t have a key, no.”
“You know what I mean. The answer is the key. Tell me.”
“I have to ask you to leave now,” I say.
“You have the key.”
I don’t have a key. I wonder what she thinks she means. I wonder what logic she has. I wonder if I do have the key. Perhaps I am special and haven’t realised yet, and this woman, she’s not a crazy lady at all, she’s a… seer and she's read my aura or something, and she knows. I open the door wide for her but she won’t budge. I look at my watch and it’s six oh three; irritation fizzes through me.
“You have to go now.”
She shuffles forwards and I walk right out of the shop so that we don’t accidentally touch. Still muttering she finally leaves. Cars are hissing by, it’s dark, cold and wet. I stick my leg out and trip her, watch her fall forwards, landing on her bags which I hope cushion her a bit. I go back into the bookshop and Ad says, “Alright?” and I say, “Yeah,” and we go and take the tills off.