“Fucking hell!” I said looking at Paula. She was dumbfounded and staring right at it and I nodded because her staring was the right thing to do. You could do nothing but stare. My mouth was suddenly dry. “Fucking hell, eh?” I said, my voice clicking slightly. I was now looking to Enrique whose mouth was turned down at the sides. He was nodding and looking at it and then he smoothed down his moustache. I looked at it. “Fucking hell!” I said.
“Who carries that around?” Asked Paula and I shook my head. A prince was my first thought but it was stupid so I checked myself and didn’t say it aloud Stupid, yes, but I needn’t beat myself up because outside of the upper echelons of society it was impossible to guess at who would possess such a thing. I didn’t know but what I did know was it was out of the ordinary.
Enrique went to touch it but I stopped him with a gentle, “no.” It was not for touching.
“Maybe a painter?” Suggested Paula.
“A painter?” I said my face screwed up at her stupidity. “It’s too clean, it would have paint on it.”
“Oh yeah,” said Paula. She was grabbing at straws. If it was a painter’s it would have paint on it. There was no paint on it. I looked over at the doors. There was nobody there and there was nobody in the car park, but that wouldn’t last forever. That would change soon enough. People would come. We were a shop and people always came. Poking around and looking for things to buy. Things they hoped would fill the void in their lives and milk and things.
“Close the doors,” I said with authority that wasn’t mine. Enrique started to say something and then seeing the seriousness of my eye regard he stopped starting to say something. I nodded at him and he nodded back and then went over to the newly installed light switch and flicked it one time. I saw through the back of the unit that the light inside had changed from open to closed. I shook my head. It was wrong that ‘closed’ was lit up in green. Closed should light up in red. So very wrong but it would have to do.
The day had begun so normally as most spectacular days do. It was a bit cold and windy but pretty dry. Not quite Spring but we were getting there. I’d come in and hung my coat up and put my Tupperware in the fridge. Enrique had been behind his desk and I’d grunted at him before returning to the shop floor.
“Floor’s a bit manky,” I said to Paula. The floor was a bit manky. The floor was always a bit manky but today it had been a bit too manky. Who knows how different things would have turned out had the floor not been quite so manky.
“Shall I brush it?” asked Paula, doing that sarcastic smile.
“It wouldn’t fucking kill you,” I’d replied with a sigh. If I’d got there first I’d probably have brushed the floor without being asked. I went to the cupboard and got the broom that had a pole attached to it. The pole had a dustpan attachment on the end. It wasn’t a dustpan and brush in the traditional sense, oh no. You think of a dustpan and brush and you think of something you have to bend over to use, this was an entirely different beast. This was a dustpan and brush that could be used without bending over. It was a broom and dustpan on a pole. It’s probably got a proper name. I got it out of the cupboard, eventually, because there was stuff piled on the business end, so I had to really pull it out. I didn’t have to pull it out. I could have bent over and took the box off the dustpan bit but I wasn’t in the mood for bending. Perhaps deep down I knew what was to come So I pulled it. It made a noise and Paula shouted encouragement at me which I managed to ignore. I pushed the box that had tumbled from the cupboard back into the cupboard with my foot and then closed the door as best I could. The cupboard was so full of shit the door didn’t quite close. Fuck it, I thought and then looked around. Where to start? I decided to start on the drinks aisle because I could brush a lot of the shit under the chillers and not even have to bother going to the bin to empty the dustpan. That was my thought but there must have been a hand guiding my brain, I will always believe that. I looked down the aisle and contemplated ending my life and then I saw it. I thought it was a leaf. Can you believe that? I thought it was leaf. Leaves are twats to brush up. Particularly if they’re wet. You have to peel them up. I exhaled and headed toward the leaf. I’d have to pick that up manually, then I could brush the rest of the shit under the chillers but as I approached I realized what it was and froze. It was no leaf.
My first thought was to pick it up and just have it but I quickly dismissed that idea. If I did that then Paula would not be jealous. She needed to see it and so I called for her, “Paula!” I shouted.
“What?” she replied.
“Come here, quick!”
“Seriously, look at this!”
“Is it a rat?”
“No, come here!” I returned to the end of the aisle where the cupboard was so I could get a visual on Paula. I did this and beckoned her.
“What?” she asked, again.
“Come and look!”
“Is it a shit?”
“No, it’s not a shit, you idiot.” A few months ago we’d watched a video online of a woman shitting in a shop. That was fucked and had nearly blown Enrique’s circuit.
“What is it then?”
“Just come and look!” I was getting exasperated.
“No,” replied Paula.
“What do you mean, no? You’d come if it was a shit?”
“Yeah, it is,” I replied.
“For real?” asked Paula, finally moving around her counter and towards me. She looked disgusted but she was coming.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I asked her when she was next to me.
I pointed at the floor down the aisle and then we both approached it. “Is it…” asked Paula. We approached it with trepidation for some reason, like we might scare it away. Like it might sprout wings and take flight.
When we were stood over it I turned to Paula and proclaimed, “ah, you fucking wanker!” she didn’t reply. “If you’d brushed the floor you’d have found it!” Paula made to bend down. “Fuck off!” I bent down and picked up the wallet. “I’m rich, I’m rich, for a very important date!” I sang, waving it in Paula’s face. It was pretty heavy.
“It’s probably empty,” said Paula, devastated that her laziness had come home to roost.
“Even if it is I get a cool wallet!” I explained, bouncing the wallet from one hand to another. It wasn’t empty, not at all. It was a black Quicksliver velcro fold-over wallet.
“Open it then,” said Paula. I could hear she was excited, she was breathing rapidly through her nose which was whistling slightly.
“All in good time, my dear,” I said. Ha, she was gutted! I headed over to my counter so I’d be able to see anybody approaching the shop. “It’s fucking heavy,” I told her as we traveled. She was following me very closely. I stood behind my counter and Paula stood where customers stand. I was about to open the wallet when Enrique stepped into the shop. That was fine, the more the merrier. “Check it out!” I said to him and he came over with his head cocked to one side.
“What do you reckon?” I asked my audience.
“Receipts and shit,” said Paula. “Doner cards,” she added.
“What do you reckon?” I asked Enrique.
Enrique thought for a minute and then said, “Shop?” but he said it as a question.
“I do’ know,” he said, hurt.
“It’s a wallet I found, what do you reckon’s in it?” I lifted my hand up and down, like I was a set of human weighing scales, to show it had some heft.
“Ah!” he said. I shook my head at Paula. “No mas.”
“Let’s see shall we?” I said and then with a ripping sound I opened it and my heart stopped. There was, like, seventy pounds in it. Enrique whistled through his mouth and Paula whistled through her nose.
Then the first bit of this happened again, the bit about the painter.
When the sign was set to closed I looked through the rest of the wallet, It did contain a bunch of receipts, Paula had been correct in that regard, and quite a bit of change but no high denomination coins. It was all shrapnel, as people sometime call it when they’re trying to be affable and street, but the important thing were the notes. I pulled them out. There was ninety pounds! There was actually three twenties and three tens. Is that right? Sixty and thirty, yeah, ninety pounds. A painter, as if!
“So?” asked Paula.
“That’s exactly what we’re going to do!” I said, nodding and putting the notes in my pocket and laying the wallet on the counter. We were like three witches standing around a cauldron and I began to laugh. I looked at Enrique. He wasn’t laughing and so I laughed and nodded at him. He began to smile. I turned to Paula and laughed at her and nodded at her. She nodded back but didn’t laugh or smile. I nodded at her again.
“What?” she asked and I laughed harder and turned to Enrique. He was still smiling but still not really laughing. I laughed a bit more and looked at them both.
“We’re going to return the wallet and get a reward!” I said. “Let’s get some supplies!”
50 minutes later we were in the car-park, prepared to embark upon a journey, the details of which were recounted for millennia.