bell on counter

It’s Just Common – Flash Fiction

‘Supervisor!’ The officious sounding voice rings out over the incessant dinging of the bell on the counter.

I pop my head over the top of the cubicle, startled to find my shire council colleagues have vanished into thin air.

‘You there,’ the owner of the voice points at me. Other words follow at breakneck speed but they’re lost on me. I’m entirely distracted by what she’s wearing. From her hat, and skivvy tucked into her pleated, tweed skirt, and her handbag and gloves, to her petticoat peeking out below the hemline, and the thick stockings and crocs, she’s covered head to toe in brown – a thousand different shades of brown. Incredibly none of them match. Her rapidly moving jowls and colour choice give her the appearance of a bloodhound. 

‘Are you listening? What’s wrong with you?’

There is a collective sniggering sound behind me, presumably from the rest of the council staff hidden in the back room.

‘I’m sorry, Madam. What were you saying?’

‘The neon sign at the general store. It’s completely offensive. Ruins the whole ambience of the village. And frankly, it’s just common.’

‘Yes, those kinds of signs are quite common for retail shops.’

‘You dimwitted boy. Common as in coarse, crass,’ she leans in close – her heavy lavender perfume smacks me in the face – she whispers the last word, ‘it’s vulgar.’ 

‘I see.’ I’m not sure how to proceed. ‘I suppose I could check if the appropriate approvals are in place.’

‘The sign buzzes you know. You can hear it over the traffic.’

I decide not to point out that a couple of utes an hour and occasional tractor hardly constitutes traffic.

‘You live nearby then?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ She lifts her chin and elongates her vowels. ‘I live on the hill. The large white house with the triple award-winning rose garden.’

‘Of course, my mistake.’ As someone new to the town I’m not familiar with said ‘hill’ but I’m not about to let on.

‘I could hear it buzzing when I was returning a carton of milk. The milk was out-of-date by two days, you know, and they wouldn’t give me a refund.’

‘Well that’s not right.’

‘Exactly. The owner, a dreadful woman, refused because I’d purchased it a week ago. Then she had the hide to ban me from the store.’

‘I’m not sure I can do anything about that.’

The woman released a protracted sigh. ‘Are you sure you’re all there? Really! I’m reporting that matter to the police as soon as I’m done here.’

‘Right,’ I shuffle some random papers around. ‘If you could give me your details. I’ll get right onto the matter of the sign.’

‘My name is Mrs Snoop. Everyone knows who I am.’

‘I’m sure they do,’ I think to myself.

Mrs Snoop bids me good day and starts to leave. I exhale with relief but freeze when she turns back and says, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’

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