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A New Wallet

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A New Wallet

by Bruin Fisher

As the escalator propelled me smoothly upwards I gradually rose above floor level, and eventually made the little hop onto solid ground and onto the upper floor of the Slough branch of Marks and Spencer. I found myself surrounded by frilly pink silk undergarments, which is not what I was interested in, so I walked briskly on. Ahead stood a shop assistant, a much-too-thin young man in M&S uniform, short spiked hair, triangular face, ironic mouth, those bored aloof eyes that shop assistants cultivate, until our eyes met and his took on a sparkle and his mouth twitched.

It was just momentary, but I saw it, and I think he saw my smile in response. And then it was all over as I continued on my way and he continued guarding the ladies' changing rooms.

It had been a day of novelty, a day for breaking out of routine, breaking out of my shell. I had been thrown out of an office when I went to demand some legal documents there that are rightfully mine and I stood my ground when I was refused. Me, timid shy me, can you believe? Then I'd gone to the police station and discussed it in detail with a very dishy young policeman who was wearing a flak jacket, I think they're called, with wires and electronic gadgetry festooned all over his already impressive chest. And I'd bought a Caramel Macchiato coffee in Starbucks and sat and watched a shoplifter being chased down the street by a security guard. I'd never done any of these things before. Not even the coffee.

So I was in Marks and Sparks just to kill some time, really, and because they have toilets. I had hours to kill before my next appointment so I thought I'd mooch around the shops and went into Marks. I looked at the shirts. These days they have hundreds of really awful shirts and if you search through the whole lot there will be one or two shirts that are to die for. Diamonds in the dirt. I found their diamonds but at twenty-five pounds a time I thought No, thanks, ducky.

Again their ties are now fifteen pounds each, would you credit it? I came close to paying the fifteen pounds for a tie I found, pure black silk, quite narrow, and a complex weave that gave the material texture and a look almost like basket-work. I've never seen anything like it and it would go so well with my all-black outfit. I didn't buy that either, but I did buy a wallet, nice leather, reduced from twenty-two pounds, - whoever would pay that for a wallet? - to under nine pounds. Like I said, I was breaking out.

There was only one checkout, a row of four tills and I noticed straight away that number two was manned by the guy I'd noticed earlier. Eyelashes unfeasibly long and curly, gave him a look a bit like that actor, you know, Alan Cummings. Sweet boy.

They had one of those queuing systems. You all stand in one line and there's a screen at the head of the queue which tells you which cashier has come free. There's also an irritating voice that said in a sing-song voice “cashier number four, please!” and the couple in front of me walked up to the till to pay for their goods. To my delight the next till free was number two. Even before the disembodied voice had told me what to do, the young man had looked up, met my eye and smiled. Either he's very good with customers, or that was a smile of recognition, he remembered me from earlier. So even before we spoke we were both grinning foolishly.

I handed the wallet over and he scanned it.

“That'll be eight pounds eighty pence, please, sir.”

“Thank you.” and I handed him my credit card. He fed it into the machine and we waited while it digested the card.

“Would you like a bag for that?”

“No, thank you. It's all right, I don't have far to walk and it's only small.”

“It's no problem. I have a small one.”

While he worked at separating leaves of dark green polythene bag one from the other, I said “Never admit to that.”

He looked up in slight surprise. “I'm sorry?”

“You just said you have a small one.” I met his eyes and they crinkled as his whole face lit up in appreciation of the quip. He began to giggle and it was infectious – I giggled and we completed the card transaction with no further words but broad grins on our faces. He slid the little box with the wallet in it, and the card receipt, into a small polythene carrier bag and handed it to me with a wink and an even broader smile. So I walked away with a bounce in my step thinking whatever is the world coming to? To think that I could be so brazen. Flirting with a good-looking shop assistant?

But when I got back to the car I had to do my breathing exercise because I was having palpitations. I could have been thrown out of a second shop in one day, and this time for sexual harassment! What a narrow escape. Sometimes shells are there for staying in, not for breaking out of.

? Bruin Fisher September 2009

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Are things really that bad over there?

I would be jailed before I got out of Heathrow airport. I am always making such remarks when I go shopping, usually to the delight of the shopping assistant, because their jobs are so mundane.

One of my favourites, when greeted with, "Hello, how are you today?" is to reply with, "Old, I feel old. Would you like to feel old age creeping up all over you?" Usually they look shocked and then laugh with me.

One time after such a quip, the assistant looked at me then gazed around the shop to make sure he was not being watched, then he leaned forward and fluttered his eyebrows and uttered that famous line, "So does Sir see anything else he would like?"

I nearly fainted, I wasn't used to getting a dose of my own medicine. (We both burst out laughing, by the way.)

Great story Bruin. :angel3[1]:

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Are things really that bad over there?

Thanks for your comment, Des.

Of course I have no idea if things are that bad over here, since I go through life so tightly buttoned-up that I've never put myself in such a position before. But today... well, today was different. All bets were off. All told, it's been enjoyable, I must do it again sometime!

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Here's how bad things are over here:

Subject: Stella Awards

Stella Awards

It's time again for the annual 'Stella Awards'! For those unfamiliar

with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who

spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in

New Mexico, where she purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid

off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who

would ever think one could get burned doing that, right? That' s right;

these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the

U.S.You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So

keep your head scratcher handy.

Here are the Stellas for the past year:


Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her

peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running

inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised

by the verdict,20considering the running toddler was her own son.

Start scratching!


Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California won $74,000 plus medical

expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman

apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when

he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

Scratch some more...


Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, who was leaving a house he

had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson,

the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the

garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the

door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it

shut.. Forced to sit for eight, count 'em, EIGHT days and survive on a

case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's

insurance company claiming undue mental Anguish. Amazingly, the jury

said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We

should all have this kind of anguish. Keep scratching. There are


Double hand scratching after this one...


Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the

Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being

bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle - even though the

beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get

as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have

been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed

over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet


Pick a new spot to scratch, you're getting a bald spot..


Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a

Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a

spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was

on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds

earlier during an argument. What ever happened to people being

responsible for their own actions?

Only two more so ease up on the scratching....


Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a

nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor,

knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms.. Walton was trying to

sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover

charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000....oh, yeah,

plus dental expenses. Go figure.

Ok. Here we go!!


This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was: Mrs. Merv

Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased new 32-foot

Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game,

having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph

and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to

make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the

freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski

sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't

actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set.. The

Oklahoma jury awarded her, are you sitting down?

$1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their

manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any

relatives who might also buy a motor home.

But I hate to detract from Bruins wonderful writing. Well done yet again, Bruin!


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You do realise Stella Liebeck was a 79 year old grandmother who was hospitalised with 3rd degree burns? Or that McDonalds coffee is served at regulation 87 degrees C - coffee made at home is typically around 57 - which is hot enough for any large spill to cause severe burns? At the trial McDonnalds produced 700+ documents of similar burn cases caused by their coffee - in their defence.

Lists of frivolous lawsuits are usually fictions pushed by insurance companies. The Stella Awards has been fooled by a lot of them - and sometimes refused to retract when the falsehood was discovered.

Little details make all the difference. They just don't make such easy stories.

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You're right Kap. People seem to be attracted to the headlines, the drama, but the details give a much different picture. It is truly unfortunate that people want the "quick fix" and are unwilling to ferret out the "true' story about anything. Where has questioning gone?

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The list Cole posted gave me a few giggies - it was enjoyable, in much the same way as the lists you sometimes come across on the web - true exchanges between lawyers and witnesses in court, for instance, or true explanations given to insurance companies of road accidents. No doubt a lot of it it urban legend but it's great fun to read if you apply a healthy dose of skepticism. I've come across the one about the Winnebago customer who put the big vehicle in cruise and walked through to make a hot drink over and over again. As with a lot of these things there's probably at least a grain of truth in there!

I just watched a movie called Urbania where a lot of these urban legends 'came to life' like the little old lady who tries drying her little dog after a walk in the rain by microwaving it, and the man who wakes after a one-night-stand to find the lady gone, and he has a neatly dressed wound in his side - one of his kidneys has been stolen.

What did you all think of my Flash story??!

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What did you all think of my Flash story??!

Is that some kind of hint to stop the perfectly good hijacking of this thread? :angel3[1]:

Bruin, they only hijack the threads they really like.

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What a fine cast of characters you attract Bruin! Hello Everyone, and Steven! :icon_geek:

Well said about Bruin, Cole. He is that.

I recall asking Steven "what is flash fiction, anyway?" And he didn't even say "well, did ya look?" :angel3[1]:

Under the reoccurring assumption that I can know something before I know anything, I thought I would find it unable to make an impression on me, not enough words for one thing...

Out of the handful of pieces i've read so far, all are full color impressions with a range of associated emotional reactions, much like snapshots of the times of our lives, and in line, at least in part with the intention of FF. A case of limits making a thing more rather than less.

I'm all for more, and I love Flash Fiction.

I get the "ironic smile", but don't ask me to explain it. Rarely done with such grace as your boy Bruin, so kind of you to bring it to mind.

The "small one" exchange is priceless! I can see a story being staged for that line alone.

Not one to miss out on a good hijacking either :

Where has questioning gone?

A million dollar question, Richard, and if there is an answer to it, I'm not going to like it.

Hugs, all,


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Good question. It's a wry smile, really, I guess. Like this:

It's a good point, maybe I should have said 'ironic smile' rather than 'ironic mouth'? What do you think?

I think it was a wonderfully told story and now that you explained 'ironic mouth', which was just a small thing, it still remains a great piece of flash ficiton.

Now, if the absent raccoon hasn't pooped in my slippers, I'll slip them on and I'll find a comfortable chair and re-read it. :angel3[1]:

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  • 1 month later...

What a shy, slowly awakening tale about a man who is finally stepping out away from the shore. Much like Des, I flirt outrageously with almost everyone, I find that it gets me what I want easier. And no I'm not talking about sex, but I find approaching these clerks with a bit of humor and a flirtatious manner gets me that refund, or that special deal.


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