Fancy Goods
by Clive Collins

Sixteen, in need of clothes and the occasional night out on which to wear them, I took a job for lousy pay in a fancy goods shop working Friday nights and all day Saturdays.

Nights, I swept the shop and its frontage. Mornings, I washed the shop and its frontage.  I dusted the stock – carefully.  There was a lot of expensive china displayed.  Mostly though, I sold paraffin and went home reeking of the stuff, but a pound better off.

My boss was Sidney Bach, a grey pudgy man with dandruff who disliked me.

I worked for the clothes.  Christmas Week I was in every day. Christmas Eve a pretty woman was in the shop when I got there. “Mrs Sidney,” Sidney wheezed.  “Sylvia,” she said.

Lunchtimes, I walked into town.  Not that day though.  A green Mini with Sylvia driving stopped alongside me.  “Get in,” she said. Mistletoe hung from the rearview mirror.


I nodded.

She took me to the town’s only French restaurant, leaving the Mini on a double yellow.  At the table we bumped knees while she fed me food the like of which I’d never tasted.  Wine was taken.  I watched my watch, surreptitiously.

“What about Sidney?” I said.

“Oh, bugger Sidney!”

Afterwards, getting out of the car, she caught hold of me, kissed me full on the mouth.  “Happy Christmas, sweetheart,” she said.  “Working New Year?”

Parked where we were, I could see Sidney watching us through the shop window.  That afternoon I sold a full set of Royal Albert china.

When Sidney made up my money at night, Sylvia snorted, re-opened the till and pressed paper into my hand. A fiver, I thought. At home again, I found it had a twin.  Supposed to go back after the holiday, I knew I wouldn’t.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me in the suit the paraffin paid for.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Dichten = Condensare” was what Pound said made poetry.  This piece is a very condensed version of a much longer tale, and though I have enjoyed the discipline of cutting things down to the bone, it still isn’t poetry.  I would also add that Sidney and Sylvia Bach are aliases.


Born in Leicester, England, Clive Collins has spent the greater part of his life working as a teacher in Ireland, Sierra Leone, and Japan. He is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/ Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. More recently his work has appeared in online journals such as Penny, Cecile’s Writers, The Story Shack, and He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. A chapbook of his short stories is to be published by Red Bird Chapbooks in 2017.