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Friday, March 24, 2006



The Peddler

There was a loud, sharp and unexpected knock on the door. I opened it and small, dark, middle-aged man looked up from the zip of his anorak and began telling me about himself. “Hello sir, my name is Francis McMaster, I’m fifty one years old, I’m out of work, epileptic and I’m trying to make an honest living by selling household items around the doors. If I could just take up a few minutes of your time to show you some of the useful things I have for sale in this here bag.” I wasn’t really wanting to enter into a long dialogue about anything really, being busy, or not being interested and I was aware that my mind had frozen and that though I wanted to tell him “no sale” I couldn’t. He began to unzipper the holdall he was carrying and rummaging around inside it.

I just wanted this to be over so I started to think of how much cash I had on me; I had at least ten pounds in wallet I guessed. Already I knew I was going to be buying something but I didn’t want to give that fact away so I quickly decided to spend no more than a fiver.

“Have you pets sir? Does your wife need a new ironing board cover? Do you own a motor car?”

“Ok” I said, “let’s make this easy, what can you sell me for a fiver?”

“A fiver sir? Well I’ve these lint-free cloths, these air-fresheners for your car and packs of dish towels”. “Dishtowels,” I said. “Green or blue?” said Mr McMaster the peddler.

I chose the green towels, handed him five pounds, thanked him and began to close the door. Before I could he began talking,” Sir you are very clean person and may you always be, look after the towels and they’ll look after you. Now sir, how do I get next door? There are lights on in the house but the gate is locked.” “Well, try the back door” I said, “They don’t really use that gate much.” With that I finally closed the door and returned to what I had been doing, preparing the evening meal. I tossed the dishtowels onto the kitchen worktop and forgot about them.

The rest of the evening passed quickly, I read for a time, ate a light supper and retired to bed around ten thirty. The next morning I was awake at seven sharp. The sun was streaming in through the blinds, catching the dust particles that danced on the static charges of the air. Outside all was still and quiet apart from some birdsong from the depths of the hedge across the road. I felt sure that today would be a perfect day, or at least close enough. I rose from bed, put on a robe and shuffled along the corridor to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. The sunlight had caught up with the kitchen and reflected on the taps and dishes and it seemed from all the chrome parts of the appliances. It all looked so very clean and bright and not at all how I had left it the previous evening. I remembered cooking my supper, drinking a little, putting down pots and dishes and moving away the dirty cutlery and crockery that was left unwashed from a previous meal. Now everything was immaculate, tidy and in it’s proper place. There was no sign whatsoever of the meal I’d eaten and the clutter I had left over. I looked down at the worktop; the green towels were there, where I’d left them the night before. I stared at the packaging, I was sure that yesterday they had been wrapped and sealed up in cellophane. They were now unwrapped but still in the same place and as far as I could recollect, folded the same way.

“Hi!” I was startled to hear her voice come unexpectedly from the dining room, “I got a late flight, I came home at midnight, didn’t want to wake you…”

“It’s great that your back, I glad you’re home. I didn’t realise..”

“Yes Dad,” said the voice from the dining room, “I slept on the couch, the spare room is full or junk.”

I was still looking around, admiring how clean the kitchen was looking this early in the day, “Thanks for clearing up in the kitchen.”

“Wasn’t me, just woke up.”


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