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Mikey swept the shop floor at 8 a.m sharp, just as he had always done. Lighting the brazier was next. Having set it up the night before, he just had to strike a match to get it started. Years of practice meant he had it down to a fine art.

The 'For Sale' sign creaked in the wintry gales for a few weeks now.

Today Mikey would have to wear his heavy coat, all day long, as snow flurries were forecast.

 He scrolled down one more time on his tablet and saw that the temperature wouldn't rise beyond 3 degrees.

The shop doorbell clanged loudly.

Mikey looked up with a start

'Who could it be at this hour,' he wondered, 'usually, folk were stuck in traffic jams at this early hour, even in the tiny village of Riversdale.

'Morning Mikey,' said Joe.

'How ya' Joe,' Mikey replied,' seeing his old buddy. 'When did you blow in from the U.S?'

'Had to see it for myself, Mikey,' Joe answered.

'Just got in from the States yesterday, to visit my ageing Mom. First sad tidings, I hear? No more aniseed balls in Riversdale. Mikey's throwing in the towel.'

Mikey laughed his hearty laugh that Joe remembered so well from when they were kids.

 All the while, Mikey continued to scroll on his tablet, as he set up for the day.'

'Mikey, see you've kept up with the times, though,' Joe said, pointing to Mikey's tablet.

'Have to move with the times, Joe, even oul' fellas like us,' Mikey remarked.

'You met Annie, in here, did you not?' Mikey asked.

'Yes indeed,' Joe answered.' We were just kids, seventeen years old, on our bikes goin' to the saturday night hop. First, we had to have a few aniseed balls to get us in the mood. Such innocent times.'

'How's Annie now?' Mikey asked.

'Up in Alaska with our son, Josh, doin' her bit for the planet.'

'Still sell aniseed balls here Mikey?'

'Naw,' Mikey replied,' aniseed balls morphed into vodka shots. Saturday night hops turned into disco raves.'

Joe glanced at the glass case at the back of the shop where glass jars stood aligned.

'What's that, 'Joe asked, pointing to the jars. 'Retro candy?'

'You know Joe, it's a crazy old world. I've been here half a century, started working here with my dad when I was just, what they call today, a twenty-something, a millennial. Boiled sweets were all the rage then. Aniseed balls , toffee bonbons, root sticks.'

'Then what?' Joe asked.

'People got all posh. No more boiled sweets. Just candy bars and chewing gum and who knows what. Guess you guys in America helped to fashion our tastebuds.'

'Ye, I guess,' Joe answered,' his yankee accent projecting into the chilly air.

'U.S spreads its arms across the globe in all kinds of ways, even around candy.'

As the two men stood by the brazier warming themselves, Maggie Doran, from Main Street rang the shop bell loudly.

'Morning Maggie,' Mikey said,' this is Joe, Joe Smith from down the street.'

'Down what street ?' Maggie enquired,' hardly Main Street with a fancy accent like that.'

 The shop echoed once again to peals of laughter as in the old days.

'Sure, I remember you well, Joe Smith, same age as my younger brother. Eddie. '

Not wishing to be embarrassed, Joe feigned remembrance.

'You comin' to buy the shop and save it from goin' under? ' Maggie asked.

'No, not at all, Maggie, recession biting in the U.S, have to mind our dimes.'

'Mikey, give me a few Lemon Fizz drops and a bag o' Bulls Eyes for my grandaughter coming from Texas tonight and I'll be on my way.'

Mikey busied himself, reaching for the few remaining jars that stood like spectres at the back of the shop, unscrewing the lids and weighing the multicolored sweets.

'Can't make a livin' out of bullseyes anymore Mikey,' Maggie remarked.

'That's right,' Mikey answered,' now it's all vegan this and that, coffee to go and whatnot.'

'Any of your sons interested?' Maggie asked.

'Naw,' Mikey answered,' sons' faces buried in phones with earphones on their ears. They think I'm crazy to try to hang on. How about Alexa, my youngest lad suggested. Eh? Glad they persuaded me to hook up with my tablet. A godsend.'

'How times have changed, ' Maggie remarked as she slammed the shop door behind her. Maggie stood for a few moments glancing up at the sign over the door' Aniseed Balls'.

Noticing her stance, Mikey grabbed his tablet and asked Mike to accompany him.

Once outside, he got all three to stand for a selfie beneath the old rusted shop sign. Like youngsters, they giggled their way through taking a selfie.

'Here's one for the sons,' Mikey remarked. 'They can take a few minutes out from  the Ftse 100 or the Nasdaq 100 to glance at the old homestead.'

Maggie waved as she turned the corner, 'Good luck with the sale, Mikey,' she shouted.

Joe discreetly wiped away a tear that had begun to roll down his tanned cheek. A sense of nostalgia had taken hold of him.

'You still throw sawdust on the floor, Mikey? ' Joe asked.

'Ay,' Joe replied,' for the snowy winter days when folk come in with wellies and hobnail boots. I'll miss those days, in particular,' Mikey said.

'They were the fun days, the gossip and the reminiscence days.'

'What'll you do now, Mikey,' Joe asked, 'since you've been widowed quite a few years as well?'

'Dunno, Joe, dunno..all I know is nobody wants aniseed balls anymore. They belong to a world that is no more..at least for now..unless..unless the wheels turn full circle and eco-friendly warriors decide that aniseed balls were not so bad after all.'

A black Mercedes pulled up outside. A middle-aged man in a well-tailored suit got out, with a smartphone in his hand and proceeded to photograph the shop from various angles.

'Retro sweets,' that's what I plan on calling it,' the man said.

Mikey's eyes lit up. Joe's heart sang.

'Maybe old 'Aniseed Balls' will rise like some phoenix from the ashes,' Mikey remarked, as Joe slapped him firmly on the back.


December 09, 2019 15:23

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1 comment

Natalie M.
10:28 Dec 19, 2019

I really liked this story and I enjoyed reading it (thanks to the critique circle email for suggesting it). The characters were likeable and the ending was very wholesome. Great job! :)


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