Little Pound Shop

If one more numpty asks me how much the enchanted hand mirrors cost, I’m going to scream. A pound. Everything in the shop’s a pound. The clue’s above our door. Pound Kingdom. That’s a hint. Take it. Just because a silver bat flew through our doors last Wednesday sprinkling magic dust over everything doesn’t mean our prices have gone up. Shampoo that turns your hair to spun gold – a pound. Key ring that follows you everywhere – a pound. Never ending bag of Malteasers – a pound. I’d wear my ‘Everything’s a pound’ t-shirt, but I’m in danger of murdering the next bloke who attempts to woo me with ‘does that include you, sweetheart?’ And how have my staff solved this problem? With a naming competition. And what else would you name a fantastical creature that transforms your world but Bert. 

You see what I have to put up with? Just because they call me Mrs T, don’t go thinking they’re an A Team. 

And Bert won’t budge from the ceiling. 

He turned the ultrasonic pest repellent to a song so beautiful it made Clare snivel. When Matt flashed the lights to scare him, the bulbs grew wings and flew out the doors. ‘Course I felt guilty phoning pest control, but I was out of options. 

And, yes, when he flits about, it brings back when the nights were blue over the oaks: Me and Jessie sharing a blanket and watching the pipistrelles till Mum nagged us to go to bed. Jessie would’ve loved this. Bet she’d have coaxed him down. But she’s not here, is she? 

The pest control guy is pulling up in his van, is getting out … is so hot he’s possibly been conjured by an enchanted Coca Cola can. (Who drank that?) Trust Clare to scurry over to him, twirling her hair. She points in my direction. He’s coming over. 

“Are you Mrs T?” 

“Tessa.” I’m not telling him Mrs T’s a reference to Maggie Thatcher. Just cos these wimps can’t handle an iron lady. 

“Jake.” He points to his badge. A hot guy who can read – my favourite. “I’m here for the bat.” 

“Well, you’re in the wrong aisle. This is snacks, not bats.” Oh god, I’m trying to joke with him. 

“That bat’s probably doing you a favour. They can eat 1,200 mozzies an hour. Like me with Maltesers.” 

“You’re in luck.” I pass him a bag of them. My fingers brush his, and I feel my face beetrooting. “Never ending choc.” He raises an eyebrow. “You’ll see.” I spin round. I feel his gaze on me as he follows. 

And there Bert is – tucked into the corner. Silver and shining. 

“I didn’t come here for you to take the mickey.”

“It’s real.” I snatch a plastic broom, scurry onto a step ladder, and launch the broom in Bert’s direction. Whoops. I’m wrenched upwards, clinging on for dear life. The broom is sweeping the ceiling. Fast. 

Down the aisle. 

Faster and faster. 

“Let go. I’ll catch you.” My hands are slipping. I’m falling into Jake’s arms. Crikey these are good arms. I’ll just stay here thanks. No more ground for me. But he puts me down.

“We’re sort of enchanted. Ever since Bert arrived things have been bat-sh…” Oh god, I’m punning. Somebody stop me. 

“Well, I always thought bats were magic. I was the only kid who read Batman for the bats.” 

“My sister was Batgirl every Halloween for the same reason.” And even though it stings me, I can’t stop myself grinning. 

“She must be loving this.” 

“She’s looking down on us and laughing her head off.” 

“I’m sorry.” His hand is on my arm and his eyes are… Jessie, did you send him my way? Because good job. Seriously, thumbs up forever.

“Bert’s on the move,” Matt shouts. I turn round. Bert is silver and dazzle, flitting about the aisles. Everyone’s gawping. 

Jake’s hand is touching mine, sending shivers through me. Bert lands on a packet of crayons. And then Jake is moving towards him with some kind of catching thing on the end of a pole. 

“Easy does it,” Clare says. Like she’s helping. A purple crayon leaps from the packet and starts colouring in her face. She swats it.

Jake’s so close. He lowers the catcher, opens its jaws. I hold my breath. Almost. Almost. But it doesn’t scoop up Bert. It starts singing. 

Maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should 

Maybe I didn’t love you quite as often as I could 

What do the numpties standing around do? They join in. Like we’re in a naff musical. Jake laughs, raises his eyebrows at me. I shake my head. I don’t do sing-a-longs. 

“You were always on my mind,” he belts. His eyes lock mine. My face is beetrooting. Clare wolf whistles. Then Bert’s off again. He lands on a colouring book of prehistoric beasts. Jake props the still crooning catcher against the wall and snatches some tupperware. He inches towards Bert. But the book shrugs and a half coloured-in woolly mammoth stomps from its cover. Only knee height. Cute until it grows and grows. Jake jumps backwards. The mammoth stomps through the aisles, tramples the tills and knocks through the doors and windows. It trumpets triumph. Then rams a Toyota in the car park. What a git. I’m glad they’re extinct. 

And Bert’s off. Off through where the door once was. We run after him. He flits across the car park. Into the back of Jake’s van. We slam the doors. 

“Fancy a drink?” Jake says.

“Looks like we’ve closed early so…” I climb into the passenger seat. There’s fairy dust all over the van. A shimmer. Jake turns the key. We drive. Through a wood of silver trees and golden winds. Blossom fills the air. Like confetti. Jessie, you might be overdoing it.