• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 01

Dusty Old Stuff

"First things first: the new donations need sorting." Doreen led Maddie into the office. "It's simple, really. Have a rifle through, see what's inside. If there's anything nice, pop it on the table and we'll tag it later, ready to put out on the shop floor. The rest can go out the back to be recycled."
"What counts as nice?"
"Oh, anything really. Whatever you think might sell. That you might buy for yourself – do let me know if you spot something you fancy. I may be able to arrange a discount. No freebies, mind. It is for charity, after all."
Maddie spent the morning gutting the innards of five world-weary bags for life, each one exhaling stale cigarette smoke laced with BO. Moth-eaten skirts, sweat-stained blouses that had to have been bought in the last century. Yellowing paperbacks with collapsing spines and loose pages. Dusty old tat. She coughed, inhaling God-knows-what. Pulling out her phone, she scrolled through Facebook until her data ran out.
Doreen returned after an hour. "All done?"
"There's nothing good here."
"Oh, but what about this?" Doreen lifted up a lilac cardigan with a frayed sleeve. "All it needs is a nice press and it'll be good as new." She ferreted out a few more bits and pieces she thought were worth selling.
Maddie spent the rest of the day with Doreen behind the till. Business was hardly booming. Two people entered the shop: a man handing out flyers for a missing dog, and a pensioner who chatted to Doreen for 45 minutes without buying anything. Doreen asked Maggie to fetch a chair from the office. "Yolanda's hip isn't so good," she explained.
As the two women talked, Maddie busied herself by tidying the shop, if such a thing were possible. Ancient artefacts crowded every shelf and clothing rail. More dust, lying in snowy drifts in every corner.
"She was a good one, was Teresa," said Yolanda.
"Absolutely. What was it got her again, heart or lungs?"


Dusty Old Stuff

"Lungs, I think."
"Thought so. Tried asking Mark when he popped by yesterday with her things. He said heart, but Lord knows she smoked like a chimney."
"I'll miss her."
"Oh, that reminds me," said Doreen, heading into the back office.
Yolanda turned to Maddie. "You're new."
"Just here for the week," said Maddie. "Work experience."
"Shame," said Yolanda. "She could use the company."
Doreen returned with the frayed old cardigan. "Recognise this?" Both women smiled; Yolanda reached out to stroke the unravelling sleeve.
Back in the office, Maggie dug out an old sandwich board. It looked like it hadn't been used this century. She spelled out an advert, the best she could come up with. At the very least, it was honest.
"What's that?" asked Doreen, following Maggie as she took it outside. From her seat, Yolanda squinted, tried to read what it said. It seemed to say "Dead peoples stuff for sale." Then again, her eyes weren't so good any more.