And the Gobstoppers Rolled Like Marbles
by Dina Murphy
Paul liked his job. He sold penny chews and purple blackjacks, prising them from heavy glass-bottomed jars like dead fish. Rosy lips, jelly snakes, lemonade crystals: he scooped them into crackling bags that creased and groaned with oily weight, shaking like maracas.
Sometimes he sat and watched the local girls riding up and down the escalators, giggling with perfume and long, tanned legs and secrets he didn’t understand. Sitting on his leather stool, tapping meaty hands against his thighs like a samba. Watching.
He liked the Saturday girl from the Fancy Goods store best, liked the way she eased hand-blown glass and Egyptian perfume bottles into brown bags like they were gossamer, spider’s webs. She wrapped them tight, so tightly in soft tissue the colour of sea-beds and smiled as though she meant it. Sometimes she came to look at Paul's glass jars, tapping the sides as though expecting the contents to move like trapped animals, hauled into too-small pens for market. Paul tapped his hands faster on the baggy leather and watched her hair move in shining streaks, halo-like. He hoped she understood Morse code.
It was a Saturday when she fell, the busiest shopping day of the week. It was almost ballet, they said, the delicate arch of the neck and free-fall three stories down onto the cold grin of glass. Paul could only remember watching gobstoppers skittering off like marbles, finding their freedom as his own tapping dulled under the surprising weight of hair and skin.