A Gathering

They gathered en masse under the awning of the stall, grabbing a little shelter from the light but persistent drizzle. Even from a distance it was clear that they were crowding the proprietor of the street business; it looked… odd.

"Do you have any large bags?" asked the woman at the front, her eyes scanning the stall but not glancing at its owner.

"I've got some small paper bags," she answered with a smile. "They should be big enough for anything you buy here."

"We're after large bags," came the reply after a moment's pause. "The more impractical for wandering around the streets with, the better."

I watched the lady who ran the stall look around uncomfortably. She did her best to smile again and pointed at the signs that decorated her mobile place of business. "Handmade bracelets and anklets. Silver jewellery. That's all I sell here."

"We would like to buy some oversized bags," one of the children intoned.

The market stall proprietor looked uneasy and turned to address the first person who had spoken to her. "No, I only sell bracelets, anklets, and bits of silver jewellery. Things like that. Rings. You know?"

"You do not have large bags that look ridiculously out of place here." It came across more like a statement than a question. I could feel the silence that followed swell suffocatingly.

Abruptly, the group turned and slowly wandered off as one without a word, accompanied by the rough, rolling sound of their bags' plastic wheels clattering on the flagstones. Almost all of the group, anyway.

The one remaining member stared into the eyes of the stallholder, holding that piercing look for an unsettlingly long period of time before she spoke. "Do you have any stupidly large footballs?"

With a furtive glance left and right the stall's owner ducked down and reached under the main tray of wares. "A fiver each or two for eight quid," she half-whispered.

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Author: Mark

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