It saved a shoplifter from being charged.
The January arctic cold had a bite even inside. It seeped into the pores of the old general store. Perched on the office chair, elbows leaning on the desk, cup of hot coffee grasped with both hands warming them and providing my morning wakeup elixer. I was enjoying the view out the north window.
Most of the four corners were bathed in early morning sun. The light bounced off the mounds of plowed snow lining the streets. The winter of 1977 had so far been both snowy and bitterly cold.
Business had been slow except for a few picking up cigarettes, paper or coffee. The usual visitors hadn’t shown up to swap whatever gossip they could muster and to shoot the breeze as they killed an excess of time in their lives. It was life in a small village, those who had time to kill watched those who had to live their lives.
Sleepy little villages are rarely sleepy. If I ever had a time when I wasn’t sure what I’d been doing, just had to ask the visitors. They’d tell me. They didn’t know how often I used the washroom, but they’d hazard a guess.
Wendy had a doctor’s appointment in Peterborough and needed a ride. The parents would be taking her up, leaving me to run the store and keep an eye on Lynn. She was nine, old enough to amuse herself but still in need of supervision.
Our milk delivery pulled up out front as I watched them pull away from the north side of the building. Our delivery guy, Walter, was a nice fellow who moved like half frozen sludge trying to flow down a grade.
I was standing behind the counter watching him put milk away in the cooler when I caught a movement past the front window and groaned. One of the locals known for their constant state of inebriation, unemployment and lack of bathing was making his way inside. There were stories of them shoplifting but we’d never caught them.
I moved behind the counter to where I could watch what he was doing in the mirror. He was on the far side of the store looking through the jeans. Walter rolled our delivery down the aisle past him. Walter would also be keeping an eye on him. The phone rang.
“Hi, it’s dad.”
“What’s up?” I turned away from watching in the mirror to listen.
“We’re in Warkworth. A frost plug went on the car. I need you to close up and come get us. Can we take your car to get to the appointment?”
“Yeah, sure, Walter’s here doing his delivery so I’ll close up when he’s finished. Where are you exactly?” I caught sight of Walter gesturing frantically as he crossed the store. I finished the call and turned to him.
“He’s got a shirt under his coat.” He whispered. Took me a moment to register who he was talking about. Looking up at the mirror I saw our lone customer heading toward the door. I headed down one side of the store, Walter headed down the other. I got to the front of the store as our fleeing customer reached the door.
“HEY!” my loud sharp command made him pause at the door. “Open your coat please.” He opened his mouth to answer as Walter walked up behind him. He reached into his coat and brought out the shirt he was trying to steal. I sighed. I should call the cops but the parents needed to get Wendy to that appointment. Walter took the shirt from him.
“You need to pay for shirts here you know?”
“Y-yeah.. I was just going to.”
“Well the cash is over here not down the street, come on, let’s get it paid for.” He darted out the door and took off. Walter went to follow and I stopped him.
“That was dad on the phone. I need to finish with you and go get them.” Walter went to the milk cooler to finish putting the delivery away. I went to tell Lynn to get ready to go.
I briefly wondered how badly the guy needed the shirt. With this frigid weather, it might have been a kindness to have called the cops if they had taken him to jail. He’d have a warm place for a while.
Putting my musing aside, I headed off out to get the parents wondering what else could go wrong today.
PS -- if you'd like to learn just what else went wrong, read about the rest of my day here.
Shadowspub is a writer from Ontario, Canada. She writes on a variety of subjects as she pursues her passion for learning. She also writes on other platforms.
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