Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 2
The Sweet Shoppe by Jameson Grey
II – Mr Wolfe’s Sweet Shoppe
“Oh, this is an unexpected treat – customers.”
Pearl and John’s entering the shop had set off a bell and a little man – the storekeeper, presumably – had bustled through a beaded curtain behind the counter. “I was working up a new batch of lollipops in the back. How may I help you this fine summer’s day?”
There was an unmissable hissing sibilance to his voice that immediately put Pearl in mind of Kaa from The Jungle Book. Forcing herself to suppress a giggle, Pearl averted her eyes to the storekeeper’s apron where she noticed a sticky red mess – strawberry juice from the lollipops, she assumed.
“It wasn’t a planned trip I’m afraid,” John said. “We’re rather lost and, as if that’s not enough, we’ve just gotten a flat.”
“Oh dear,” The storekeeper sympathized. “That road can be quite treacherous. I have informed the municipality on many occasions, but I’m told they have other priorities. It can be so easy to take a knock against those walls, can’t it?
“I was distracted by an animal and clattered into the wall trying to brake and not hit it,” Pearl explained.
“Was it a dog, by any chance?” the storekeeper asked.
“Might have been,” John said. “Certainly small and nimble enough. It wasn’t a bear, thankfully!”
“I rather fear that might have been my Peter. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s ran out on the road and given customers of mine a scare.”
“I don’t think we hit him!” Pearl said, worried the storekeeper might think they had killed his dog. I’m pretty sure he scuttled off into the trees.”
“Oh, no doubt Peter will be fine. He’ll be back when he’s hungry,” the storekeeper replied.
Pearl sighed, her concern abated slightly by the storekeeper’s reassurances, although she found his apparent lack of distress a little disconcerting, nonetheless. “Now, may I offer you tea ahead of some assistance for your troubles?” he continued.
“A coffee would be great,” John said.
The storekeeper seemed put out for a moment, but quickly recovered his manners. “I might have a small jar. Only instant I’m afraid. I can’t abide the stuff myself. Rots the teeth you know.” At the last comment, he flashed them a grin that was more gaps than gnashers. “And you, Miss – ?”
“Tea would be lovely, thank you”, Pearl replied.
“In that case, if you could give me a moment, I shall be back presently,” and with that he was off into the back.
As soon as he’d left, Pearl and John giggled. “What an unusual little man,” Pearl whispered.
“I know, I know. And what a strange place to run a shop – a sweet shop at that. Still, takes all sorts.”
“Does it stock all sorts?” Pearl asked, looking around.
“Ha-ha, I thought I was the one for terrible puns.” John wandered over to one of the shelves and picked up a tube of sweets: “Loveshearts”, he read out-loud.
“You mean Lovehearts.”
“No, it says Loveshearts. Must be a typo – or a cheaper knock-off.”
“He said he was making sweets back there himself.”
The storekeeper came back with their drinks. Passing them to Pearl and John, he remarked: “I see you’ve found the Loveshearts – they’re my own recipe. As are these Terror Balls gobstoppers.” He picked up a giant gobstopper from the shelf. “Very popular at Hallowe’en, these – one of my favorites too. I have to stop myself from eating them as I only ever have a couple out on the shelf at any one time.”
“I see what you did there,” John said.
“Terror Ball, terrible – very clever.”
“Oh yes, my little joke. One does love a pun.”
Pearl was looking around the shop. “Do you make all these sweets yourself?”
“Yes, they’re a labor of love. We get so few customers out here, though.”
“‘We’?” Pearl asked.
“The royal ‘we’ I’m afraid. It’s just me. How are the drinks? More tea? Coffee?”
“Not for me. Do you have a telephone we could use? I think we’re going to need roadside assistance to come out.”
“I don’t, I’m afraid, but I do have some tools.” He looked over at John. “If you could give me a hand carrying them from out back, I’d be more than happy to help you fix your tire.”
“That’s very kind of you. I’m John, and this is Pearl, by the way.”
“Pleased to meet you John and Pearl. I’m Mr Wo – ” As he took Pearl’s teacup off her, he noticed the rings on her left hand. “Oh, you’re a couple, how sweet. How long have you been married?”
“A couple of months,” Pearl replied.
“That’s lovely – now if you’ll follow me – John, was it?” He headed through the beaded door to the back of the store, John close behind him.
Pearl glanced at the shelves: Chocolate Fingers – in Handy Packs of Eight, the slogan said. “Oh, John’ll get on like a house on fire with this guy. He loves an awful pun!”
If she’d stopped looking around then, Pearl might not have started to worry. Dreadful punner the storekeeper might be, but he seemed sweet enough. She glanced along the row of sweets in tall plastic jars (like those she’d seen behind the counter in many a local store back in England). Something was not quite right, off-kilter.
At first, Pearl thought he might have been simply a terrible speller who’d covered up his errors by claiming they were puns (when he could do, that is).
There was a mostly empty jar of Boil Sweets (shouldn’t it be “Boiled’? Pearl thought), countless jars of what looked like pale pink jelly sweets labelled Bellies, and similarly, several jars of Black Cinders Toffee.
When she saw what she thought was a jar of chewy False Teeth but what were actually named Fools’ Teeth (they looked particularly yellow and unappealing and some were even missing or had holes in), she started to feel distinctly uneasy. She was also getting a thumping headache.
There was a heavy thud from the back of the shop. “John,” Pearl called. “Are you OK?” She wobbled a bit, grabbing one of the shelves for support. As she did, one of the jars on the top shelf fell off. Pearl managed to catch it but staggered.
She looked down at the jar she had caught .
“What the fu–?” She felt herself toppling backwards.
As she fell, she heard a rustle of beads and a soft voice saying, its owner’s wry amusement unmistakable as he caught her: “Ah, I see you’ve found the Sweet Penises.”
- About the Author
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Jameson Grey is originally from England but now lives with his family in western Canada.
His work has been published in Dark Recesses Press magazine, Dark Dispatch, Medusa Tales, and in various anthologies including Chlorophobia: An Eco-Horror Anthology from Ghost Orchid Press and Let the Weirdness In: A Tribute to Kate Bush from Heads Dance Press.
He can be found online at jameson-grey.com and occasionally on Twitter @thejamesongrey.