haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2007, vol 3 no 2

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Patricia Prime

Heading for the Toys

Smiths, a department store that sold haberdashery, clothes and hardware, was where we shopped with mum to buy material to make our clothes. High polished stools stood beside the counter for the ladies to sit on whilst they made their purchases. Heavy bolts of material were laid out on a counter marked with a metal tape measure. The bright cloth was cut with large shears and then wrapped and tied in a neat parcel. The shop assistant put the money and docket into a small cage, pulled a chain and with a loud zing the basket went shooting on rails to the cashier cosseted in a small glass enclosure. The change and receipt were returned the same way to the shop assistant. The cages zoomed round from every counter in the store to the accompaniment of loud pinging sounds.

Sometimes we went down to the toyshop in the basement to spend sixpence on a comic, colouring book or a lucky dip from barrels marked "Girl" or "Boy". Inside the wrapping paper perhaps we'd find a tin whistle, a metal clicking frog, or a magic trick. Once on my birthday I was allowed to choose a doll from a high shelf where the cheapest ranges were displayed. The one I chose looked like a boy so I called him Michael. One afternoon I left him out in the garden and when I went to find him next day his face was a pulpy mess.

left in the rain—
the plaster doll's blue eye
stares at me