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The Stationery Shop

Mrs. Richards was a fat old woman who helped her husband run a shop of stationery items. Both husband and wife had their little store on the high street of the village of ‘Green Meadows’. They kept their shop closed in the weekends, opened late in the mornings of weekdays and closed early. Their shop was just opening at eleven, on Monday morning, when Myra arrived.

She came in with her son Billy. “I want a box of pencils, a ruler, some erasers and sharpeners. Do be quick Mrs. Richards. I have other shopping to do.” “Please sit down Myra. I will get your things in a moment,” said Mr. Richards. “Well hurry up man. I do not have the whole day,” replied Myra rudely. Poor Mr. Richards went about getting the items ready for his customer. It took him a couple of minutes. By the time the bill was made Myra was really irritated.

“It seems Mr. Richards, from now on I will need to spend one hour for every purchase I make in your shop. Really you two oldies need to hire help or shut down shop,” said Myra insolently. “Come on Billy. Are you going to stay in here forever?” “Coming mommy,” Billy said pushing a pile of exercise books with his feet. Mr. Richards had to put back the fallen copies where they were kept against the desk. It was a big pile and he huffed and puffed getting up.

“How I wish we could afford to hire a young person to help in the shop,” spoke Mrs. Richards. “You know we cannot dear. Don’t worry, we will manage.” ‘Yes but what about the types like Myra? If we get some more like her, we will not be able to cope,” Mr Richards put his arm around his wife’s shoulders affectionately.

Both the poor dears were kind hearted souls, but did not make much in the shop. They led a very simple life and only dreamt of luxuries which they could never afford. Since it was the beginning of the year, children needed books and stationery for their new classes. There was a rush in the shop and the old couple got really tired by the time they got back home.

On Monday, the truck of new supplies arrived. Tom, the driver, got down and unloaded all the stuff outside the shop. Mr. Richards was just planning to start taking things inside the shop, when a boy of about fourteen approached him.

“Hi! Mr. Richards. My name is Ted. I have just moved into this village with my parents. I wonder if you need help in your shop? I finish school at 2. I could come and help you from 3 to 6.” “I wish I could hire you son, but you see, I cannot afford to pay salary right now. We don’t make much running this shop,” answered the old man regretfully. “I don’t want any money Mr. Richards. My folks are well off. I just love reading and want to be around books. If I could sit and read in the shop during breaks, I will have my compensation,” said the boy. “Well that’s not possible too. I don’t have many story books in my shop. There are mostly stationery items here.” “Well, how about starting a section on story books for children? I am sure kids would love to buy them.”

“Come inside and meet my wife. If she agrees, we will start the new section.” Mrs. Richards loved Ted’s idea. “You are hired boy. Do you want to start from today?”

Ted nodded his agreement and helped to carry the items that were stacked outside, into the shop. He arranged everything tidily on the shelves and served the customers who came. Mr. Richards sat at the counter taking money and giving back change and Mrs. Richards made tea for the three of them in the small kitchen at the back of the shop. While having tea and biscuits Ted asked, “When is your supply man coming next Mr. Richards?” He will come on Friday Ted. What are your plans?”

“Wait till Friday,” replied Ted, eating his biscuit. On Friday, when Tom arrived, Ted had a talk with him. “Mr. and Mrs. Richards are starting a new section in their store. They will sell story books for children. Could you get a couple of illustrated story books for different ages, when you come next time?” “Sure can Teddy boy. I’ll keep your request in mind. Bye for now. Cheerio folks,” waved Tom getting into his truck.

The week passed. Ted came every day at 3 and stayed till closing time. He also helped the couple close shop before going home. On Wednesday morning, Ted’s parents visited the shop. “Hi! I am Ted’s mother and this is his dad. Ted has told us all about you. He is very happy helping you out. He says he has read all the story books in your store but more will be coming soon.” “Our boy is a real book worm, Mr. Richards,” joined Ted’s dad smiling. The couple shook hands and offered snacks and cold drinks. “I must say, Ted is amazing. He is such a nice helpful boy. We are very glad to have him here. As soon as our sales increase, we will fix a salary for Ted.” “You don’t need to do that. Ted doesn’t need money. He loves helping you and reading during breaks.”

“Well it will be a long time before we hand over some pocket money to Ted. Sales are not very good at the moment, but Ted seems to think that if we add story books in our store, sales will increase,” spoke Mr. Richards. “I am sure it will. Well, we will be leaving now. Goodbye.” “Please drop in again any time you want.” “We will.” Ted’s parents went on their way. On Friday, Tom arrived in his truck. Ted had come early from school to meet the truck of supplies. When the story books were unpacked, Ted got busy arranging two shelves in which to store them.

When customers arrived, Ted showed them the story books. In the evening, Mr. and Mrs. Hope came to the shop. They loved the new section of storybooks for children. “I am going to buy two of your story books for our son Tony. I am sure he will love reading them.” In the next few weeks, most of the story books had been sold. Order for the next supply was given by Mr. Richards. ‘We are so grateful to you Ted for improving sales in our shop. Thank you,” beamed the happy couple.

“We will start giving you some pocket money from next month Ted. You have been a wonderful friend to us.” “It is quite alright Mr. Richards. You don’t need to do that,” Ted said putting back some books onto the shelves behind him. “We will love to give you some lad. It will make us happy. Don’t worry. It won’t be much. We are saving some cash to make repairs to our house.”

Next month, Ted thanked the couple for his pocket money. Christmas was just a few months away. Ted came to the shop at three with a new idea in his mind. “Hi! Mrs. Richards! Where is your husband?” asked Ted. Just then, the door opened with a jingle and Mr. Richards walked in. “Were you looking for me Ted?” he asked. “Yes, I wanted to talk to you both. Since Christmas is approaching, why don’t we start a section on greeting cards? I hear people go to the next small town to get greeting cards. We can start with Christmas and New Year cards and go on to birthdays and anniversaries. What do you think about this?” “Well, it is a good idea boy, but how will we choose which cards we want,” asked Mr. Richards.

“I can go to the wholesale shop in the next town with Tom, when he comes. I’ll choose the cards and place the order. Tom can bring them back with the other supplies when he comes.” “How will you get back from the town Ted.” questioned Mrs. Richards worriedly. “Oh! I’ll take a bus. Don’t worry about that.” “Well you will have to take permission from your folks first Teddy my boy,” Mr. Richards advised.

So next time Tom came, he gave Ted a lift in his truck. When Ted came back, he was full of news. “The cards were lovely. They will sell like hot cakes. Just wait till Tom gets them for us.” Next week, the greeting cards arrived in great big bundles. Ted got busy arranging them. Old Mrs. Barbara came the next day. She sat in a chair and took her time choosing about half a dozen Christmas and New Year cards. Thus life went on. Ted had become like a son to the couple. His helping nature and sincerity was appreciated by one and all. The Richards were eternally grateful to him.

Contributing Story Teller:  Amita enjoys writing stories and poems. She has strong editing and translation skills. [email protected]

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