Chapter 8 A Colossal Fuss

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Chapter 8 A Colossal Fuss

Two things almost made Christopher late for his afternoon shift at the supermarket. One, predictably, was a task Caroline found for him just as he was about to leave the house.

'Faisal needs his football kit for tomorrow. You'd better put it in the wash.'

Caroline sat at the kitchen table reading a magazine. At her elbow rested a cup of what she referred to as 'tea' but which Christopher knew was either a very strong herbal brew or more likely an alcoholic substance.

'I'm just going out for my afternoon shift. I'll do it later.'

'Now!' she said, hardly bothering to raise her voice, and threw the cup at him without even glancing up. Her aim was reasonable, but Christopher was just quick enough to predict where the cup would go and to get out of the way.

'If he brings it downstairs, I'll put it in when I get back.'

She sighed heavily, but didn't reply. He escaped while the going was good. Not that it was ever that good if you were on your way to a shift at a supermarket. But, Christopher told himself as he turned the corner and walked briskly down the main shopping street in Pitkirtly towards his goal, he was lucky to have a job at all, especially a local one, in these uncertain times. His wages, not far above the minimum, together with what was left of his redundancy money from his previous archives career, meant survival for him and the family. He didn't like to think about what might happen when the redundancy money ran out.

He suspected his friends and acquaintances, if they thought about him and his way of life at all, had completely the wrong idea about how well-off he was. Maybe they imagined he worked at the supermarket for fun. Ha! How wrong could they be?

He was smiling to himself when he glanced up and noticed Young Dave at the other side of the road, by the knitting shop called 'Granny Can Knit' which everyone had thought for years was about to close down until the most recent outburst of knitting started. Now that people were decorating lamp-posts with knitting and making ridiculous knitted ornaments such as knitted hamburgers, Christopher supposed the place was thriving.

At that moment Darren, the young man from the strategic meeting, appeared in the doorway carrying a large bag with the 'Granny Can Knit' logo. He paused to speak to Young Dave, and the large bag somehow changed hands while they were talking. Christopher was baffled. Had Young Dave been too embarrassed to go into the wool shop himself? But if that was the case, why had he chosen someone who seemed likely to be even more embarrassed? Why not someone like Mrs Stevenson, whose natural habitat would seem to be wool shops and similar establishments?

The two men both glanced round furtively. Young Dave suddenly caught Christopher's eye before he could look away and pretend not to have seen.

Christopher waved cheerily.

'For my mum!' called Young Dave, holding up the bag triumphantly. 'She's knitting hats for sailors.'

Almost certain he hadn't heard properly, Christopher nodded and continued on down the road, puzzling as he went. He got into the supermarket just in time to hear the manager say, '... so if Chris Wilson's late one more time -'

'What's going to happen if I'm late?' he said, shrugging on his overall. 'Will it cause the extinction of all known life forms? Will we collide with Mars? Will the supermarket fall down? And please don't call me Chris.'

The manager, who had been at school with Christopher, sighed. 'I wouldn't call you it to your face. It's a different story when you're not here. You're fair game then.'

Christopher knew that, as the only one who really understood the computerised stock-taking system, he would have to do something really bad in order to get fired. He was still searching for just the right thing. Apparently it wasn't enough to use big words to intimidate the customers, to be sarcastic to the girls on the tills and to ring in sick when Caroline had one of her binges.

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