Douglas West

The Sweetie Shop


With my Friday penny clasped tightly in my small fist, I ran hurriedly up the back dirt road of the village, passing coal miners houses on the way to Mrs Braid's sweetie shop. I was so out of breath, I leaned against Mrs Braid's garden gate to rest a minute. Friday is pay day at the Wilson and Clyde coal mine, and my grandmother Bernard had given me my Friday penny. Granny is a sweet faced small woman, very competent and loving of each of her thirty grandchildren. To each she gave a penny each Friday. I'll always remember her affectionate warm smile every time she searched her purse for my penny. My mother told me never to ask for my penny, but wait for grandmother to remember it. This rule occasioned many an impatient wait as I sat on a spindle-legged chair near the kitchen door. She would smile at me once in a while and ask me how I was getting on at school. In return, I would always reply "Just fine Granny" Suddenly she would remember what day it was and my world grew bright again. I never kept that penny very long, heading immediately to the sweetie shop at the top of the village. Still holding the copper tightly I climbed up on the huge cement block beneath the display window of the sweetie shop. I had often skinned my knees on its rough cement whenever I grew impatient and fell on it. It was worn down on all its edges by many small excited feet jumping on t over the years. A constant supply of powdered cement covered the ground around it.

I eagerly scanned the delicious contents of the big window...A lovely Friday dilemma. How often I dreamed I was Mrs Braid's daughter...I would slowly devour each and every sweetie in the shop.

Bars of raspberry, cherry and lime candy were temptingly arranged along the outer edges of the window. Chocolate nougats were stacked high on a lovely blue patterned plate, peppermint sticks were bunched in a high, clear glass jar, liquorice sticks were tied into neat bundles, with chewing gum scattered here and there, filling the small spaces. Raspberry filled hard candy glinted in an open crystal dish and milk chocolate Trinidads were neatly displayed in their own yellow box. I will buy a Trinidad some Friday, I mused. My sister Peg had described Trinidads to me; "Trinidads are mounds of shredded coconut dipped in rich milk chocolate, and they have a smooth white centre" I drooled. She made me want one. Fridays were so exciting.

I scanned again the contents of the shop window, and then decided to see what was in the shop. I went inside. Huge shining glass jars with heavy knobbed glass lids confronted me immediately. Each one filled with an exciting variety of sweeties in all colours of the rainbow. I loved Mrs Braid's shop it was a fairy land to me.

The shop was actually the front room of the woman's house, adjoining her kitchen, and was skilfully arranged on all sides with every kind of sweet, some in glass jars, some in tins, and the rest in cardboard boxes. On the higher shelves rested the more expensive assortment of sweets, chocolates, creamy toffees, and chocolate covered biscuits. The penny candy, being more in demand, was on the lower shelves within easy reach. I looked over the jars of sweeties, what kind did I want this Friday for my penny? Would it be the pure white pan drops so temptingly clustered in their clear glass home? Or the paradise fruits with their secret centres? The green mints looked mouth watering, but I had them last week. Pink rose bud sweeties nestling against the sides of their glass jar appealed to me. "I'll take pennies worth of pan drops please" I finally announced and plunked mypenny down on the counter, smiling in happy anticipation.

Mrs Braid reached up to the top shelf for the pan drop jar. My white pan drops rattled into the dull brass scale with a sharp metallic clink. Nosing the scale into a newspaper poke she deposited my precious pan drops Outside, I sat down on the doorstep, poured out the sweeties into my lap and counted them. There were ten! How delighted and surprised I was. I never expected so many for a penny. I popped the first one into my mouth and pushed it around with my tongue, then put the other nine back in my poke and skipped happily home. With increasing satisfaction I sucked the smooth peppermint sweetie, impatient to reach its soft white centre. The hard white coating became increasingly thinner. Quite suddenly, it broke, releasing the creamy centre onto my tongue. The peppermint was bitingly delicious...what a moment! Holding tightly to my sweetie treasure poke, I ran up the kitchen steps and entered the house. Mother was baking scones on the griddle, over a low hot bed of glowing coals. The griddle, hanging from a large hook, was suspended over the middle of the fire, with lovely scones browning on their sides. Delicious fresh baked fragrance filled every corner of the room. "What's that" mother asked pointing to my poke. "Pan drops" I replied "this is Friday, remember" "would you like one" -"No thanks, its nearly supper time, best put them away for now" -- "Must I? ""Yes" mother's voice was firm. Disappointed I did as I was told. After supper I retrieved my poke. I gave one to my mother, the rest were all mine. In high spirits I skipped lightly up the road to feast on my precious pan drops One after another I enjoyed my nippy, delicious sweeties, and then I licked each of my sticky fingers slowly and carefully.

A happy thought came to me; Friday would come again and with it, another penny. And more kind of sweets.

Jean C Schmidt

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Original story© Jean C Schmidt 2004
Layout, editing and additional material © Dave Sloan 2005, 2012, 2016
'tachras' and 'Winding Yarn' © Dave Sloan 2005, 2012, 2016

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