Disaster while you wait
|This is my first story ever. Please keep that in mind if you decide to push on and review this. It was written sitting in the shop described within the narrative, during breaks between hapless customers. I have purposely left it mostly unmodified so that I could use it as a comparison to the later works.
Just not my day.
They were the customers from hell. And it was too late to shut shop and run.
Our shop is almost on the railway line that cuts the town in half. We sell and repair vacuum cleaners of all types. We've smiled and provided and helped and tolerated here for six difficult years.
This retail building is divided into two shops and we are the second one from the railway line, so when a train passes, it is very noisy and vibrates the concrete floor, shakes everything and takes a while to return to quietness.
An icy breeze nipped at my ankles as I heard the front door unlatch and swing open. Probably more vacuum cleaners to repair, more folks wanting parts or a new vacuum , I thought. And I cannot fob them off to my absent wife. If I sound cynical and worn out its because its Monday and I need a holiday, like most small business operators who've been in customer service too long.
Leaving my hot coffee, heater and computer, with a scrape of my office chair, I called out,
"Hello!" to the spare-parts shelving as I strode through the workshop, and onto the carpeted display area overlooking the main street.
"Hi," was the terse reply from an older plump woman covered in bling, dressed in a fashionable pant suit, and I assumed her partner or husband, who was balding, stank of sour sweat and dogs, and looked like he'd come straight from a builders site, with overalls on and boots shedding clods of concrete on the shop carpet.
He didnt look down.
"Aw maaaan..." I thought but waited for their inevitable tale of vacuuming distress.
"Young man!" barked the woman loudly, banging a scuffed dusty machine on the countertop.
"This vacuum cleaner SUCKS!" some spittle hit my hand, and I had to look closely to determine that she really was being serious. Isn't that what they should do? The mans brows had gathered like a thunderstorm and I had that hollow stomach feeling of a sunny day turned cloudy.
"It was never any good from the day we bought it! Why did you sell us this heap of junk?! I told my husband it wouldnt be any good and I was right! "
Her husband glared at me and nodded quickly in agreement with his grumpy wife. I couldn't blame him.
"Well, Im sorry, but we dont sell that brand of vacuum cleaner. You must have bought it elsewhere.."
There was stammering and huffing and recrimination between them until finally the husband admitted he purchased it somewhere else. She raised her arm in fury and for a moment I wondered if she would strike him .
I was looking throught the front windows, past these difficult customers thinking why me? when suddenly i realised that there was a train rapidly approaching from across the street, and with a start i saw that it had left the tracks and was ploughing straight across the gravel and grass and bitumen.
"LOOKOUT!" I yelled, and we all saw our lives replayed instantly at that moment when you feel its the end. There was no traffic, luckily but that meant nothing standing between us and many tons of steel careering towards the shopfront.
There was a thunderclap and a rumble and I felt myself gather like a muscular spring, There was no time, just NO TIME!
Without waiting for permission I dived for the customers and thrust against them with my arms wide, bundling them towards the back of the workshop, where double doors opened onto an industrial area and parking lot.
With surprise we were almost through the back door before I heard an earth shattering impact of the yellow and maroon diesel train engine hitting the concrete wall of the shop front.
Then we were running, sprinting, skitching gravel, skidding on kykuyu grass and dog droppings.
I could hear the overweight couple wheezing and she was swearing; he was yelping and whining. Jewellery clinked and her fancy shoes clacked until one clunked and was left behind as she hopped unevenly along.
My hair prickled with the wind of death as I imagined our heads sliced off and pounded into the carpark of oblivion.
"KEEP RUNNING!" I shouted as glass and pieces of rubble showered around us, hitting our backs and heads, already winning the race of our lives.
She tripped and fell, smacking the asphalt wetly and I saw blood.
"Gloria!" Her husband moaned, his voice cracking. In a glance i took in his haggard concern as he bent to her inert body, hair askew in the dirt
With hardly a pause her husband and I grabbed under her armpits and dragged her with difficulty down the back concrete loading ramp and across the parking lot.
Blood was gushing all over us, buckets of it, raining down, icy on our clothes making them conform to our body shape like a plaster cast, but then i realised it was a just water from a burst pipe.
My world spun and i stopped my efforts with "Gloria" and folded in half like a wet sack. Everything went black.
Light flickered and above me loomed the man, his round face straining red, hauling me behind a brick wall, where i saw he had already placed his wife. She was sitting up and dabbing at her head making the claret coloured mess worse.
She cried. And through her sobbing moans i caught the words.
"He saved me, he really saved me..."
Already mentallly patting myself on the back, she then breathed,
"Barry my love!"
So much for accolades for me!
"I better thank you too Barry, " I spoke hesitantly to the man.
"Are you ok?"
He turned from looking at the smoking destruction of the train and shops, his face a conflict of emotions and croaked,
" Yes I'll live thanks, and I dont know what you are thanking me for, I couldnt have helped Gloria without you!"
"She may need an ambulance Barry, " i said and scrabbled to her across the gravel, pausing to assess her condition.
She was breathing rapidly, and was disorientated, staring vacantly, groaning.
There was a sharp explosion from the shop ruins and flames rising among the concrete rubble and twisted beams. The area directly behind the shop was a chaotic war zone of broken products and the trappings of a trading shop. The neighboring shop sold furniture and interior decor. This was strewn all over the yard and already some was catching alight near the back windows and wall.
I was not concerned for our neighbors because they didnt open until later.
To be continued...