The two-spar system couldn't last. They shut one. We moved to the lake district, or the Lake District.
I work in a small shop that sells things you want. Where are the eggs? people ask, with tears on their faces and panic in their brains. They are at ankle-level, towards the back of the shelves, which is why you can't see them. Next to them are the Kinder Eggs. A daring location, away from confectionery, but so far not unpopular.
I had an interview and an indoctrination day and I hardly had to lie at all. It was like being eighteen again and having not much to lie about. They asked the classic retail questions: During an armed robbery, how controllable would your weeping be? Was there ever an occasion during which you didn't know what to do, but because you had to do something, you did something, and everything turned out alright? If a man buys a bag of potatoes and when he gets home and starts making dinner for himself and a young woman he only met three weeks ago, he discovers the bag is full of pygmy heads, do you offer him a refund when he returns angry and sickened and unable to contact the young woman, who thought he was weird anyway but that was kinda sorta part of the charm but a bag full of heads like hairy massive sundried tomatoes is really a make-or-break moment these days? When you picture yourself here in the future, is that future a long way off and you've finally had a haircut? If your own mother filled her largest handbag with Uncle Ben's and walked out the door while you were serving at the till, would you let her get away with it? In the event of an inferno, how burnt should you be? When a trembling three-year-old boy tries to buy 96 paracetamol, a litre of Famous Grouse and a party popper, what forms of I.D. do we accept?
We play replica music. It's all the songs you hate by the people you've never heard of. A shadowy phenomenon which I might be making up. Somewhere someone is approximating pop hits and number fours from fifteen years ago and selling them to supermarkets for their instore soundtracks. Which is why the announcer doesn't announce any musical information in his announcing voice. Because what's next isn't quite what it sounds like. Chris Morris played one on his radio show in about 1998 and I heard it and it was foul. But heard through the mangy speakers we have, you're not really going to notice unless you stand there every day for seven hours. Which I do. Now. But didn't. Before.
There's a red button to stop the music and a microphone for the broadcasting of cries for help. This happens when anyone tries to buy anything from me that might lead to a good time or death. I scan an item and the till freezes and I have to call in a higher being with the code to unlock it because for the first four weeks I am considered to be some kind of renegade and untrustable in my judgement of what ages people appear to be, and they have to check I'm not just dishing it out to anyone.
When the higher beings are in the warehouse my cries are unhearable and I can get to know the queue with apologies and small talk about the modern world we live in and whose fault it is. The weather is also highly mentionable. Is it as cold, today, as it was, yesterday, do you think? And what about the temperature tomorrow? What will that be like? Well, we can only speculate, can't we, not being from the future? But I am betting it will be similar, if not exactly the same. Would you like a bag?