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Can I help you?

by Jubbly 

Posted: 28 September 2010
Word Count: 500
Summary: My odd attempt at week 324 challenge.

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The day began as normal, Lulu went shopping in her lunch hour as she liked to do- gliding through the busy store as though she was in another dimension. All the time she spoke, droning on and on to her invisible friend; oblivious to all around her. Occasionally she’d side step other shoppers or when she missed and bumped into them, she’d tut mid word and move away, never acknowledging or apologising.
‘No way, no...you tell him he cannot do that, do you hear, no way! She murmured into her hands free mobile receiver. From a distance she looked like well groomed mental health sufferer, just another day talking to yourself whilst out in public maybe she was a busy Buddhist, chanting while shopping.
Where shall we go? No..no way, what about Wagamma? Really? Did he?
She edged her way through the crowd and joined the snaking queue.
Heather heard her before she saw her....the constant chatter interrupting the monotony of the in store radio music. Heather was used to the customers ignoring her; entering into and finishing entire transactions with not so much as the briefest of eye contact. But Heather wasn’t in the mood today, she’d had a row with her mother and a headache was looming. The chatty woman plonked her desired wares, a handbag and lingerie on the counter whilst simultaneously organising her weekend social life. Not once did she look at Heather, she didn’t smile or say thank you or even ask her how she was?
Heather scanned her goods whilst maintaining a scornful look and as a gesture of impishness placed the scant lingerie inside the handbag, she then put the bag into a plastic shop carrier.
What? No..no can do...she did what? I don’t believe it!
The woman handed over her credit card taking no notice of the price and carried on conversing. She simply took the brand new handbag out of the carrier, dropped the carrier to the floor and walked out of the shop, still chatting on her phone. She stopped talking only when she passed through the security gates at the door, only after a man in a uniform grabbed her by the arm that is.
What? I’ll call you back, what are you doing?
When the guard asked if she’d bought anything, she rolled her eyes and sighed but her expression changed when challenged.
You see sometimes Heather has trouble concentrating, sometimes she forgets the little things, little things like removing security tags from shop bought items or making sure customers always have their receipts, completing transactions. When the woman insisted she’d definitely paid for the bag stuffed with lingerie, which was not the stores packing policy, the guard marched her back to the till, where Heather was questioned.
No sorry, Mike, I don’t remember serving her, no not at all.
And with no proof of payment Lulu was held up longer than expected and her day was ruined, politeness costs nothing Heather always says and she ‘s right.

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Comments by other Members

Bunbry at 19:18 on 28 September 2010  Report this post
Ha ha, very clever Julie.

My only reservation is I ended up not really liking Heather either as it was a mean trick to pull on someone.

But a great fun read!


Jubbly at 19:35 on 28 September 2010  Report this post
Thanks Nick, actually Heather's hateful. I've written a few more Heather stories they're in my archiveand she is definitely odd.

Bunbry at 19:47 on 28 September 2010  Report this post
Julie, I've just read a wonderful book called 'What was Lost' by Catherine O'Flynn which was set in a shopping centre in Birmingham. The author worked in shops before this (which is her first book). It's got so many good bits about shop workers. It also has some nice twists and lovely characters too, yet written in simple language with a gentle plot.

I'm sure you would love it.


tusker at 08:04 on 29 September 2010  Report this post
A while ago, I read another of your stories about Heather, Julie, which stuck in my mind.

How I understand her having, years ago, been there behind the counter, occasionally feeling refreshed by a smile or kind word.

You can feel her anger and contempt in this.

Lulu didn't warrant my sympathy until the end. That was a mean trick. Another prank for Heather. Look forward to reading a few more.


Desormais at 08:10 on 29 September 2010  Report this post
An entertaining read. I was on Heather's side....for a while. It's everyone's nightmare, being stopped on the way out of a store, and you can see how easy it would be to set someone up if they weren't paying attention.

Resolves to be nicer to shop assistants.

I enjoyed this story, Julie. Both characters extremely well drawn. Haven't read any of the others about Heather but will watch out for them.


Cholero at 10:42 on 29 September 2010  Report this post
Hi Julie

V enjoyable, nice acute observation of hateful behaviour.

Really liked the phone chat bits. They work beautifully to set the tone of Lulu's vile attitude and personality.

Don't know what it says about me but I pretty much liked Heather unreservedly; what she did seemed pretty much to fit the crime and might even teach a lesson, though unlikely in the case of Lulu.

Probably just me but I had a bit of an untangle to do at the start where I took 'invisible friend' to mean imaginary friend and so then went on to take 'mental health sufferer' literally, but like I say, probably just me being a bit dim.

Wondered if you need And with no proof of payment Lulu was held up longer than expected and her day was ruined.

Really enjoyed the sharp portraiture and the sharp, oh so sweet revenge.

More Heather please.


crowspark at 13:10 on 03 October 2010  Report this post
Beautifully observed, Julie. I agree with Pete about the mentally disturbed vs just talking on her handsfree.

I liked Heather.

Thanks for the read.

feather at 13:28 on 03 October 2010  Report this post
liked it - having worked in hotels and shops before I'm with Heather all the way - mean trick yes BUT - you cannot shop or stay in hotels without the staff to look after you they are deserving of our attention, politeness etc and I don't blame her at all there are far too many shoppers to whom the assistant doesn't exsist.

Have fun with Heather - we can't do it in real life but authors can get their revenge so well - very enjoyable - well drawn.

the mobile phone bit didn't hold me up very long - and I like the unfolding aspect of it

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