Flash fiction: A Quarter Pound of Tea

First published in the Fish Anthology 2016

I’ll never forget that nFish Anthology 2016ight Jack Devlin came into the shop. There were dark bruises on his face and neck, right down to where his shirt buttons opened. He was big for his age, but then his father was a big man too.

‘Hello Jack,’ I said.
‘Can I have a loaf of bread and a quarter pound of tea?’ he asked, and started to pick up imaginary crumbs from the counter. He was twelve years old, and in the year above me in school.
I measured out the tea leaves using the shop scale as he stood waiting.
‘That’ll be sixpence,’ I said and began to wrap the bread for him.
‘My Mam says that you’ll give us credit.’ His voice was quiet.
My mother had never given credit to the Devlins because she knew they never paid. But I couldn’t bear that if I called her down, she might start shouting at him. So I nodded my head, and handed him the tea and bread over the counter.
‘Molly, who is down there?’ Mammy asked from upstairs.
‘No-one Mam. I was just going to look out at the sky.’ I walked to the door and shuffled him outside.
‘You and that bloody sky,’ she said, ‘lock up now before any of those Devlin boys come down.’
‘Yes Mam,’ I said. I smiled at him then and locked the door behind me.

© Vivienne Kearns