9×9, or how we sold toys at the end of the world
Sue Tucker had chopstick legs and a voice like mustard. She sold dildos from a stall at the Red Light markets. It was a chore, and she was tired of explaining the ins and outs of genuine rubber and black-forest flavoured lube. She resented demonstrating the mechanics of strap-ons or the thrumming of battery operated toys. Sue was over it, and sat on the curb-side smoking fags, and doing sudoku, most of the shift.
You might say I wanted to set her free. There she was, crouched beside the ‘Coming or Going?’ signage, filling in a 9×9 grid and coughing into her cardigan. I sat beside her.
Would you be a darl’ and man the stall for a bit?
And I said something like sure, if you let me buy you a drink later, only I didn’t say that but something more like yep. you got change for a twenty?
I stood at the stall counter and looked at all the plastic knobs. I sold one or two, and winked at a few stallgoers as they hurried past. Penis for a penny, I hollered. The stall-holder next door was selling crocheted underwear. Each to their own.
I manned the stall for a good two hours, watching Sue smoke and smoke on the curb beyond. A motorcade passed by, with motorcycles and ambulances hee-hawing. I left the stall and knelt beside Sue.
What a lot of fuss! Probably all that hoopla just to get to McDonalds for a Happy Meal. Sue flapped her arms about. Her sudoku slapped facedown in the guttermuck.
Oh damn, she said.
Looking behind us, nobody was perusing the contents of the store. Just a hundred blank-faced phallic shapes staring back. The stallgoers had spilled out onto the road, looking up. I followed the communal gaze, with my hand above my eye to shield the sun. An aeroplane’s white trail. A brontosaurus-shaped cloud. And then I saw the building crumbling down.
Elizabeth Morton is a New Zealand writer. She has been published in Poetry NZ, PRISM international, Cordite, JAAM, Shot Glass Journal, Takahe Magazine, Blackmail Press, Meniscus, Flash Frontier, SmokeLong Quarterly, the Sunday Star Times, Literary Orphans, and in Island Magazine among others. In her free time she collects obscure words in supermarket bags.
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