Susan liked to think she was passionate about stationery, she’d even decided to use that phrase as the subheading beneath her sign over the front door but given how her sales had been steadily declining over the past few years, it was difficult to think that she was passionate about anything other than failure.
Susan knew what the problems with the shop were but she couldn’t be bothered to address them, it was far easier for her to spend six hours a day playing an agriculture simulator on Facebook and blame the Staples megastore that had just opened in a shopping centre four miles out of town.
In fact, she’d accumulated so many hours playing FarmVille, one regular customer remarked that if she’d spent the same amount of time actually cultivating a real farm, she might have something to show for her work besides a digital coin purse full of gold coins she couldn’t use and a bunch of friends who were so enraged by the countless invitations to join her in this epic waste of time, that they’d opted to delete her out of their lives.
For Susan, it was the same old story, it wasn’t the first time she’d been deleted and it probably wouldn’t be the last.
There she sat behind the counter, arched over, resting her chin in the palm of one hand in the little grey bubble she called a business, clicking away at her computer.
It was a narrow shop with very little space to manoeuvre between the tightly packed rows of shelving. The ageing air con unit rumbled away above her head, struggling to regulate the temperature like it used to when it was younger and the Artex covered ceiling got progressively more yellow as time wore on.
Her counter, upon which sat her till, computer and a picture of Jeff as a kitten was messy and disorganised. The keyboard and mouse had been almost completely consumed by grime save for the little clear spots on the most frequently used buttons and the bin was overflowing with empty Dr Pepper cans and crisp packets.
The number of stains on the tatty carpet were as varied as they were disgusting and, like the boxes of outdated printers stacked in the window, it had begun to fade where the sun shone in during the afternoons.
This was Susan’s livelihood and it was safe to say it had seen better days.
Susan took a brief pause from her online farm, she sat up in her chair and gazed down the aisles of her empty shop, past the rows of shelving and out the window. It was sunny outside and people were rushing by; busy running errands, completing tasks or meeting others on social engagements. She puffed out her cheeks and sighed, she needed to do something about her life. She thought for a brief moment that perhaps it was time to overhaul her approach, she couldn’t keep going day after day without a steady stream of custom, there are only so many packs of paperclips that people need. Perhaps a complete store revamp was needed. She visualised a store reopening with a large pink ribbon across the door and a beaming town mayor with giant pair of scissors declaring the shop open. She heard in her mind hordes of people clapping and cheering, pumping their fists at the prospect of an independently run stationary shop reopening for business.
“Thank fuck for Susan” one imaginary woman shouted “thank Christ I can attach multiple pieces of competetively priced paper together with tiny fragments of metal purchased from this business. Thank the Lord that I don’t have to drive ten minutes out of town when I need a tool to highlight pertinent segments of information in text books.”
Susan imagined people patting her on the back, she imagined several proposals of marriage, she imagined an affair with the mayor leading to scandal and press coverage. She imagined Jeff winking in slow motion, pointing his paw in her direction as if to say “I knew you could do it kiddo”.
She imagined having a business again.
The first rumblings of how to start snuck into her brain but she stopped and realised that it’d be a lot of work. The imaginary mayor vanished from her mind and the crowds of people dispersed grumbling about having their hopes dashed. She sighed again and looked back at her computer. She’d just sold a parsnip to a friend. This was an important development in her game so she pushed the store makeover to the back of her mind and returned to her game. The farm won’t farm itself she thought.