Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop

Page 11


‘Put that dog down,’ said Stephen. ‘You’ll turn him into a lapdog and he’ll get too big. And give him a proper name, like Ludo.’
‘Ludo is not a proper name!’ said Rosie. ‘It’s the name of some ghastly little dweeb whose father shoots grouse and wants to bring back hanging.’
Stephen sighed as he stomped out. The road clearers had just been, but in their gritted path, new flakes were already beginning to fall. There were fewer children at school every day; it was simply too risky to bring the children down in the morning from the more remote farms and outposts if they couldn’t be absolutely sure they could get picked up again at night. Tina already had a spare room made up, and Rosie made sure Lilian’s bed was ready likewise in case they were faced with any stranded waifs and strays.
Cough sweets and comfits had gone through the roof in the shop; anything long-lasting. Nobody wanted fondants or pastel colours; that felt like sunshine. Even the chewy ice creams had fallen completely out of favour. And, Rosie noticed, the selection boxes had started to sell. That was a slightly worrying sign because it meant Christmas was approaching. Her email was full of jolly messages from her mother telling her how much the kids were looking forward to seeing snow and playing out in the garden, and Rosie didn’t know what to say, apart from telling her to make sure they were properly dressed. If you’d grown up in a hot climate like the children had, how would you even believe her? It was impossible to imagine one climate when you were in another, and how on earth did you tell a small child there could be such a thing as too much snow?
She was worrying about exactly this when Edison came in. Just once, she thought; just once she’d like to see him march down the cobbles like the other children did, the girls in pairs, linked arm in arm, admiring each other’s snow boots, the boys in great groups, hurling snowballs and making a huge cacophony.
‘Hello, Edison,’ she said.
Edison eyed Mr Dog warily.
‘Oh don’t be silly,’ she said. ‘He’s only a puppy.’
There was, at the back, a connecting run between the shop and the cottage. Stephen had ordered that that was where the dog was going to go; he had brought him home a smart new kennel (Rosie had noticed that even though they didn’t have a lot of money to spare, it was absolutely top of the range. Nothing more had been said about giving their supposedly below-par dog back to Stephen’s mother) and lined it with straw and a blanket. The puppy was meant to run about there until he was old enough to be taken out on a lead and taught how to behave, but he didn’t spend much time there. Rosie washed her hands frantically and used plastic gloves when serving, but nobody seemed to mind at all. Dogs were, she now realised, everywhere in Lipton. The lawyer had his in his office; the barber’s dog strolled round the place making friendly enquiries of clients, and the Red Lion of course was full of them, partaking liberally of the water provided for them outside, snoozing gently under their owners’ stools at the bar, occasionally guiding them as they meandered home slightly wobbly. So nobody batted an eyelid about Rosie’s puppy, and the children, on the whole, adored him.
‘Strange dogs are dangerous,’ said Edison.
‘Yes, but he’s not a strange dog,’ said Rosie patiently. ‘Is he? He’s my dog. And he’s not in the least bit strange.’
‘He could bite my nose off,’ said Edison.
‘He could lick your nose off, possibly,’ said Rosie, laughing. ‘I promise, he doesn’t bite. Look at his tiny teeth. You can barely see them.’
Edison sidled closer.
‘When I am a pinering scientist I will need to get used to things like this,’ he said glumly to himself, straightening up his glasses. ‘I’m not sure I want to be a pinering scientist.’
‘What do you want to be, Edison?’
‘A pinering scientist who will break new barriers in astrophicks for the good of mankind,’ repeated Edison, clearly by rote.
‘Not a vet, then?’
Edison shook his head fiercely.
‘Animals are our friends,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t fix a pig to get eaten.’
Rosie tried to untangle this in her head.
‘Well, what would you REALLY like to do?’
Edison looked around.
‘I’d like to have a sweetshop just like you. Except without the black bombers.’
‘Some people like black bombers.’
Edison shook his head. ‘Strange people.’
Rosie filled a bag with his beloved Edinburgh rock and sent him on his way.
The day had hardly got light, with the heavy clouds, and the flakes still moving fiercely down. Once the school and work rush had passed, Rosie set about refilling stock and cleaning seriously. Mr Dog sat in the corner looking at a newspaper.
All of a sudden the bell tinged with some urgency, and a rather portly, balding middle-aged man rushed in, all in a panic. Rosie straightened up.
‘Can I help you?’
‘Could I… could I possibly have a glass of water?’ said the man, out of breath. His voice was educated, and from Yorkshire, the next county along. Rosie had only just begun to be able to make the distinction. Up until very recently, the way Derbyshire people discussed Yorkshire people as a completely different species had been a total mystery to her.
‘Of course,’ she said. ‘What’s up?’
The flustered man swallowed, glancing round nervously behind him, trying to see into his car, a grey Vauxhall Astra which he had parked outside.
‘It’s my dad,’ he said. ‘He’s having some kind of… a bit of a turn.’
‘Bring him in,’ said Rosie immediately. ‘It’s okay, I’m a nurse. Auxiliary nurse. Let me take a look at him.’
She pulled the chair out from the back that Lilian sat in when she came to visit. The man darted out, and after a lot of cajoling returned with a tall, stooped figure, very thin, with white hair.
‘Come on, Dad, sit down. Sit down,’ he said.
Rosie brought a glass of water. The old man was muttering incomprehensibly. She helped him sip it and checked on his heart rate.
‘I’m just going to call our local doctor,’ she said. ‘He’s only down the road.’
‘Are you sure that’s necessary?’ said the man. ‘He seems to be quietening down.’
The older man was gesticulating around himself and talking fervently. Rosie couldn’t understand a word he was saying.