Asma Ahsan Asma Ahsan
Recommendations: 31

Hey - I see you in there. :)

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 39

Asma...You are too quick! I have only just posted and was still doing corrections. It's 6.13.p.m. here and I need to prepare dinner.

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 39

I am truly sorry...that was not meant for Ahmed, so have deleted it. I realised my mistake this mng. I apologise if I offended you Ahmed. It was meant for another younger person.

Asma Ahsan Asma Ahsan
Recommendations: 31

I deleted my comment too, Its ok We make mistakes all the time. We are human. :)

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Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 39

Run Paloma, Run!

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She had a friend.

This was one of my earlier fictional  pieces, a bit of fun, drawn from an experience from the past!

Nothing exciting ever seemed to happen to anyone in Burryong, especially Paloma. She did not see herself as lucky but those nine words,‘Congratulations! You are the winner of a mystery prize’, were to make quite an impact on such a shy conservative girl. 2 comments

In another part of town, luck and accident were to meet. Tom and Dick, employees in a supermarket, had devised a part time business which would secure them a comfortable future. Both had been great mates since high school, which failed to teach them anything they considered relevant. They had escaped as soon as possible after year ten to put their own ideas for making a living into action. Their highly skilled and secretive work usually took about six months to complete before they moved on to fresher pastures.

Monday morning, Paloma, on annual leave from her job as Librarian, had been spending the day at the Mall, treating herself to a ‘feel good’ movie, and some shopping at the refurbished supermarket which had been completed some six months previously. Though Burryong had a large population, their needs hardly matched the opulance of the marble statues and chandeliers in the foyer. Paloma had not been there for some time as the local store provided for her simple needs. The Mall appeared to cater for the rich and famous. The sight of it all took her breath away and Paloma momentarily thought she had stepped into a movie scene. Her bedazzled eyes finally adjusted and feeling suddenly happy, she headed for the automatic swing gate at the entrance of the supermarket.

Thirty minutes later, after a leisurely stroll in every aisle, Paloma made it to the checkout, presenting only a small basket of necessities. By chance, she glanced at the back of her receipt whilst waiting for the lift, only to discover she had won a mystery prize!

The meaning finally penetrated her dazed brain and for the first time in many years, adrenaline surged through her. Paloma left the lift holding her receipt and made her way to the office of the Manager, who introduced himself as Richard.

He offered her a seat and explained, ‘This is a new promotion organized by the National Manager. You have won the yearly, ninety-second grab...Congratulations! There is also a bonus surprise hidden somewhere in the store, so good luck with that. Everything you pick up is yours. The one condition being you take only two of any one item.’

The usually calm Paloma remained transfixed and at a loss for words. This was all very new to her.

Richard, seeing her discomfort, added with an air of conspiracy, ‘I suggest you keep to the aisles of maximum value, the meat department and toiletries. Avoid aisles 9 and 13, as there is not much of value in there.’ Paloma opened her mouth, but no words came.

Do you have any questions?’ Paloma shook her head. ‘We’ll see you next week then,’ said Richard. ‘Monday or Tuesday at 2 p.m. when there are not too many people around. We prefer Tuesday.’ Paloma managed a squeaky, ‘Thank you.’

                     * * *

Paloma discussed her prize with her husband Harold, who said Monday would suit them better as he would take the day off from his job as an Accountant. They needed to follow a strategy to get the maximum value of her prize and he would accompany her after work to help her do this. They had both met at High School, and even though they were quite happy together, quietly regretted the lack of children in their nine years of marriage, and instead solved their sense of emptiness by lavishing affection on their two cats, Romulus and Remus.

Paloma did not pursue life ambitiously like her painted, dyed and bejewelled mother Lolita, who named her only daughter rather extravagantly after her favourite tango ‘La Paloma’, much to Paloma’s continuing discomfort.

True to her nature but not her name, Paloma dressed in conservative tweed skirts and twin sets with her mousy hair primly fastened in a French knot. The horn-rimmed glasses she chose, made her pale ivory skin seem paler and disguised her really quite beautiful honey-coloured eyes. Paloma could have been attractive, ‘Had she put a little more effort into her grooming,’ as her mother always said. As the years passed, one could be forgiven at first glance for confusing mother and daughter. Their roles should have been reversed. 3 comments

There followed a week to remember. Paloma was taken through the strategy Harold had suggested. Checking out the best aisles to visit, pen and paper in hand, they even had a practice session where he timed her. This was all done very discreetly of course for they were not people to create unnecessary attention.

On the morning of D-day, a revitalized Paloma went back to the Mall, to check out the now familiar aisles. Harold accompanied her and as planned, she rearranged items making them more accessible, especially in aisle 8, her favourite chocolate aisle. The larger boxes were now nicely hidden in twos behind the smaller ones, and at arms length. Her plan was to start on aisle 16 to the extreme left and at the back of the store, then work her way up and down, skipping the aisles she did not want and ending in aisle 8. She would give the meat department on the extreme right of the store a miss, she thought.

Satisfied that her strategy had been perfected, Paloma and Harold treated themselves to a leisurely lunch in one of the many cafes in the Mall.

Richard the Store Manager and Thomas, one of the many Store Detectives, were having a morning break that day. They were discussing some of the thefts that had occurred in the store and the recent interest of the police. A woman was slightly injured in a recent purse snatch. Security cameras were not recording any of the culprits. They glanced at the security screen and noticed a woman climbing some shelves, taking down goods and leaving them on a lower shelf.

‘They’re all the same,’ said Thomas. ‘First they check out the aisles, then come back to make it more convenient for themselves, rearranging items for a quick grab.’ They both laughed. They had their own plan.

An excited Paloma turned up ten minutes early wearing a comfortable pair of rubber-soled shoes, great for running and non slippery. At 2 p.m. a voice boomed out of the loudspeaker:

‘Attention customers. We have a lucky lady here who has won a ninety-second grocery grab. Please try to assist her by keeping out of her way. We are sorry for any inconvenience. Please do not leave your bags unattended. Thank you.’

Suddenly, Paloma felt dizzy with all the attention she was creating and when the siren blared, she found herself still at the front of the store and not at the back as originally planned. Shopping trolley in hand, she was off. 90...89...88...boomed the loudspeaker. Thomas, the Store Detective, kept an eye on her.

Amused shoppers were standing around watching. Two shaving lathers...Wilkinson Sword blades...First aid kits...Toothbrushes...77...76...75...The dizziness turned to adrenaline. To her horror, her previously rearranged items were nowhere to be seen. In confusion, she forgot her well-planned course. Run Paloma, run. deodorants...65...64...63...The trolley kept rolling at an angle making it difficult to control with one hand.

There were heavy footsteps in the next aisle. The boys in blue surrounded the store, and it was then that Thomas left her.

Undaunted, an invigorated Paloma dashed through aisle 13.

Richard watched her progress through the security cameras from his office. Won’t be long now and only a few more aisles.

‘She’s quick. Oh blast it! She’s in the wrong aisle, but her time is nearly up. I think it’s OK.’

Thomas had now joined him. ‘You know the last time we swapped the fake stuff with the takings, we were so lucky. I’m worried this time. It’s bad timing with this 90 second grab, especially as I couldn’t finish directing her.’

Run Paloma, run. Tissues...kitchenware...haberdashery...she unexpectedly spotted a bright sunflower cushion, ideal for her settee and a blue one to match. She threw them in. Run Paloma, run. 15...14...13...ten seconds left and nowhere near the confectionery aisle. 3...2...1... She raced past the next four aisles and managed to grab a few packets of sweets as the siren blared. It was over. Her photograph was taken for publicity purposes, with her trolley of goodies, totalling $363.00.

Richard and Thomas paled when they saw the sunflower cushion in her trolley. ‘We’ve stuffed it up this time!’ They had worked successfully as a team in money laundering, exchanging the counterfeit with the legal tender over many months, usually when the store was closed. Thomas and Richard had perfected this scheme which was only ever discovered after they had disappeared. They usually stayed one year in each State before moving on to another. They were known as the elusive Tom and Dick.

                     * * *

When laying out her goodies on the bed, Paloma noticed the sunflower cushion had seemed rather stiff. She unzipped it and found the neatly piled $100 bills, totalling $100,000. She knew she had found the bonus prize. The jigsaw was now complete. Of course she was not going to question it.

Something special seemed to be happening. Paloma blossomed and she now saw herself as lucky. With her newly found confidence she had invested in new clothes and some long overdue contact lenses for her beautiful eyes.

Some weeks later, Paloma and Harold, both wearing the latest colourful swimwear, were seen sunbaking on Magnetic Island in the Barrier Reef. Magic continued to happen.

The following year, a much desired baby with honey-coloured eyes was born to the two proud parents.

‘Everything you pick up is yours,’ she remembered Richard telling her, but she never saw him again at the store.

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