Three Short Stories
by Yvon S Hintz
WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO CHECK ALL BAGS
It was a usual day in the supermarket and Betty was manning her checkout as usual. She nodded at a voluminous bag held by the next customer to pass through and asked politely: “May I check your bag please?”
Most people going through the check out would willingly agree to let her have a look. She would peer inside, smile her thanks and the incident would be over. But once in a while there would be someone who would refuse. This woman hesitated, clutched the top of the satchel and said:
“Do you have to? There’s nothing but junk in there. Really.”
Betty groaned inside. She hated these awkward situations. Was she going to have to call the supervisor? She said:
“I’m sorry, I still have to look. It’s store policy.”
With a sigh the woman nodded and opened the top of the bag. Betty looked in.
She found herself falling into a blackness at first and then onto a smooth floor beneath a high, pale ceiling. It was like a vast hall, the walls of which seemed to go on forever. All around her, stretching as far as she could see were piles of objects- like hills dotting the landscape.
Closest to her was a pile of shopping trolleys- not the odd one or two such as decorated the carpark, but a great hill of them, of all types, from the oldest, heaviest models, now bent and rusted, to some of the newest plastic jobs. So this was where old shopping trolleys went to die, she thought.
The pile beside it was nothing but shoes. Next to that was a pile of umbrellas in every colour and size. Further along was a mountain of old cars. Everywhere she looked there were piles of discarded objects- everything from ballpoint pen caps and bottle caps to bent tv antennas, battle scarred tanks, broken guns, and even something that looked like a missile with a fin missing.
There was a snapping sound. Suddenly she was back behind her register and the woman was smiling at her over a closed bag.
“See, love,” she said, “nothing but junk.”
TO THE STARS
John and Helen looked at each other across the restaurant table. It had been a lovely meal. Helen still had no idea why he had sprung it on her. It was not their anniversary. It was not his birthday or hers. It wasn’t even that his football team had won. It was an ordinary day in the middle of an ordinary week. John refilled their glasses with dinner wine. It shone like rubies in the candlelight. He curled his fingers round the stem of the glass but did not lift it.
“I’d like to propose a toast,” he said, “to the stars. This morning my horoscope said that it was going to be a good day with a profitable contact, that I should be patient and firm and not lose my temper. I remembered that advice and followed it and today I closed the biggest deal I’ve ever made.”
“That’s wonderful,” Helen said and thinking she now understood the reason for the dinner, began to lift her glass. John had not finished.
“I want to toast the stars for the good advice they’ve given me over the years. Because of them I’ve made good contacts, dealt with awkward situations, stood up to my bosses, weathered the storms of life and work. The stars have always been so accurate in their predictions about my day, so spot-on in their advice.”
“That’s good,” Helen murmured.
“I was talking to Bob from Accounts today,” John went on. “We got to talking about the deal I’d just made. I told him how the advice from my horoscope steered me in the right direction. He asked me how I found time to read the paper. I told him how we have such a good partnership- you read aloud and I eat breakfast…” They paused to laugh. “Bob said he’d have to get Mary to do that for him. Then he said, ‘You’re a Taurus aren’t you?’ I said I was and he said that he was a Taurus too and that morning he’d happened to read his horoscope from the same paper we get. His stars predicted a troubled day, not good for finance, to lie low and not take chances.
“That was when I knew I had to have this dinner and this wine and to make this toast.” He lifted his glass at last. “To the stars,” he said, addressing the toast to his wise and devious wife.
THE WAXEN BUDDHA
The old lady died and left her relatives nothing, which did not please them at all, as it had been rumoured that she was worth heaps. They talked about the mean life style she had led and speculated on what could have become of all the money she clearly didn’t spend on herself or her home.
When I say she left nothing to her relatives, I mean almost nothing. She did leave a box of odds and ends to be shared between them. The daughters and nieces, one son and his wife and a granddaughter looked at the contents and sneered.
“Stuff from her Buddhist fad,” said one daughter.
The collection included a pile of books, some fringed Indian cloths, a brass incense burner, beads, a number of part-packets of incense and a beautiful candle shaped like a Buddha- made of green wax, like jade. Attached to the green Buddha was a note in the old lady’s hand.
If you ever find yourself in darkness, remember the wooden Buddha.
“Idiot riddles,” the daughter said. “She was always tossing around those riddles without proper answers. Here, you can have it. You like this sort of thing.” And with the blessings of the others she bestowed the lot on a cousin.
Suzy, the only one of the sorry kin to have shown any understanding of the old lady’s long held interest in Buddhism, took the box. While she had her own lovely incense burner, candles, cloths and favourite incense, she had loved her aunt and was pleased to have these mementoes of her. The Buddha candle at least was beautiful. She put it on her meditation altar like an ornament knowing she would never burn it.
Then one night she needed a candle. The power was out. The house was engulfed in blackness. She needed to finish an important paper for work. She needed light and there was not a candle left in the house- except for the green Buddha. No, she couldn’t burn that. Her aunt’s memento. Suzy thought about the note and remembered the story of the wooden Buddha.
It was bitterly cold. Master Tanka took a wooden Buddha from the shrine of the temple where he was staying and burnt it. The keeper of the shrine was outraged but Master Tanka simply stirred the ashes and said that he was looking for ‘sariras’- holy relics. The keeper-monk said there were no relics in a wooden Buddha. Master Tanka said to bring him the other wooden images.
Rightly so. Where was the Buddha in a wooden image? Where was her aunt in a chunk of wax? She lit the Buddha candle. It was sad to see his stately features sag and run and his head disappear and then his shoulders but she was quite cheered by the time the pool of wax melted down to his belly and she found the three gold nuggets hidden inside.