We think this story is awesome. No, we didn’t write it. It is actually written by our favourite 13 year old customer, Vida. And came about as a result of her own kitten taking a shining to a box of fresh Persepolis Persian pastries.
It illustrates three things. One is the elaborate metaphors and strange idioms with which Farsi is peppered, and which, for the most part, don’t translate very well. Not that I am implying that Vida can’t translate very well, as the story is patently written in English: it is rather because we suspect that she was inspired by a passage from Persia in Peckham, wherein there is a section on the perils of literal translation from Persian.
Secondly, it reveals Vida to be an exceptionally talented writer: let’s hope she keeps it up.
Most importantly perhaps it shows that cornershops really are rather magical little places. With magical customers, such as ones that go away and come back with the gift of a story to share. We thought it was just us that could see the potential, that could feel the stories rolling around the walls and tapping on the window…but now we know that y’all can see it too.
So: who else has a shop story to tell?
Chapter One: a Matter of Urgency
The telephone had been ringing for ten or so minutes before Mrs Brown answered it. The telephone hardly ever rang and the sound had been so unfamiliar it had taken quite a while for Mrs Brown to realize what she was listening to. But now she had answered it and the dreadful trill had stopped, number 65 felt normal again.
“Hello,” Mrs Brown didn’t know what to say next, and it seemed like the person on the other end of the receiver didn’t know either. “Mrs Brown speaking,” silence. “Would you like to talk to Mr Brown? Because I’m afraid he’s just popped out.”
“No thank you, you’ll do just fine.” Mrs Brown almost dropped the phone she was so startled.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” Mrs Brown whispered anxiously.
“Well, er, what, um, is it?”
“It is a matter of some urgency!”
“No, no, I meant what can I do for you?”
“Ah, well. I heard you are looking for a kitten.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Ah, good. I have one for you. Can you come and get him this afternoon.”
“That’s a bit too soon, I don’t even know what breed -,”
“Good, good. 1:30 then. I live above the Iranian food store. Good Bye!” Mrs Brown slammed the phone down.
“Really, people are so insensitive these days.”
Chapter Two: Above the Iranian food store
Mrs Brown stood outside the Iranian food store looking for a side entrance to the flat above. However apparently no such door existed, and so she went into the shop to ask for directions.
The shop was full all sorts of things; bottles of perfume; crystallized sugar sticks; silver teapots; nuts; nougat; silk scarves; beautiful, hand woven carpets; berries; incense. Mrs Brown tottered round looking at all these foreign treasures, never had she seen the like. She took a scarf from the shelf and wrapped it round her, then she took an open perfume bottle and spritzed some of the sweet liquid around herself, she danced around a bit and every now and again she would put a pistachio in her mouth or smell some slowly smoking incense.
“You seem like a butterfly trapped by the sun and the sea, can I help you?” the man spoke very fast and then cocked his head to one side. Mrs Brown tentatively removed the scarf and patted her hair down.
“The monkey’s been caught at its tricks!” he smiled a big wide smile. Humiliated Mrs Brown desperately tried to change the subject
“Do you work here?”
“Yes, I’m Aladdin in his cave.”
“Right, do you know how I get to the flat upstairs?”
“No, do you know?”
“How to get upstairs?”
“Yes, I was taught that when I was only a child. Weren’t you?”
“I don’t know!” Mrs Brown was near shouting.
“Oh dear. Why are you so swallowed by the wasp nest?”
“I’m not. I just need to know how I get to the flat upstairs!” she was near tears now.
“Oh, you’re here for the kitten! My flat’s just up those stairs. I’ll be a shadow on the mirror.”
Mrs Brown walked anxiously up the stairs, she wasn’t quite sure what a ‘shadow on the mirror’ meant. She came to a curtain in rich Persian silk, decorated with several characters in a very beautiful garden. She pulled it aside and walked into a highly decorated attic room. The walls were white and the ceiling had a mosaic in bright colours stretching right across it. Incense was burning and lying on the floor were Persian carpets. A silk covered sofa with a complicated woven throw over it stood in the centre of the room and was surrounded by books and plates. Mrs Brown stood in wonder and confusion by the door looking at everything.
And then she felt the soft warm body of a cat weaving it’s way around her legs, it’s purring was soft and deep. She looked down. It was just a normal, English tabby. She sighed in relief. She had half been expecting a thin, balding cat which had huge red eyes.
“Ah, you have met. He is cat dancing.”
“Oh. I was thinking of calling him Oscar.”
“Hehehe. He does not have a name, call him Oscar if you must. I dare say he’ll be a bee killer dressed as a flower.” Mrs Brown ignored this strange figure of speech, to her it made no sense and what is the point of listening if you are listening to ridiculous gibberish.
“Can I take him now, do you have some food left over for him? It’s just I won’t be able to pick any up until tomorrow.” They were now standing once more in the shop and she was holding the kitten who was almost fast asleep.
“Here you are.” He handed her a box.
“Thank you so much.”
“No need to thank the dead money spider.” He smiled as she left.
Chapter Three: A Mistake or a Blessing?
Mrs Brown put the kitten down and called her husband. He came slowly down the stairs. He yawned and looked at the kitten who was striding round the hall licking his lips and swishing his long striped tail.
“You got one then.” He was about to turn around and go back upstairs but Mrs Brown stopped him,
“I called him Oscar.”
“Great” Mr Brown wasn’t in the least excited.
“You’re a bundle of laughs aren’t you.”
“Actually I’m exhausted. I spent all day slaving away and I went and picked up the kids for you.”
“let’s not argue.”
“I’m going to feed him now.”
“Goodnight dear.” Mrs Brown was about to speak but he had already gone upstairs. She looked at the clock in the kitchen as she got down a bowl for the cat.
“It’s only half four.”
She opened the box and looked inside. She groaned. The man had given her a selection of neatly crafted Persian pastries instead of kitten food.
“Sorry Oscar, it look’s like left over peas tonight.” But when she turned around Oscar was licking his lips and the pastry box was empty…
Mrs Brown picked up the kitten and put him outside.
“Bad Oscar, Bad.” She looked at the box and shook her head as she put it in the recycling. “Still, I don’t think I would have eaten those anyway, so I suppose it was better than wasting them. Maybe now I won’t have to give him leftovers and I can feel like I’m disciplining him at the same time.”
Chapter Four: Eleanor’s cake
The next day Mrs Brown went out and bought some kitten food.
“That ought to sort him out.” But she also got some eggs, flour, sugar and butter. “I do hope this is enough for Eleanor’s cake.” She said when she got to the car. Eleanor was one of two girls. She was the older and had never been fond of cats so having a cat in the house for her birthday meant she had asked Mrs Brown for a larger, tastier cake than normal.
Mrs Brown spent the rest of the day making a perfect, light , fluffy Victoria sponge. It was sandwiched together with organic strawberry jam, strawberries and whipped cream. She had iced it with sweet whipped cream and decorated it with little sugar roses and piped ‘Happy Birthday Eleanor’ on the top in pale pink. Mrs Brown had spent hours making and decorating it. She had even made a spare. It was two layers of chocolate sponge, sandwiched together with chocolate butter icing, iced with chocolate butter icing and decorated with grated chocolate, chocolate curls and chocolate chips. She put the spare on a plate and covered it with a net to keep the bugs out. And then she tenderly placed the original on a glass cake stand and gingerly covered it with a large net so it didn’t touch the icing. Both stood on the side blocked from view by some tea towels tactfully hung round the section of the kitchen where the cakes stood.
Then Mrs Brown took Oscar’s bowl and filled it with kitten food.
“Here Kitty, Kitty. Oscar! Dinner time, there’s a good cat.” She smiled and walked into the dining room.
Mrs Brown had just finished laying the table with the best rose china and pink napkins she could find when Eleanor came in.
“Happy Birthday! We’ll have your birthday tea when you’re changed and I’ve finished making some sandwiches. By the way which sort of sandwiches would you like?” Eleanor smiled and kissed her mum.
“I like cucumber.”
Mrs Brown made twenty small cucumber sandwiches. She used biscuit cutters to make them heart shaped and placed them all on a rose china plate.
“Five each. That should be enough as we’re having cake as well.” She was completely relaxed. Everything was fine.
When the time came for the cake, Mrs Brown went into the kitchen and removed the tea towels. The chocolate cake was missing. Mrs Brown gulped. She closed her eyes and removed the cover on the proper cake.
Mr Brown and both the girls came running in and saw Oscar sitting on the cake stand covered in cream and surrounded by crumbs. Blobs of chocolate were dotted on his creamy fur.
“You know he hasn’t eaten any of this kitten food.” Mr Brown said.
“Saving space for Eleanor’s cake!” Lucy (the other girl) giggled.
“It is not funny! I hate cats! I hate them! I do, I do, I hate them!” screamed Eleanor.
“I’m so sorry Elly.” Mrs Brown tried to rub Eleanor’s shoulder but she just ran up stairs and slammed her bedroom door. Mrs Brown looked at Oscar. “Bad cat. Bad, Bad, Bad. You naughty, naughty thing. Out, Now!” she threw him outside and stared at him for a minute. He had left a creamy mark on her hands. “Bad cat!”
Mr Brown, Mrs Brown and Lucy looked at him and Oscar seemed to smile and then he licked his lips.
Chapter Five: A pastry a day keeps the doctor away
Mrs Brown sat in the car. A silent Mr brown sat next to her with a cross looking cat on his lap. In the back Lucy and Eleanor sat in silence. Mrs Brown put the car into drive and drove out of the driveway. She headed towards the Iranian food store. It was drizzling and the silence remained unbroken. She parked outside the shop. It was closed.
The family went to the door and knocked.
The man from the shop heard the knocking and looked out his window.
“Oh. The sleeping fox is woken from his well fed sleep.” He slipped into his dressing gown and slippers. As he padded down the stairs and to the door he began collecting sugary pastries in a box.
He was quietly singing Top Cat as he answered the door. “Yes he’s a chief, he’s a king, But above everything, He’s the most tip top, Top Cat.”
“Top cat indeed!” said Mrs Brown, “You may have him back.”
“Ah, but madam, I do not want him.” Mr Brown interrupted
“Kind Sir, This cat is a menace. He ate two whole birthday cakes that my wife prepared for my daughter yesterday, and he lives upon nothing but cake.”
“And pastries!” corrected Lucy. Eleanor stamped on her toe. “Ow! You stood on my toe!”
“Ah, parrot talk!” the girls looked at him in surprise. “You never asked if he was a good cat. And she did not stand, she crushed your toe. But anyhow, this cat is a true purr-sian.” Mrs Brown shook her head.
“No, he’s a monster.”
“Who said he wasn’t that too.” The man took the cat, “I’m sorry. I’ve been a spider round my web. He is a goat in the sheep, the ostrich amongst the chickens, the wolf among the dogs.” He brought forward the pastry box. Put two on the floor for Oscar and handed the rest to Eleanor. “To make up for you birthday cake.”
“How did you know it was my cake?” he just tapped his nose. “mmmm. These are good, better than any cake!”
And as always, at the end of the story, Oscar happily ate pastries with the Brown’s and everyone lived happily ever after. Until Oscar discovered the wonders of spaghetti…