In the summer of 1961, Lister is fifteen and has a holiday job at a small carpet shop, belonging to Glyn Jones, an acquaintance of his father, an accountant, Samuel. Lister is pleased to be earning ‘a few quid’ and his parents are happy that he’s out in what Samuel calls ‘the real world’ and not forever in his bedroom reading. Lister suspects the truth is that Rachel, his mother, is perfectly happy to have a bookish introverted son, whereas Samuel is fearful that Lister doesn’t have enough oomph to be make a fortune, despite the fact, that he, though voraciously ambitious, has not made one himself.
Glyn is not how Lister imagined a carpet shop owner would be: an ex Welsh Guards squaddie, over six feet tall, and, unlike Samuel, handsome with curly black hair. He’s massively strong, effortlessly lifting vast rolls of lino and carpet.
After a few days Glyn asks Lister, What’s my best seller? Or should I say what do the ladies like the best? A shag carpet, that’s what: avocado and harvest gold. Nothing like a good shag, is there? You do know what shag means, don’t you?
Lister blushes, I think so, yes.
There we are then, some homework for you to do, Lister.
Yes, see what shag means, Glyn says.
The bell above the shop door jingles and a smartly dressed woman in her early fifties enters. Glyn nudges Lister and whispers, Tell you what son, when they’re over fifty they think it might be their last chance to have a nice new carpet, even a shag. Go in the kitchen and make us some tea, there’s a good lad.
After a few minutes, Glyn pokes his head into the kitchen and says, Mind the shop for an hour or so. I’m off to do a home visit.
That evening Lister consults his Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Of all the definitions, Lister prefers A cormorant, the crested cormorant, which in the breeding season has a crest of long curly plumes …. A shag, Lister laughs, Curly plumes, just like Glyn.
The next morning Lister shares the definition with Glyn, who laughs, but appears shocked when Lister asks, Did you shag the lady?
I’m not a cormorant, Lister, so don’t you be getting ideas. The telephone rings. Answer that, will you, son?
Lister answers, Good morning, Glyn’s carpets …. Mum? What do you want? …. Okay …. Lister offers the receiver to Glyn. It’s my mum. Glyn takes the phone waving Lister away.
The call over, Glyn says, Mind the shop, I’m going to measure up for a new carpet for your lounge.
I’ll come with you.
No, I’m paying you to mind the shop.
You’re not going to go to my mum’s to to ….
Glyn puts his hand on Lister’s shoulder, Relax, son, she wants a Berber. You shouldn’t always believe what old bastards tell you.
I wish I could have a shag, Lister thinks. But not with an old lady.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.