As much as I hated to admit it, Steve was right. It was a bit like time travel. Maybe it’s because I’d only been to the charity shops in big cities, but the one we’d just entered looked like something from an old TV show.
The walls were a faded shade of sepia, lined only by dense shelves. Three creaking clothes racks stood in the middle of the shop. A precarious arrangement of old vases perched next to the door. Behind the counter, a woman who looked like I probably would in twenty years’ time was busy with the till.
‘If you need a last-minute costume for that Halloween do, this is the place. We can also catch up on the latest films and popular hits while we’re at it.‘ Steve reached over to a nearby shelf and picked up a VHS tape and an audio cassette, before flashing me a shit-eating grin. I rolled my eyes.
Examining the cassette, he said ‘Nelson Eddy Sings H.M.S Pinafore? I bet the hipsters haven’t even HEARD of THIS.‘
‘What? This is like hipster central. Just look at these clothes.‘ The racks were filled with a musty array of beige trenchcoats, pencil-grey waistcoats, floral dresses, garish T-shirts, trainspotter anoraks, drainpipe jeans and knitted vests.
Steve walked over to me and said: ‘If you can’t find a costume here, then you’ve got no imagination.’
‘I could go as a nerd.‘ I held up one of the anoraks and an old Star Trek book. ‘It’d be ironic‘. It was Steve’s turn to roll his eyes.
We browsed in silence for a few minutes. I found what looked like it could be a good “Carrie” dress, but I’d have to dye the thing with wine and it’d never dry in time. Steve seemed to be eyeing up a black greatcoat and an old suit. I smiled ‘You’re not going as Sherlock again? You don’t even look anything like him, for starters.‘
‘But, Watson, surely you are aware of my mastery of the art of disguise?‘ He said in a plummy voice. I groaned.
Finally, my eyes settled on a red tweed suit. I picked it up and reached for a grey trenchcoat too. Handing the coat to Steve, I said: ‘Bonnie and Clyde. Simple.’
Steve shrugged: ‘I still think Sherlock would be better. It’s like the ultimate lazy costume. But, whatever, it’s not like we have time to choose much longer.‘
We heard a quiet cough. The woman behind the counter looked up at us with bright eyes: ‘I think that you do. Sorry, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.‘
An awkward silence hung in the air amongst the dust. Finally, she said: ‘Just check your watches. Sorry, I mean your ‘phones.‘
Steve raised an eyebrow, but we pulled our phones out in unison and looked at the time. Both screens read “13 30:04”. Ten seconds later, they still read “13 30:04”. I looked at the clock above the counter. It was stuck at half past one.
I giggled ‘Woah, you really freaked us out there. How did you do it? Have you got some kind of jammer or something?‘
The woman pointed at a faded sign beside the till. It read “donations always welcome.” Smiling at us, she said: ‘All donations. Books, clothes, time, life, bric-a-brac. The usual things.’
‘Ah, we’re buying these.‘ Steve said, holding up the clothes. I fumbled through my bag and found my purse, before putting a tenner on the counter and telling her to keep the change.
She took the money and printed out a reciept, before saying ‘Are you sure I can’t persuade you to give a few years. There are so many people that need them. I mean, you’ve got at least fifty of them left. Not you, Steve, unfortunately. You’re probably best staying in here as long as possible.‘
We were silent for a few minutes, unsure whether to laugh or gasp. Finally, I said: ‘If you’re serious, then can’t I just donate some of mine to Steve? I mean, this is just silly.‘
She sighed: ‘Ah, it’s against the rules. Donations are given out by the board, they make all of the decisions.‘
I chuckled. ‘Can’t you just bend the rules or something? I mean, I don’t see anyone from this board here right now.‘
She let out another sigh and said: ‘I can’t risk it, they’d give me the sack in an instant. It’s a dangerous world. That nasty Hitler fellow bombed the street next to mine just a few days ago. That’s why I took the job. I mean, he’s worse than Herod and this shop is better than the Anderson!‘
We weren’t sure whether to laugh, give our sympathies or call a doctor. Her face gave no clue either way. Finally, Steve just muttered a few words of thanks and we shuffled out of the shop. I held his hand tightly. If even half of what she’d said was true, this could be our last day together. We’d have to have one hell of a party.
I was about to tell Steve this when he suddenly grinned at me ‘It’s Halloween, the one day of the year when people can be as weird as they like and no-one cares. She probably does that to all the customers, although the trick with the phone was a new one. I’d bet you anything that it’s still frozen though. I hope the memory isn’t corrupted.‘
He pulled out his phone. The screen read “13 31:15”.