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Union Candy (part 5)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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It was barely a week later, six days to be exact. When Finny, in the company of the other three reading group members, arrived at the factory one bright and optimistic morning. There was a message waiting for her from Joe to go straight to Aunty Wainwright’s. Casper sighed and watched Finny run off in the direction of the police station, his happy thoughts for the day just a little diminished.

Although Finny liked Aunty Wainwright, and she absolutely loved exploring the many floors of the junk emporium, she preferred Larry’s Pawnshop because there she got to work with really old things and make shiny new things and talk to customers and, above all, she got to wear incredible pieces of jewellery the likes of which only rich people could afford.

But Aunty’s could be fun, too. Aunty had everything else that Mister Moise didn’t, including a huge amount of pre-fall clothing. Okay, some of this stuff had obviously been taken from the unfortunate people who had died wearing whatever it was, but some of it was as brand new now as it had been back then. Unfortunately, Finny could only drool over those. That is, until she arrived that morning.

Joe and Aunty were in the back room drinking tea and reminiscing about ‘the old days’. It had been a long time before Finny found out that Aunty was a clone, and a contemporary of Joe, but one day she had caught a glimpse of the old woman’s collar. Aunty had noticed and frowned hard at Finny at first, so much so that Finny wondered if she was in trouble. But then the frown had changed in an instant to a gummy smile and Aunty just held her finger to her lips. Finny had nodded and the subject of Aunty’s collar never came up again. But now that Finny was in the know, the conversation between her and Joe didn’t end suddenly when Finny appeared.

She stood politely in the doorway to the back room until Joe had finished his anecdote about being chased by someone called Old Bill but had given them the slip by hiding under a big bunch of apples and pears. Then they had welcomed her in and, as Finny’s eyes adjusted to the dust-speckled light streaming in through the tall, arched and barred windows she noticed that Joe had shed his brown duster.

Joe’s usual attire was the brown duster worn over a collarless shirt tucked into heavy work pants and blue high-tops. Today, Joe wore a black suit and highly polished black shoes. Over everything was an expensive looking long black coat. Finny just stared.

“Close your mouth young lady.” Joe said, standing up. “Now it’s your turn.”

Aunty led the way, followed by Finny with Joe bringing up the rear. After several turns Finny recognised where they were heading for and grew an excited grin in response. Sure enough, Aunty led them to the clothing section and then through the maze of laden carousels to where she kept ‘the good stuff’.

Once in the middle of it all, Joe found an ancient armchair and made himself comfortable. He sighed.

“Okay Aunty. Do your thing.”

Aunty Wainwright rubbed her fingerless woollen gloves together.

“Okay missy-missy. Let’s see what we can do with you.”

Aunty and Finny disappeared into the jungle of hanging clothing and Joe settled in for the long haul by reaching into his coat pocket for his flask and newspaper. Some time later there was a rustle and Joe looked up from behind the pages.

Aunty pushed a beaming Finny forward.

“Here she is Joe.” She tapped Finny on the shoulder. “Do a twirl, girly.”

Finny obliged, pirouetting on tiptoe.

Joe shook his head.

“It’s a bleedin’ funeral Aunty. Black jeans and Halloween hoodie aren’t going to cut it.” With that he disappeared back behind his newspaper.

Aunty led a disappointed Finny back into the depths of clothing heave. Finny frowned.

“What funeral? Who’s dead? Why am I going to a funeral?”

Aunty was rummaging through a polythene-covered rack of children’s clothing.

“No idea, Finny. None of my business, or yours. And you’re going because Joe says you are.” She pulled out a pleated black skirt. “Come on. Let’s find something to go with this.”

The skirt-top combo got another shake of the head from Joe. As did the next three changes of clothing. When Aunty pushed an increasingly bored and annoyed Finny in front of Joe for the sixth time. Joe squinted, looking Finny up and down.

Finny had her arms folded across a black empire line pinafore dress over a boy’s white shirt. White knee socks and patent leather shoes completed the outfit.

“Uncross your arms.”

Finny did so, adopting a hand-on hip pose that would de rigour by age fourteen.

Aunty looked hopeful.

“Well.”

“Black socks… And, something red.”

Aunty’s drawn on eyebrows went up.

“Lipstick?”

Joe give Aunty the look Kirsten usually gave him when he had said something ludicrous or impolite.

“No! Fer fu… She eight!”

“I’m nine”

“Nine then.” Joe’s pursed lips rotated side to side as he concentrated on Finny. It was close, but it needed something to make ‘certain people’ take note. He still liked the idea of red. “The shirt. Give her a red shirt.”

Finny looked up at Aunty with eyes that begged, ‘red? Seriously?’ Aunty looked down at Finny with a shrug of the shoulders that said, ‘apparently so.’ She put her hands on Finny’s shoulders and turned her back towards the clothes yet again.

“Come on, Aunty will make it work.”

When they came back, Finny actually looked hopeful. The huge ‘in your face’ explosion of red from the shirt they had found had been considerably muted by Aunty’s addition of a black velvet jacket. Now there was just the splash of red from the neck and collar.

Joe’s face settled into a ‘that’ll do’ smile.

The old woman looked at Joe.

“There’s definitely an Emily Strange vibe going on here.” She cocked her head, looking at Joe. “Do you want we should dye her hair black too?”

Finny gasped. Joe squinted again. Seeing that Joe was actually considering this, Finny stamped her foot.

“No way!”

Joe actually chuckled.

“Nah, that ginger nest of hers is kind of her trademark. But it does need taming for the gig.” He checked his pocket watch. “We’ve got time, see what you can do with it Aunty.”

What Aunty did with Finny’s flyaway ginger mane was to tie it down into two long, tight braids, each with an elegant black ribbon bow at the end.

Joe nodded approval.

“Yeah, that works”



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