The Collection

The Collection by Alison Summers
She bought him in a charity shop. She knew she could always recycle him if things didn’t work out. She was good at sifting out the bargains from the dross. This one had been well looked after. He was middle aged that was true but he had a nice patina from expensive beach holidays and his accent was not one of those cheap and cheerful ones. No, he was a classic educated Scot. A good find. Alice spotted him as soon as she walked into the shop. She wasted no time. Too often she had made the mistake of making a note of a man in one shop and just popping along to the other charity shops to see if there was anything more appealing only to find that no, there wasn’t and oh bother someone else had bought the first man she had seen. No, she wasn’t going to risk that with this one.
She pointed him out to the very ancient volunteer who peered at him through her specs and said “Ooh, I won’t be able to reach him, wait till I get Gregory and his ladder.” Alice had experienced the very doddery Gregory and his rickety ladder before so she said, “Don’t worry, I can reach him.”
He had lovely firm arms when she lifted him down. Muscley. Alice could hardly wait to get him home and try him on. She handed over a ten pound note and told the volunteer to put the penny change in the tin.
Alice had a few days to enjoy him before her daughter got home from army camp. Chloe could be a bit of a spoil sport about her mother’s charity shop finds. Sure enough the first thing Chloe said when she came through the door was, “Oh, Mum, not another man. Where are you going to put him? The cupboards are bulging at the seams. I thought we agreed after that one who played Leonard Cohen songs all night that you wouldn’t bring any more charity shop men into the house? The school table sale isn’t for another month.”
Alice sometimes cleared out her men at the School fair. There were so many single parents at Chloe’s school that she usually raised a good deal of money for the new music block. But she was getting older now and less confident. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to get rid of any of the men just in case she needed one. She pretended to Chloe that she would have a good clear out at the weekend. Then she went to Poundstretcher and bought a set of vacuum pack bags. She popped half a dozen men into the large size one and attached the hoover hose. Just like it said on the packet, she was able to store six men in the space of one. When Chloe came back from school, she looked round the flat with admiration. “You did it, Mum. You rationalised your collection. Well done.” She gave Alice a hug but pulled away when she heard a strange sound. It was like someone very large farting. The noise got louder and louder and all of a sudden all the cupboard doors in the flat burst open spilling out men of all shapes and sizes. The special zips on the bags had given way and all the pressure of the reflating men had been too much for the cupboard doors.
Chloe examined the label on one of the bags. She shook her head.
“Oh, mum, I’ve told you before. It’s no good buying things from Poundstretcher – they never work.”


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