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The Liquorice Shop

On the corner of the road, just where it turns down towards the sea, there is a shop that I haven’t seen before. The windows are dusty and framed in chocolate brown. It is a sweet shop.

Through the glass I can just make out three shelves of jars filled with bon-bons. They are mostly brown as well. White lettering has been applied to the windows, but I can’t make out what it was supposed to say. The shop cannot be new, but it is not familiar.

I push open the door and go inside.

The shop stinks of aniseed. I do not like aniseed, but it is undoubtably a sweet shop smell.

The interior of the shop is brown like the outside, and gloomy. Glass jars line the walls amidst the glitter of cellophane. A little woman with mousey brown hair and big glasses stands owl–like behind a counter littered with liquorice sticks crammed into cups like pencils.

“Do you have any boiled sweets?” I ask.

“We have some Aniseed Balls,” she replies, which is not the same thing at all.

“What about Sherbet Lemons,” I ask, “Murray Mints, Pear Drops, Rhubarb and Custard, Pineapple Chunks, Sour Plums, hard lollipops?”

At each one a shake of the head, so in increasing desperation, “Brighton Rock? Edinburgh Rock? Sherbet centres? Pan Drops? Jelly Beans? Sour Apples? Coconut Mushrooms? Hundred and Thousands? White Mice?”

Eventually, “We might have some Kola Cubes.”

I nod in relief, and she stretches to bring down a jar that is frosty like old castor sugar, but when she opens it the smell of liquorice redoubles.

“Oh no,” she says, “they are liquorice cakes.”

“I don’t like liquorice!” I say, and she turns her round blank eyes on me.

“We only sell Liquorice here.”

With horror I realise that every single jar on the shelf is filled with some sort of liquorice. Liquorice balls, liquorice roots, liquorice in spirals, liquorice in loops. The narrow central table is awash in liquorice sweets in trays and liquorice candies in packets. Liquorice comfits spill across the table like oversized pills.

“I don’t want your liquorice!” I yell.

“No liquorice — no leave.” The voice comes from behind me.

I turn to the door, but a liquorice man has emerged from the shadows. He has a liquorice spiral for a head and long liquorice strings for arms. His eyes are round blue liquorice allsorts covered in tiny aniseed balls.

I quail.

He looms.

I try to push past.

He pushes back.

Somehow I end up on the floor.

The liquorice man stands over me, menacing me with liquorice fingers.

“No liquorice — no leave.”

With trembling fingers I reach up to the table and scrabble up a single allsort, one of the square ones that is more coconut paste than it is liquorice.

I force it down.

It tastes of liquorice.

“That’ll do,” says the woman behind the counter, “that’ll do,” and they let me leave.

Outside, from the street, I can see that the white lettering once spelt “The Liquorice Shop”.