Monday, 2 April 2012


The market was in full swing; it was nearly 11am and most of the stall-holders had been there setting up from seven, ready to open at nine.  The locals knew the place well, and many of them shopped there regularly, enjoying the fresh produce from the food side, the decorative arts and crafts in the centre, and the flowers, plants, and horticultural products from the west side.  And, of course, the sense of camaraderie and friendliness that that the stall-holders had for their regulars, providing advice on how to plant things, use things, display things to their best advantage, or offering little treats, rarities and hard-to-come by ingredients.  The market hummed with a friendly, happy energy that only dimmed a little by eleven when the tourists started to arrive, poking and prodding at things, with much interest but little purchasing power.  The smiles faded a little then, and wore steadily thinner through the day, but the stall-holders kept smiling nonetheless and occasionally made a sale.
Geraldinium Holmes had a stall in the middle of the market, a relative novelty for her as previously her art had been mostly sold through exhibition or commission.  Her new line in pottery and elaborate ceramics though, she felt deserved a wider audience, and so she'd found a stall in the marketplace and turned up at seven with her cardboard boxes of chinaware, and looked askance at the stall in its disassembled state.
"Excuse me," she said, sticking an arm out and catching a young, slightly pimply youth as he tried to walk past with arms full of lettuce.  "What is this?"
"Looks like a stall, don't it?" he retorted, backing up a little and trying to get past her.
"No," she said.  "It doesn't.  Stalls are like little tables with awnings over the top and chairs behind them for people to sit on.  There's nothing here I can display my chinaware on.  This is a pile of wood and metal and... and... and whatever that green-and-white stripey stuff is.  This is not a stall."
"Right, yeah.  You have to build it yerself, innit?"
"Innit?"  Geraldinium dropped her arm and the youth promptly scuttled off.  She stared at the stall's framework, neatly stacked in piles according to the length of the struts, and sighed.  She couldn't see assembly instructions anywhere, and her assistant was still in hospital after her bout of unfortunate mental illness that had lead her to believe that she a superheroine capable of flight.
She finally located one of the market organisers in a small grey office up an ill-lit flight of stairs.  The office was situated between railway lines and the frequency of the trains meant that the office trembled almost constantly and conversations had to be either shouted out, or held elsewhere.  The organiser was a small woman with skin like the bark of a beech tree and hair that appeared to be coming out in clumps.
"HOW DO I SET THE STALL UP?" howled Geraldinium at the top of her voice.
"BY HAND," yelled the organiser back
"Yes," said Geraldinium into the momentary silence from the trains stopping passing.  "Yes, and all I have is an advanced jigsaw puzzle and no instructions."
The organiser, whose little grey name badge declared herself to be Emily, rummaged in a tea-chest that supported the couple of planks of wood that formed her desk, and pulled out a tatty, holey piece of paper.
"THERE YOU GO!" she yelled, the trains going past again.  "HAVE FUN!"  Geraldinium cursed her all the way down the stairs.
The stall set-up proved to be fairly straightforward when Geraldinium had the instructions in front of her, despite the fact that the second page appeared to be entirely in French for some reason, and she managed to get set-up and all her stuff laid out by half-past eight.  There was no chair though; it looked like she'd been expected to bring her own.  She sighed and cursed a blue streak, causing nearby stall-holders to look over in consternation.  Once they'd looked over, they came over for a better look.
"Is this...?" said Hettie, who ran a watercolour-supply stall and usually had a few slightly drippy, sub-Monet pictures that she'd done recently hung up at the back.
"A sub-machine-gun made from china, yes," said Geraldinium.
"Oh.  Does it...?"
"Work?  Yes, but it'll need repairs after you're done firing it."
"Oh.  Is that...?"
"Don't you ever ask a complete question?"  Geraldinium glared at Hettie, who flinched and backed away a little.
"Now then, Hettie's just a bit highly strung," said Mortadella, who didn't appear to know that her pseudonym was actually a type of sausage, and who ran the typography stall next to Hettie's.  You're never telling me that this is a grenade made from china are you?"
"I wasn't, but I am now," said Geraldinium.  "I realised that given the fragility of the material it made more sense to make things that were inherently single-use."
"How much damage does one of these do?"
"Well, I threw one out of the window a few days ago, and it pretty much pollarded five trees when it exploded."
"Oh, pollarded," said Mortadella, nodding in an attempt to pretend she understood the word.  Geraldinium, who'd been trying to destroy her neighbours ornamental fishpond with the grenade said nothing.  The collapse of the crowns of five trees into the pond had achieved her aims, but she'd been surprised both by the damage the grenade did and how short the fuse appeared to be.
"So... who's you're target market?" said someone else, possibly the spotty youth who'd been carrying lettuces earlier.
"Everyone," said Geraldinium.

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