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"The St James Place Bookshop" & "Snail Mail" by Susan Cornford

The St James Place Bookshop

Janice sat surrounded by Penguin Classics, sighing and sipping her Fanta. Traffic swished by outside the window. At the market, piles of cantaloupes, mangos and peaches touted for her money. Vegetable barkers pushed carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Merchandising was everywhere! Here there was none, as if her boss didn’t want to sell anything.


Sometime around midnight, Janice stood in the shadows of a notorious, local underpass, watching out for one of the infamous taggers who flaunted their work on Instagram. Soon she saw movement and stepped forward. “The great Michelangelo II, I presume!”

A man who would not have looked out of place in a downtown office said, “Who wants to know?”

“Just someone who could use your talents and spread your fame. I work in a bookshop and you could paint pictures illustrating some of the books on the front window. You’d get the credit and we’d get the advertising. It’s a win-win.”

Soon pictures of tigers, foxes, ladybirds and sunsets appeared on the front windows of the bookshop.


Janice pulled to the roadside near a group of community-service workers who were picking up rubbish. A smile passed over her face as she got out, approached the boss of the gang and held out her hand. “Hello, I’m Janice Scott and I was wondering if your group could clean some graffiti off the window of the book shop where I work. In fact, it might need to be a regular thing because those pig-headed taggers can keep coming back.”

Louis smiled back and said, “If it means I get the chance to see you again, I’ll make sure it gets added to the schedule.” Janice quite liked the sound of that, so they struck a deal. Every week the old group of pictures was removed and, sure enough, another group replaced it. Meanwhile, Janice and Louis got to know each other quite well.


Janice’s boss, Mr. Sanderson, was a reclusive type who left everything to Janice. But, as more and more people were drawn to the pictures, they then asked about and bought the books which were illustrated. So, Janice decided to get in touch with him and ask for a raise. The increase in turnover certainly justified it. As usual, Janice got his answering machine, but oddly his message said he’d gone away on vacation. Janice was sure he’d told her that he hated traveling.


Then one day a man came into the shop, turned around the Open sign and locked the door. Lifting his lapel, he revealed a filled shoulder holster.

“About this shop,” he said, “I’ve come to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

Snail Mail

Marge opened her letterbox and found a pile of confetti. She’d only been gone a week but the snails had munched their way through whatever had come. It couldn’t have been very important, she thought.

A couple of years later she ran into her old boyfriend John in Coles and he introduced her to his new wife. While Sally was off squeezing the melons, he asked Marge why she’d never answered his letter two years earlier. ‘I never would have married Sally if you had,’ he said.

Later Marge put several large boxes of snail pellets into her trolley.

Susan Cornford is a retired public servant, living in Perth, Western Australia. She/her has most recently had pieces published or forthcoming in Ab Terra Flash Fiction, Across the Margin, Adelaide Literary Magazine, borrowed solace, Crow’s Feet Journal, Ethel Zine, Flash Frontier, Frost Zone Zine, Granfalloon Magazine, INK Babies Literary Magazine, Instant Noodles Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, The Mythic Circle, Quail Bell Magazine, The Short Humour Site, Thriller Magazine and Worthing Flash.

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