London: Mac’s Milk

london Mike is behind the counter with me. We are talking about last night’s hockey game. The door opens to the familiar jingle that announces the arrival of a customer, handy when you’re preoccupied stocking shelves. This time it’s not a customer. It’s a man with pantyhose pulled over his head, extending a knife towards us. He demands the cash in the till. As I hand it over I realize I have allowed too much cash to build up. I am meant to transfer cash to the hiding spot to minimize how much can be stolen. When the detectives arrive they look at Mike and me suspiciously and ask “There were two of you and you didn’t try to disarm him?”

A London Police van just pulled up. A young homeless man with stringy hair to his waist, his face blotchy and smeared, is sitting against the store wall. The officer questions him then orders him to move on. I am allowed to sit, undisturbed, drinking my Perrier.

I am inside the fridge loading milk on the shelves. I hear the jingle and look for a customer at the door. A moment of confusion as I see no one. Then panic as I see the man with the pantyhose on his head running up the aisle towards me, the knife extended in front of him. My first thought is “He’s back to kill me so that I won’t identify him.” I try to shut myself in the fridge but as in a bad dream there is a metal bar lodged in the door. He appears in the doorway and orders me up to the cash. This time I have done a better job limiting the amount in the till. “You must have more money somewhere,” he snaps. I deny that there is any more. This time when the detectives are there a woman from the neighbourhood brings me hot tea with a shot of brandy in it. “For your nerves,” she says.

The detectives take me down to the courthouse. For the first time I see the man without his pantyhose on. At first I can’t tell but when they order him to stand, there’s something about the way his head sits on his shoulders. I turn to the detective and say “yes, that’s him.”