Abstract Magazine International | Mr. Singh by Don Taylor
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Mr. Singh by Don Taylor

08 Nov 2017, Posted by admin in Short Fiction

Art: Lavien Darja, @lavien_darja


It was 10 o’clock on a hot Tuesday morning in August. Jake jumped the fence at the back of the house, swung a kick at an empty Buckfast bottle beside the sand pit, and ran across the park to the Spar.

Inside the shop, Mr Singh was reading The Telegraph, seated as usual on the old kitchen chair with the orange cushion, his spindly legs crossed. Business was slow since the new Tesco opened on the site of the old police station. He flashed a smile of welcome to Jake.

‘Good Morning Dr Watson. How are we today?’ said Mr Singh. As he spoke, he rose and, half-standing, turned to reach the shelf above the canned tomatoes. He took down a paperback from a row of dog-eared books. His delicate fingers flicked through the pages.

‘I believe that we were to resume The Speckled Band…’

‘Sorry Mr Singh, ain’t got time today. Helluva a rush’, Jake replied, still out of breath.

‘I see’, said Mr Singh, fixing Jake with a quizzical stare.

Jake handed over the crumpled grocery list, damp from his sweating palm. Mr Singh smoothed it carefully on the counter.

He read:

‘ “Twenty Malborough extra mild

1 large white loaf

2 tins of beans (not the dear ones)

1 carten of soya milk

1 small jar coffee

one tube HAND creme (not milk creme)”

and in a different hand, and underlined:


and then

“1 Lge. Cadbury Fruit and Nut.”

Quite an order this fine morning!’ Mr Singh said, interrogating the list while absentmindedly fingering his tightly-knotted tie.

‘You have set me a puzzle Dr Watson- to explain this unusual requisition, and your own unwonted haste. Please make yourself comfortable with The Dandy while I prepare the order and unravel…The Mystery of the Odd Shopping List.’

Mr Singh shuffled around the shop in his flattened slippers, collecting the items on the list. When he had placed them in an empty box, and marked up the tick- book, he turned again to Jake:

‘Now, I am able to propose an explanation.

Your Nan is back on the fags. Remarkable, given her six months’ abstinence. An extraneous cause is suggested, occasioning some undue stress.

The source of your Nan’s anxiety is clearly indicated from the contents of your grocery list. The soya milk: your mother has returned from her yurt in Devonshire, (location, as we well know, of Baskerville Hall). This hypothesis gains further credence by the need for hand cream: to smooth your mother’s somewhat abraded skin, arising from her out-door lifestyle.

Two tins of beans and a large loaf: a family lunch, with lettuce as an accompaniment? I think not. The lettuce more likely a treat for Flopsie your mother’s Leporidean companion, or rabbit. And the chocolate? Surely a well-deserved reward for yourself on this special occasion.’

Jake responded in the accustomed manner. ‘By Jove, Holmes, you never cease to amaze me!’ and with a wink he grabbed the carrier bag and wheeled out of the shop, and home.

About the author: 

Don Taylor is a retired public servant living in Scotland. His main influences have been short story writers and novelists such as Alice Munro, David Malouf and Kasuo Ishiguro. He has been previously published in New Writing Scotland : Macdougall, Carl and Strachan, Zoe ed. (2012) A Little Touch of Cliff in the Evening, Glasgow, Association for Scottish Literary Studies.

Art: Lavien Darja@lavien_darja, Warsaw, Poland

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