Thursday, 20 June 2019
Review by Lisa Williams of "Checkout" by Kathy Gee
Welcome to a shop with a tippy tappy till, where the shop-girl knows your name, where you work and what you drive. There is no incorrect item in the baggage area here. In this respect Checkout serves to preserve something we’re losing with the closure of so many small independent stores.
Checkout is described by the author as a duologue, combining elements of flash fiction, poetry and radio play. Each page gives us one hundred words from the nameless girl on the till. In the poet’s preface we learn she mentally nicknamed her Nona (the Roman goddess of the spinner of the thread of life). The brevity of drabble form perfectly suits the timing of a corner shop visit. Thanks to Gee’s sleek prose, we gain a familiarity with each customer with only a few words from our narrator. Each drabble introduces another customer and there’s a natural flow as each new voice enters, so much so you can almost hear the tinkle of the bell above the door.
The twenty-six characters that join Nona at the counter are varied. City bankers join the homeless. A dog and a falcon also have a chance to tell their tale too. Many, we learn simply 'use a visit to punctuate their days.' As the customers tell their stories we leave the shop, go on trips to the hairdressers, join team meetings, we hear their dreams of death and divorce, their hopes and their histories.
Nona’s story is a constant; we find out more with each new customer and grow increasingly attached. It’s a brief but beautifully poignant read and one that I’d love to hear performed.
About the reviewer
Lisa Williams is also a shopgirl (at a bakery) and, like Nona, frequently furnishes friends with quiche past its sell by date.