A pair of trembling hands lit a kerosene lamp, hanging it up on the rusted nail hook in the center of the shop. Minuscule insects gathered around the fire immediately, leaving behind the sticky sweets on the benches of his shop. The silence of the paved street was momentarily broken by the creaking of a plastic stool against the cracked mud ground. Sighing, the man’s tired eyes glanced around his small enterprise, devoid of life. In the center of the rich brown wall was a yellowing photograph of his wife, surrounded by shelves holding thick plastic bottles filled with assorted candies, ranging from stubborn toffees that stuck to one’s teeth, to peppermints that melted in one’s mouth.
Previously, the laughter of children as they tried to pick out the best sweets would provoke a smile on his face. Now, as the amalgamation of sugar syrup and coloring sat untouched in handmade straw baskets, he couldn’t bring himself to get his chapped lips to curl up as he reminisced.
Suddenly, his ears perked up at the familiar sound of young voices that made their way to his shop at the corner of the street. Jerking up, he walked over to the entrance of his shop as fast as his weak-jointed legs would carry him, adjusting his red woolen cap on tufts of grey hair. His kind heart pumped with the first jolt of happiness in weeks.
“Welcome children, come in come in,” he gushed, as the owners of the voice reached him.
Just as he was about to list the names of all the treats he had in his possession, his expression changed for the worse completely.
His smiling face was reciprocated with sympathetic looks of the young boys and girls who were once the life and heart of his shop. They tried putting their hands behind their backs as quickly as they could, but his shrewd eyes had already caught sight of the expensive candy in them. It didn’t take him more than a few seconds to realize that it had been bought from the recently opened candy and soda shop down the street. Hurt instantaneously flashed across his eyes, and he turned his head away, staring at the ground. For a moment, a small spark of hope still flickered in him, as he wished that young Aadi would buy at least a handful of caramel toffees, but even that died down as he saw the silhouettes of his previous potential customers move away.
His shop was a source of exuberance before the birth of the new one. Tears refused to spill down his cheeks with sunken bones, as he retreated to the shadows of his shop, now forgotten and unloved.