Bigger on the Inside
Imaginative Discipleship
The Emotion Emporium

The Emotion Emporium

Mr Crickfarthing, like his shop, was full of shadows, odd corners and unseen depths. A short story to read or listen to.

A slightly belated Happy New Year to you all! The Christmas season was full and fun but not exactly restful, and had a few bumps along the way, such as having our vaccine booster on Christmas Eve and so feeling knocked out on Christmas Day itself. But I also had time to reread some old favourite stories, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which always feels good for my soul!

As a gift for 2022, I’d like to share a story that I wrote and had published in the Wicked Young Writers’ Award some years ago. The inspiration came from a visit to a particularly delightful sweetshop in Moffat on the Scottish borders, whose honey fudge was a thing of wonder. But the story perhaps has a slightly darker twist, and one that might be posing some questions about… but I’ve already said too much. Like jokes, stories can be spoiled if you have to explain them! I hope you enjoy it.

Mr Crickfarthing’s Emotion Emporium

Mr Crickfarthing was an elderly gentleman, tall and thin with long legs that gave the impression of stilts. He was old and grey, and the life seemed sucked out of him except for his glittering eyes. The deft movement of his long fingers was like the scurrying of an insect.

His shop was in some ways very like him: old and dusty and with floorboards that creaked as much as his joints. It was full of shadows, odd corners and unseen depths. But the goods he had on sale could not be more different from him.

Every wall was lined with shelf upon shelf of what appeared, at first glance, to be glittering jars of glorious sweets. Red ones, round ones, wrinkly ones, magenta, square and stripy ­– they were every shape, size and colour. What’s more, they were every delightful smell, too: from cinnamon to mint, from woodchips to smoked salmon.

But if you looked at the jars, you would see that these weren’t just toffees or humbugs or chocolates or pear drops. Their labels were far more exciting and exotic. “Cheery Dispositions”, “Bright Sides” and “Hope for the Future” were some of Mr Crickfarthing’s more popular confections, and on the higher shelves were more powerful commodities, such as “Unrequited Love” and “Inexpressible Joy”.

Customers came into his shop, and Mr Crickfarthing scrutinised them as they weighed out their goods. Each would pay, not with shillings or sovereigns, but with some emotion, feeling or memory that Mr Crickfarthing somehow plucked from their hearts and minds to stopper up in his jars.

And so, his customers got what they wanted - Good Humour to ease them through difficulty, perhaps, or Mr Crickfarthing’s Determination Toffees, often bought by young apprentices facing the entrance tests to enter the Guilds, or by young men facing proposing to their sweethearts. Some old ladies, on finding they had run out of complaints, would buy doses of the Grumbles. And in return, Mr Crickfarthing got what he wanted: the Ingredients he needed to use in recipes old and new.

However, there was another cabinet, right behind the counter, to which Mr Crickfarthing held the only key. Inside were small vials, because the smallest amounts of what they contained have an awesome effect. Here were drops of the richest treasures, which were most definitely not for sale. A person may have approached Mr Crickfarthing, told him their story and begged him to oblige. Mr Crickfarthing in turn may, or may not, have then taken the key from the chain around his neck, put it in the lock, opened the cabinet and given to the petitioner a few precious drops of “Nobility” or “True Humility” or “Unconditional Love” or whatever else they needed, with no charge except for gratitude.

How Mr Crickfarthing made such decisions was known to none but himself – perhaps he judged the cause to be worthy, or he liked the person, or just felt generous on some days, such as Tuesdays, and not on others, such as maybe every second Friday. The mystery was kept as locked as his cabinet.

Not everyone was happy with Mr Crickfarthing. Dukes and other dignitaries tried to buy Fairy Cakes laced with Forgiveness to give to their wives for tea when their mistresses were discovered. But Mr Crickfarthing always told such people that it was his strict rule that people may only buy his goods for their own use and none other, and he sent packing those with unscrupulous motives.

People still came from miles around to Mr Crickfarthing’s shop. All his products were free from artificial emotions and rememberings, and people knew that he would never sneakily attempt to reduce costs by substituting Cheap Sentiment for his usual ingredients.

But what they didn’t know was the real secret of his success. Long dark nights were spent by him, taking from himself all the emotions of his long life. Carefully he extracted all these from his soul, collecting and cataloguing them, ready to place on sale.

His customers thought him a dull old soul, and in a sense they were right. He put life and soul into his work - what was left for himself? The answer to that question was threefold: a helping of Steadfast Love, a scattering of Dashed Hopes and just enough Happiness to be able to smile a secret smile to himself as he turned the sign on the shop door from “Open” to “Closed”.

Thanks for reading!

Bigger on the Inside
Imaginative Discipleship
Be transformed by the renewing of your imagination.
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Caleb Woodbridge