TO26

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“That’s what it says on the side of the cartridge,” I said.

“Bloody hell, I haven’t seen one of those in a long time.”

“Well? Do you have one? Do you know where I could get one?” I said.

The shop was a tiny brick building wedged in amongst other more significant brick buildings. Maybe the builder miscalculated. Perhaps he didn’t measure up accurately. Maybe it was just easier to build one small shop than go back and start again.

Someone will rent it.

And they did.

CARTRIDGES ARE USS — yes with two’s’ s, (I’ll bet he sat up all night thinking up the name), was conveniently located at my local shopping strip. Someone had bought up all the old shops, pulled them down and built new shops with convenient parking.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of those.”

“So you said,” I said, “Maybe if you look out the back?”

“We don’t have ‘a back’,” he said.

Everyone has a back room, don’t they?

A quick scan of the shop did not show any sign of a rear door (where does he go when he needs to pee?)

There were racks on the walls and glass cases forming a counter, all crammed full of colourful packages.

“I know it’s old, but it was a very popular brand back in the day, and I thought, seeing as how you specialise, you might have one or know where I could get one. I don’t need colour. I only need black so that I can print out my stories.”

The shopkeeper was still staring at the cartridge as though it might tell him something.

“T026, well there’s a blast from the past.”

The thirty-something neatly dressed shopkeeper with CARTRIDGES ARE USS embroidered on his jumper, was beginning to annoy me.

“Well, if you don’t have one, I’ll just have to look somewhere else,” I said, holding out my hand in the hope of retrieving my cartridge — which still had a bit of ink left in it.

The shopkeeper scratched his head and gave the cartridge one final turn in his hand.

Reluctantly and gently, he handed it back to me. I felt like Lord Carnarvon must have felt as he examined the contents of King Tut’s tomb.

“You take good care of that,” he said.

“I will,” I said as I backed out of the shop.

I never did find a T026 cartridge, but a week later I found one hundred dollars in an old jacket. So I treated myself to a new printer — colour. It’s been handy, and it costs almost as much to buy replacement cartridges as it does to buy a new machine — it’s a bit of a scam someone said in an article I read.

The cartridge shop closed about a year ago and the Pizza shop next door knocked a hole in the wall to create a warm place for people to wait while their pizza is being prepared.

As I wait for my pizza order, I sometimes wonder what happened to the shopkeeper. Does he still have the embroidered jumper? Does he wear it on cold nights and think back to when he had his own shop? A tiny shop, but his nonetheless.

I kept the old printer, but finally, I had to concede that to continue looking for a cartridge was probably a fools’ errand — so I put it out with the recycling.

That’s the trouble with living, in general — as soon as you can’t get the parts anymore, all the fun goes out of it.

The Shopping Dragon.

I wrote this a while ago for my granddaughter Scarlett. My wife tells me that she still gets a kick out of it so I thought that you or some young friend might enjoy it?

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He was well known in his local area but in other lands no one had heard of the Shopping Dragon.

He wasn’t the kind of dragon who went around breathing fire all the time, he was conscious of saving the planet and besides, he was getting on in years.

Dragons rarely lived much more than 1253 years and he was well over that.

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It is said that in his younger days he used to hang out with some of the Muppets. It was mostly the crazy drummer guy, but occasionally the whole band would turn up.

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Once, Kermit came along and sang some of his songs; that was a big night and it went on way past most people’s bedtime.

Next day everyone was grumpy, but it was worth it for it had been a great night.

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I suppose you are wondering why they called him the Shopping Dragon.

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Most of his friends had names like ‘Death From Above’, or ‘The Dragon Who Ate Paris’, or ‘That Dragon Who Forgets Everyone’s Name’, but he didn’t mind because he really did enjoy shopping.

Mostly he stuck to shopping at the larger shopping malls as he often got stuck if he tried to fit into one of those smaller stores.

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It was true that they had nicer stuff but constantly getting stuck was a bit of a drag.

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His absolute favourite shopping experience was an outdoors market.

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Sometimes he would hang around at the Hot Dog Stand and help them heat up the food. They don’t ask him to do this too often because of that ‘burning down the Hot dog Stand’ incident a year or two back.

He says that it was probably not his fault, but it was best to be on the safe side.

One thing that shopping did was make him very tired.

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When he got home at the end of a long day of shopping he would unpack his stuff, have a long hot bath and jump into bed where he would read a book about Dragons in the olden days before falling asleep.

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Next morning he would bounce out of bed ready for another day of mystery shopping.

Can you believe that they paid him to do the thing he loved the most; shopping?

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What sort of job would you like to be paid to do?

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