You Can’t Always Get What You Don’t Even Want

Cheryl Markosky

Editor’s Note from Jan Kaneen: I came across the first version of this flash in a Retreat West workshop that Cheryl and I were attending, and was immediately struck by its sassy, quick-witted, playful voice and the changing pace of the narration. I liked the comedic take on the idea of unwanted things and the hotchpotch images which verge of the surreal and I loved the change in tone as the story progresses and how original the whole concept of the conceit behind it is. Its weird in a really really good way and I get more taken with it the more I read it.

I couldn’t sell ice to Inuits or sawdust to a lumbermill. Which is why I’m perfect for the job at I Don’t Buy It. Where we don’t want your PIN codes and we don’t give change, where we offer snow globes with torn-flecked fake snow that swirls against stuck-on blue skies for trippers who forgot to go to airports, past their sell-by date Toblerones and business management books in the WH Smith of their minds.

We tempt customers with bins of remaindered lizards, the least favourite creature in pet shops – people want long eyelashes and fur, not a third pineal eye in the forehead that creeps them out; rows of wind-up music boxes with spinning ballerinas – modern classical music plinking from toneless wood-bowels. I have to cheer up the teeny ballerinas every so often. They can only take so much from unknown composers.

I stink-spray passers-by with gagging scents, misty moments from bottles shaped like twisted torsos and phallic rockets – why are perfume decanters never clitoris shaped? – and one-for-two fluorescent liqueur deals from unremembered holiday destinations that are better drunk on sin-swamped terraces than slate-edged semis.

After lunch, I get down to more momentous trash marketing for products that must sell well in other places. I say must, because they’re certainly everywhere you look in the real-deal world – own-brand stacks of lies from men who stay out late pretending they were preparing last-minute presentations, essential lines of exaggerations on job CVs boasting flute lessons, Duke of Edinburgh awards and advanced computing (to make up for those days watching The Chase on the sofa); ‘I love you’ and ‘You’re the only one’ cards dust-propped on stands, and garage flowers to save guilt-tipped lovers eleventh-hour journeys to petrol stations.

Other things that you don’t want to buy that I can’t sell include: the fact that no-one really cares what you think, that you never really made me happy – that there is no God.

Just because you have cash and plastic, buddy – you can’t always have what you don’t even want.

Canadian-born Cheryl Markosky is a journalist, splitting her time between England and the Caribbean. Her work can be found in EllipsisZine, New Flash Fiction Review, Urban Tree Festival, Friday Flash Fiction, The Cabinet of Heed, The Drabble, and National Flash Fiction Day and Flash Fiction Festival anthologies. Find her on Twitter: @cherylmarkosky or on the Web: