The sweets shop had been there for as long as anyone could remember. Parents told their children about going there.
The tradition continued every generation, and for may long years, at 3pm, Mr. Tims’ store was descended upon by children.
The immaculately neat rows of wrapped lollies, hard candies, caramel chews, vanilla bombs, bubble gums, spice drops…
Every afternoon, perfect order was destroyed by grabbing hands and watering mouths, pocket change traded for sweets.
And Mr. Tims would have had it no other way. The daily routine of putting right his shop again was a great joy.
Mr. Tims candies were all handmade. There was nothing mean or sinister in them, they were all delightfully wholesome.
The candies in the aisles were a penny or a nickel, but the candies on the counter were a dime or even a quarter.
And Behind the Counter were the Very Extensive Sweets. They were the stuff of legend.
There were lollies that changed flavor as you ate them, and soft cake pops with delicate paintings on marzipan shells.
Many a child would save up for weeks to get a special treat, but nothing was as special as the Chocolate Carousel Horse.
It was the crown jewel of the sweets shop, the thing that kids bragged to their friends they might get for Christmas.
There was only ever one Carousel Horse at a time, and each one was completely unique, but it was always lovely.
The Carousel Horse was, understandably, the most expensive item in the shop. Mr. Tims only made a dozen or so each year.
One day, the rush of children came and went, and Mr. Tims was tidying up when the bell on the door rang again.
He brushed himself down and stepped behind the counter to greet the young, serious-looking boy.
The lad couldn’t have been older than seven or eight, and though he was clean, his clothes and shoes had previous owners.
In a sober and determined voice, the young lad asked to see the Carousel Horse.
Mr. Tims smiled at him and asked, “Are you quite sure? It so a big thing for such a small boy! The Horse, you say?”
The boy only nodded grimmly. Mr. Tims raised an eyebrow at the little fellow, but he fetched the Horse just the same.
This Carousel Horse was a lady’s horse, if ever there was one. Pink and red roses danced along ribbons of spun sugar.
Light danced through the sugar glass drops on its flowing mane and tail as though prancing off a light rain shower.
The boy’s lips pursed, and he nodded. “I’ll take it,” he said. “Please use some pink and red ribbons. She loves those.”
Mr. Tims was a little confused, but he played along. “Of course, good sir,” he said. “Pink and red?”
The boy nodded again, and he dug deeply into his pockets for the payment. Coins rang out on the counter from tiny fists.
Mr. Tims frowned a little, not sure entirely if the young man was joking or not. He waited for a moment before collecting.
The boy could barely contain himself then, and he blurted, “It’s the one thing she asked for, before she…”
His lips pursed again and quivered. “It’s for my mum. She wanted it for Christmas, but the doctors say…”
Mr. Tims started to put the pieces together just as the little boy caught sight of the price tag: $50.
The boy’s face went ashen as he stared at the pile of pennies and realized his horrible, horrible mistake.
Mr. Tims saw the exact moment the boy’s heart started to break, and he snatched up the price tag from the counter.
“Oh, look at me,” he said quickly, “all these years, and I still spell my math all wrong. You have fifty pennies, yes?”
Mr. Tims counted them out quickly while the boy’s face streamed with tears, his feelings entirely too much to hold in.
“Your mother, she will love her horse,” Mr. Tims said as he boxed it up, “it is a perfect horse for a mother, yes?”
The boy nodded yet again, unable to speak around the lump in his throat. “It is much too big for our young man to carry.”
The Carousel Horse was in a lovely rose-colored box with fancy ribbons, and Mr. Tims put on his jacket.
“I carry it home for you,” Mr. Tims said. “A special delivery. Now, which way you momma live?”
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