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The Spinning Bow Tie Café

Stewart Lowe

corpse pose

2024 Short Story Competition Short List

The Spinning Bow Tie Café

I had had no luck with girlfriends whatsoever. To remedy the situation, I bought a bow tie. Old man O’Halloran thought I had come to rob the place when I came through the door carrying a cricket bat.

He pointed a dirty, gnarled finger in my direction: truth be  told the finger was so arthritic and bent it was pointing backwards.

“ You can do damage with a weapon like that.”

O’Halloran had been in the rag and bone business since my dad was a boy. He kept an old horse in the yard till it fell over and died. My dad took a picture of me sitting on the horse wearing my football colours. O’Halloran didn’t go out on the road now, preferring to sell his wares from his shop in Dewer Street.

“The bat’s no’ mine. It belongs to Kenny Shields. I’ve decided to spend my money on a bow tie.”

“Why do you want a bow tie? You don’t look like the kind of young man who frequents high society do’s.”

“To impress the women. ”

O’Halloran rattled the drawers behind his heavy wooden counter before landing a spray of bow ties like dead moths on the counter.

They were not to my liking. They were dark, gloomy colours. They would turn to dust in direct sunlight.

“The one I like is in the window.”

“I forgot about that one. What does it look like?”

“Blue with  pink spots.  It looks more alive than this lot.”

“The one you’re after belonged to a clown I knew.”

In minutes ,he  was retreating from the display window,  the bow tie in his hand. He plonked it on the counter.

His old Labrador came from behind the counter with a bedraggled bag of stuffing in its mouth.


“Paddington Bear. It’s his comfort blanket. The bow tie looks a bit rusty.”

“You mean, dusty, don’t you?”

“No. The mechanism at the back. When Zippo sold me the bow tie,it made a lovely whirring sound like a helicopter about to take off. It’s faulty and I’ve informed you of the fact, so let’s say, bought as seen. Fifty pence and it’s yours.”

“I only have  a fiver.I don’t need a bag. I’ll put it on.”

I turned to face my reflection in the glass cabinets that lined the dark brown walls. The cabinet was full of model Dinky cars.

“I like the cars.”

“There are some very collectable models in there. I can do you a mini for four pound fifty.”

I could see where this was going.

“A car is always an attraction to the opposite sex. I can vouch for that.”

“I don’t think a model will have the same effect. It’s not as if I can take a lassie to the seaside in it.”

“Suit yourself. Still, a sound investment.”

“Okay. You’ve convinced me.”

He settled my fiver in the till before trying the cabinet with a tiny key he found in his waistcoat pocket. Eventually, the lock surrendered. He handed me a  racing green mini in a brown bag.

“Remember. That car will do you a good turn.”

Outside, grey clouds were scudding overhead and it grew dark. Great drops of rain plopped on to the pavement. I had forgotten that the wet was not a paper bag’s best friend. I had just nipped into the bus shelter when the bag gave up the ghost. The mini rolled out of its box and came to a halt at a lady’s shoe.

She knelt down and lifted the car carefully, cradling it in the palm of her hand. Like it was a tiny bird.

“Your toy?” she said.

“It’s a present for my wee brother.”

 I was thinking that no relationship which started with a lie could be going anywhere useful.

She smiled the most gloriously warm smile, not the smile of a Kilmarnock lassie but the smile of an angel from some wild Mediterranean village where goats nibbled at your washing. My eyes were magnetised by the soft nape of her neck and the twinkling of a green earing which hung like a wish from the soft fold of her ears.

“That’s very thoughtful of you.”

I was puzzled by the fact that she hadn’t mentioned the bow tie but there was no doubt in my mind that magic was afoot.

“I’ve forgotten my pal’s cricket bat. I left it in the shop.”

“I’ll come with you if you like. Shelter under my umbrella.”

I didn’t mind that the rain was soaking through a hole in my trainers. A strange burping started at my neck. The tie was spinning. I couldn’t help but believe that my heart was spinning too.

“The toy car is mine. It’s no’ for a wee brother.”

“I would be disappointed if it was. I can just see us setting off for  a day at the seaside.”

And there, outside O’Halloran’s, I kissed the most beautiful lady in the world.


O’Halloran passed away six months later. Jenny and I happened to be passing when we bumped into his son, locking up for the last time, with the sad –eyed Labrador at his side.

“We’ll take the dog, ”said Jenny.

“Whatever you say.”

We both studied the “to let “ sign and our minds started whirring.

“What do you say to you and me opening a shop?”

“What kind of shop?

“ A café. You’ve got the gift of the gab and I’m a good baker.”

Three months later The Spinning Bow Tie opened. Jenny made a wooden bow tie out of wood and painted it most perfectly. When the wind blew, it spun round. We bought our first mini clubman after a year and did a roaring trade in wedding and birthday cakes. We kept the original bow tie and toy car in a glass case. The writing along the car box ran that wet day at the bus stop but it didn’t matter as we had no plans to sell it.

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