Frank Gibson and Helen Whittaker

Tommy in the sweet shop by Frank Gibson


Pocket money, December 1972

Tom stands on tiptoe
his forearms resting on the counter.
He slides one sweaty palm aside to reveal 
the full moon of a ten pence piece
against a black Formica sky.
On the shelves in front of him
constellations of sweets twinkle invitingly:
gobstoppers as big as Jupiter,
liquorice Catherine wheels that suck in light like a black hole,
sherbet fountains shaped like rockets,
a swarm of asteroids masquerading as chocolate raisins,
and coconut mushrooms, modelled on life forms
that float in the syrupy seas of planet Zyx.
‘The usual?’ asks Mr. Bradshaw
pushing his Joe 90 glasses up his nose.
Tom nods.
With a magician’s flourish Mr. Bradshaw produces a bulging paper bag
twirled over at the corners
and palms the coin.
Tom mumbles his thanks and scuffs out,
the door shutting with a clunk
and a clang of the bell.
Outside Tom opens the bag and peeps inside:
a packet of space dust
and two dozen flying saucers.
Tom pops a pink flying saucer in his mouth
and lets it dissolve on his tongue.
A quarter of a million miles above his head
two men get ready to leave the Moon.

Helen Whittaker

Inspiration Piece

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