Participants in the Stories of Care creative writing project responded creatively to stories about 18th and 19th century Foundling Hospital pupils. Here is Jay’s creative writing inspired by the story of Samuel Inman, titled ‘£200 of Shop Goods’. You can also watch a video of Jay’s piece at the showcase.
£200 of Shop Goods
Samuel ran his fingers along the spines of the books inspecting for dust. It was unusually quiet in the bookshop. It had just gone 2pm in the afternoon. Samuel looked forward to the evening, unaware that this was to become one of the most special days of his life. His master, Mr Ackermann, was in his office at the back of the building. Samuel could hear Mr Ackermann’s nerves in the way that he shuffled papers on his desk.
Mr Ackermann called Samuel. ‘Can you come here please.’
There was a lot to get on with and Samuel was stressed – new stock to sort – but Samuel was always ready to answer his master’s demands. He entered. There were stacks of paper in the office, all over the desk, some higher than a foot tall. Mr Ackermann was a tall, powerful man. He had a long grey beard and black hair, swept back behind his ears.
Though it had been seven years since he started working here, Samuel felt scared in Mr Ackermann’s presence. And this was especially the case today. Something hung in the air. Samuel felt that he could be in trouble although he couldn’t think why. He thought he’d done everything in the way he should. He knew that his apprenticeship was soon due to come to end here – perhaps Mr Ackermann had decided that he would like to let Samuel go sooner, and he would have to make his own way in the world. Perhaps Samuel would have to return to the Foundling Hospital. It was a difficult thought. The Hospital was the only place he could call home. But it was strict and lonely. The bookshop had become something like a home. He was less lonely here. The books were his friends.
Samuel sat down in the office. Mr Ackermann had a strict look in his eyes. More than usual.
‘I have been in contact with the Foundling Hospital,’ said Mr Ackermann. ‘I have asked them if you can stay for several months beyond your apprenticeship. They have agreed that you can. You are going to get paid more for your time here in the period after your apprenticeship ends.’
‘I thought that I was in trouble,, said Samuel. ‘But you just said that. And my worries have gone away. Thank you Mr Ackermann. Thank you so much.’
Samuel got up from his chair. Ready to leave. Mr Ackermann was a busy man and Samuel knew that he should not be disturbed for long.
‘I wasn’t finished,’ said Mr Ackermann. ‘Please sit down. I want for you to be able to continue working in this trade once you are done here. I want to give you some money to set up your own business. I have put aside £200 in goods. They will be yours.’
Samuel couldn’t say anything. He was confused. He was shocked. His feelings showed on his face in flashes.
‘I want you to open your own bookshop, Samuel,’ said Mr Ackermann.
‘But I don’t care about the money,’ said Samuel. ‘I care about working alongside you. You’re a father to me.’
Mr Ackermann was gobsmacked. Samuel had never said this before. ’You should accept the offer…You say that I am like a father to you. I want you to know that you are the only person I want to give these goods to. You are more like a son than any of my previous apprentices. You are dedicated, on time and hard working. You are able to keep the books well. You handle them with care. You deserve it.’
‘Is that all?’ Samuel asked. ’Should I get back to work?’
‘Go and have a couple of minutes to think about what just happened. And then, yes, can you please get back to work.’
Samuel didn’t go for his break. He went straight back to the books. As he made a new stock list of the titles, he began to look towards his future. It looked hectic. He would have to organise a lot of things. He would have to get his own customers. It was scary but exciting. It had been a long day already. It all felt too big. His mind went in loops throughout the afternoon.
When Samuel lay in bed that evening, Mr Ackermann’s words were still fresh in his mind. Samuel’s mind was always busy but now it was in overdrive. The past, the present, the future – everything. It was all on top of him. His parents (whoever they were). The Hospital. The future. He didn’t know what to do. Life had given him a curveball. He eased himself to sleep with one thought in mind: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.