Plucky little man

A quiet, little man foils a daylight attack on his grocery store. This is a true story - the plucky man was my father

Plucky… the word is no longer in fashion, but it's the sort of word the local newspaper would have used to describe my Dad, if he'd let them. The word speaks of tenacity and bravery - but not in big ways that might win medals or frighten opponents. I stopped being frightened of my Dad when I was still young. He was very determined but, unlike many people of his stature, he wasn't aggressive. He was slim, well proportioned, but measured just 5 foot 2 inches tall when he stood in his socks - his size five shoes laid neatly aside. He was short and he was gentle, but he would never be bullied or cowed. He stood his ground whatever the issue and was frightened of nobody. If anyone thought that his smallness would make him an easy target they soon learned their miscalculation.

Three opportunist robbers learned the hard way when they tried to rob his shop. Dad was a grocer. He hadn't always been in that business, but the fact that he became one was another demonstration of his determination not to be beaten by people or circumstances. My Birth Certificate records that he had been a piano tuner, but he gave that up long before I remember him. When he came out of the army the piano tuning business was slack, so he re-invented himself as an accordion repairer. My childhood memories are infused with the smell of glue and the sounds of tuning scales played on the accordions he had mended. He must have been good at it, because it kept him busy for quite a few years, but then musical fashions changed again and he had to start another career. That's when he bought the grocery store.

It was a small business, conducted in a lock-up unit that had once been a garage. Nevertheless, his efforts turned the little venture into a local money-spinner that expanded into the adjacent units and looked prosperous. All that prosperity guarded by so small a man presented an irresistible temptation for the three-man gang that approached the shop that day. Brisk morning trade had given way to a quiet afternoon, and Mum had gone home to catch up with some housework. Dad was alone; busying himself with some of the jobs that can't be done when there are customers to serve.

"Gi's the money!"
The leader of the trio came straight to the point.

Dad had been slicing ham and, as he turned round in surprise, the blade of his long knife pointed directly at the spokesman. Without thinking, he moved towards his attackers. It wasn't a lunge, but they panicked, and one of them made a grab for the threatening weapon. Dad took a pace back as the young man's hands closed around the newly sharpened blade. The robbery attempt was foiled, and the would-be attackers fled from the shop, bleeding, and in fear of their lives.

The Police Station was barely two hundred yards from the Hospital, so the Officers had an easy task when Dad phoned to report what had happened. They wandered round to Casualty and arrested the first man who came in with bleeding hands. The local press wanted to make a front-page feature about the plucky grocer who fought off a gang, but Dad refused to co-operate. To him it was a small matter. He didn't want to win medals or frighten anyone.

© Derrick Phillips - 2000