Sweet Charity - Lyn Mitchell

Sweet Charity

By Lyn Mitchell


Based on life I’ve known



The RSPCA charity shop lived in a small shopping centre at the Burwood East junction on Burwood Highway and High Street Road. Convenience and a feeling of village life makes the shopping centre a popular destination.

A tram reaches its destination outside the shopping centre. The razor-like edge of the blue and beige RSPCA animal protection building across the road slices the skyline.


The interior of the RSPCA charity shop is small. The clothes racks are full and squishy, stored in sizes, in the middle of the room. On top of the racks are various sizes of soft toys piled high.

Around the shop are shelves full of practical household items – coffee mugs, shoes, knitting needles, books, hats, bags, glasses, jewellery, and even Tupperware. Its ware reflects the middle-class area the shopping centre caters to.

The shop is staffed by one SALES LADY sitting on her chair at the front counter and others sorting out the back. The laughter and murmuring of their voices can be heard in the shop.

On this day, besides sisters Tracy, 49, and Trish, 47, three other women are also browsing through the racks.

Tracy has brown hair, short and styled with a modern flair of a cut that shows a long neck. She has freckles, wide blue eyes with dark lashes, and an upturned mouth. She is 162 cm, dressed in monochromatic colours. A loose but smart top covers the extra weight she carries. Trish has long, Hollywood-style, blonde hair, a pale complexion, wide grey eyes but her mouth is tight lipped. Her dress is stylish, a tailored effect and with silver jewellery.

Trish sighs heavily and shrugs her shoulders high. She exhales dramatically and raises one eyebrow while she looks towards her sister.


Tracy? Can’t we leave now? We’ve been here hours.

Tracy continues to rummage through a pile of clothes on the other side of the store.


Trish, it’s only been about 30 minutes. You do dramatise–


–I do not!

Trish folds her arms, turns on her heels and starts to walk away.


Try to have more patience, please. I often pick up brand names amongst the normal stuff.

Tracy pushes her body further into the bulging hanging garments checking for size on each one that might fit.

Trish throws her right hand up into the air and hesitantly turns to the racks of garments.


(looking exasperated)

I just don’t know what you see in it. All the dust and who knows what you will find amongst all this rubbish.

Tracy stops looking at clothes and stares at Trish.

A TEENAGE GIRL pushes past both women and knocks into Trish. Trish utters a guttural sound of despair.


Bloody hell–


(looking apologetic)

–Sorry ladies. The racks are pretty full today, aren’t they?

Tracy and Trish allow the Teenage Girl to squeeze between them and the racks.


It’s not rubbish. Some things are almost new. Besides, Mum used to love coming to this shop. We would often come together.

Trish’s mouth tightens. Her shoulders tighten, and her eyes stare ahead at Tracy.

Tracy’s head and eyes are totally absorbed by the handbag she has pulled from the racks and talks at the bag rather than Trish.


Half of our wardrobe as teenagers came from here. Look what I’ve got here. Mum would have made me get a bag to match. Let’s find a bag.

Trish’s eyes mist up. She holds herself tighter.


I guess you and Mum came here together quite a bit. I wonder why you didn’t ask if I would like to come.


You made your views clear. So, we didn’t bother.

Trish’s face colours. She tugs at her bag and her mouth grimaces.


Well, you should have. All those hours we could have had together. Let’s just go. I can’t stand this anymore.

Trish walks outside of the shop while Tracy pays for her goods, including the bag she found, at the counter.

The sales lady rings up the cost, packs the clothing and handbag into a plastic bag, smiles, and hands over the bag.


(Pointing into the bag)

Thank you. That’s a lovely handbag you’ve found.


(taking the plastic bag)

Yes, my mum would love it. She’s not with us now. I’ll have to find someone else to help me find bargains. My sister is not a fan.


Hopefully, we see you again. Bye.

Tracy goes to the front door and leaves the shop to join Trish outside.


Trish is waiting outside impatiently. Tracy joins her.


Where are we going for lunch?

There is silence while both women awkwardly look down, then look at each other.



I don’t feel like lunch. Don’t ask me again to go op-shopping. If I wasn’t good enough when Mum was alive, I’m sure I’m not now.


(looking stunned)

Really? I thought it would be good to do something Mum loved and do it together.



I think I’ve had enough nostalgia today. I’ll catch you next week. I’ve wasted enough time this morning. I need to get home.

Trish turns and walks quickly away, across the road to the carpark.

Tracy frowns and puts the purchases down on the ground beside her. She puts her head to one side as if to think, then runs her hand through her hair. She appears to tug at it slightly.

Tracy sighs, picks up her bags of garments, and leaves in the opposite direction.


Tracy is sitting on the lounge room floor rug. The carpet is worn, and the rug is thick and homely. It fits into the style of the middle class, 70s era of comfort, particularly in Victoria with cooler temperatures. A classical style lounge suite, traditional English floral chintz sofa and armchairs are positioned around the edges of the room. The rug is scattered with tops, bags, bits, and pieces bought at the charity shop.

Tracy is sitting quietly, staring at the paraphernalia.

Trish and Tracy’s dad, ARTHUR, 72, is sitting in his armchair. Arthur is a tall, heavy built man, with a grey receding hair line. He is dressed in a plaid flannelette shirt and tracksuit pants.

Tracy is dressed in a t-shirt and tracksuit pants. She breathes out a long sigh.

Arthur looks up from the woodwork magazine he is reading.


(looking benevolent)

What’s up Tuppence? Are you missing home?

Tracy looks up at her dad, leans back on her hands, then leans forward. She folds her arms.


I don’t know Dad. Just something–-


–You’ve been here for months now. I’ll be fine, love. I’ll always miss her but Mum’s all around us. Her perfume still lingers.

Tracy sighs.


I know, Dad. I just miss her so. Trish has always been able to cope with emotions more than I can. She has this big social life and I’m happy for her, but Mum missed her, I miss her.

Arthur gets up, pulls her up, and hugs her.


Let’s have a family dinner and I think you should make plans to go home. We need to take care of ourselves a bit now.


Tracy and her partner CAMERON,50, are sitting on the left side of the dark wooden dining table. Cameron has grey hair and is distinguished looking.

Trish and her partner GREG,50, are sitting opposite Tracy and Cameron. Greg is a tall, bald man with dark eyes and an olive complexion. Arthur is sitting at the head of the table.

The table is covered with a damask tablecloth, and a Noritake dinner setting is laid out in front of each family member. Condiments are in the middle of the table and a small loaf of homecooked bread is beside Arthur on a block of wood. The remains of mixed salads are spaced around the table.


Thereissmalltalkaroundthe table between the other four family members who are finishing their meal.

Tracy has left the table and brings out the bag she bought at the charity shop.



This is what I bought the other day. It reminded me of Mum. I couldn’t leave it there.




Do you have to! Jesus Christ, leave it be Tracy. Greg, I want to go home. Dad, I’ll call you.

Trish gets to her feet and starts to move out of her chair.


Trish! I brought it out for a reason. I liked it. I had a moment thinking of mum. Maybe it’s time to go through Mum’s clothes. Dad thinks so.

Arthur’s eyebrows arch. He gives a little cough and looks all around the table.


(voice thin and higher range)



I think so, love. She’s gone and you need to live your life. There’s so much in front of you.


I can’t. I can’t. Thank you for dinner. I’ll talk to you soon, Tracy! Goodnight, all.

Trish moves further away from the table.

Greg wipes his mouth on the napkin and rises. He then moves with Trish away from the table.

Trish picks up her bag and they leave the room.


Tracy dissolves into tears.

Cameron gets up from the table and hugs her.


Their mother’s clothes, dresses, jumpers, shoes, bags, coats, and costume jewellery in a box are all jumbled on the bed. The cupboard doors are open, and black plastic bags are on the floor.

Tracy picks up the bag she bought again and opens it. Arthur enters the room.

Tracy is fossicking inside the bag and brings out a small piece of plastic with earrings attached.


Look Dad, a pair of gold earrings. Just like Mum. This lady must have shoved them in her bag on the way out the door. Must be a sign.



Must be Trish. Hope she’s in a better mood.


I’ll let her in.

Arthur leaves the room.


Smaller piles of clothes are still on the bed. Several plastic bags on the floor are now full. Tracy and Trish are putting more into bags.

Tracy stops and picks up a bag. She opens the bag and muses with a sigh.

Trish looks up and stops filling the plastic bag.


Is that a special one?


It was a favourite.


Trace, I’m sorry for the other day. I know it’s hard for all of us.

Tracy slips the bag over her arm and walks around the bed towards Trish. She looks quizzically at her sister as she reaches her.

No words said. Both women hug deeply with tears in their eyes.

Arthur walks in. He makes a small sound in the back of his throat and interrupts the moment.


You girls nearly finished? I’ve got lunch on.

Arthur points at the bag. His face is full of emotion, but his mouth is smiling with a hint of laughter.



Is that Mum’s favourite bag? Better check it for earrings.

Arthur’s laugh deepens, and he walks out of the room.


Tracy starts to open the bag again and yells after him.


(giggles softly)

Thanks, Dad.

Tracy turns to Trish and holds out the bag.


Dad’s referring to this bag. The one I bought the other day. There was a pair of earrings inside just like Mum used to do.

Trish takes up a bag and checks inside.


Nothing in this one though. Hand me that silver one. She loved that.

Bought it for my wedding.

Trish starts to tear up.


Come on. Let’s get through this and take the bags tomorrow to the charity shop. Dad’s lunch is getting cold.

Tracy opens the silver bag.


Just a tick.

Tracy looks in the bag and finds a TattsLotto ticket. She holds up the ticket.


Hey looky here, no earrings but a Tatts ticket. Let’s take these tomorrow and go to lunch. Check this out at the newsagent.



The sisters start to walk out of the room. Tracy keeps the ticket in her hand to show their dad.


Black plastic bags are piled on the floor in front of the counter. Tracy and Trish are standing together beside them. The sisters and the Sales Lady are talking pleasantries and are about to leave, having handed over the bags to the charity shop.


Thank you, ladies. I’m sure your donation will help support our charity.


Mum loved this shop, so it’s only right you have them. And I will see you next time I visit my dad.

Trish speaks to the sales lady and at the same time turns to speak to her sister.


You won’t see me but thank you anyway. Shall we go to lunch, Trace?

The girls leave the shop. Tracy turns and gives a little wave goodbye to the Sales Lady.


Let’s not forget the ticket.


The NEWSAGENT LADY stands behind the counter in front of the TattsLotto ticket machine. She is a short, round woman of about 55 with glasses, quite thick and curly greying hair, a pleasant-shaped mouth and eyes that sparkle. She is wearing a worn but expensive suit in grey wool. She appears happy in her job and greets the sisters happily.


Good day, ladies. Can I help you?

Tracy hands the ticket over the counter.


Hope there’s enough here to pay for lunch.


It’s theoretically actually Dad’s ticket.

The Newsagent lady takes the ticket, and it is scanned.


(smiling broadly)

Congratulations! You’ve won five hundred and ten thousand dollars and twenty-nine cents.

The sisters stare in unison at the Newsagent Lady.

Tracy brings her hands to her mouth in disbelief.

Trish grabs Tracy’s arms to steady herself.

Silence lingers.




You’ve won five hundred and ten thousand dollars and twenty-nine cents.

Tracy and Trish embrace.


Really? – Really? This is enough to help Dad get into that retirement village.

Trish looks at Tracy.


It is Dad’s money!


Of course, it is. Good golly this is unreal. I…I can’t believe it. What a blessing. And I can go home earlier. What a shock this will be.

Both women are silent for a moment.


I promise, not to be such a superior-type sister. I’ll miss Mum so much as the years pass. But I have a beautiful sister to help me through my silly hissy fits.

Both Tracy and Trish tear up and hug again.


She won’t go far. She’s in our hearts as long as we live. Let’s skip lunch and go home to tell Dad.


Yes, let’s.

Tracy and Trish turn to the Newsagent Lady who is smiling broadly.


Thank you. I think our Mum was close by today.

Tracy collects the paperwork for the money from the Newsagent Lady.

Tracy and Trish grab each other’s hands while they walk out the front door of the Newsagency, smiling.