Today is grey, warm and quiet. The cars driving past are all headed for Christmas. A few visitors come in, looking idly for books; one man was looking for Milang. Albert dropped in to say Merry Christmas and that once, when he drove trucks, he took a load of books to Melbourne, thousands of them, all packed into crates. He said: I had a look in the back when they were unloading because they said it was an urgent load and I had to drive all night, books by some bird called Joan Collins. She was in Melbourne signing them or something. Do you think I should have read one of em? Who is she anyway?
I was asked for The Silver Brumby.
An older man spent a long time looking at a Geronimo Stilton. He looked puzzled.
A lady bought a complete Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales. She said I love these, so much more than the Grimm Brothers. They were just so….grim! I just want to read them, I don’t need to study or know everything about them. I have a husband who thinks he knows everything. She looked grim.
There are two ladies in the front room and one tells her friend that her grandson said last Christmas: why did you get me a book? Why didn’t you get me a Transformer? And so now she is getting him another book. They both laugh toward each other and laugh until one begins to wheeze and wheeze. She gasps out: if he doesn’t like it he gets nothing. But my daughter told me I should get him what he wants.
Her friend says OH FOR GOD’S SAKE!
And they both laugh and laugh again. They are silver and elegant and one has a small tattoo. Then they discussed their adult daughters for a long time, they did not look at any books.
Then it is quiet for a long time. I read The Historian… and it is very good. In this book it is mid-winter in England. And everything is freezing, including Dracula. Here it is hot, but the snow and dust mingle nicely and logically.
I am asked for The History of Tom Jones and then Rumpole of the Bailey.
Outside passers-by comment: this is a nice shop! But they do not come in.
An old man buys some books for his granddaughter in England. He is worried that the family won’t approve. He said: this might put me in the bad books again.
Some children paused outside to eat an enormous bag of chips. There is an argument. One child says they must eat them all NOW because he is not allowed to buy this many chips at once or he will be killed by his mum.
I see Robert hurrying past but he does not come in.
I wonder what else should be happening because it is Christmas…
Then a man came in and asked for a map book but I didn’t have one. He said he’s at the caravan park here, and leaving soon. He and his wife had travelled to South Australia, their last trip, she died of cancer soon after they arrived here which was four days ago. And he just wanted a map book; he thought he might drive a little further; he did not want to go home right now.
But I didn’t have one. He said not to worry, and he went to the bakery. I saw him there through the window, eating at a table all by himself. He had said they had 18 years on the road traveling together before she got cancer.
Photography by Markus Spiske