The Shelf of Blue Books

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There is a car stopped and parked directly outside the front window of the shop and it is another quiet day but those people getting out of that car are not quiet. They are a group of five retired people and the first lady out of the car swings her door vigorously into the veranda post.
She says: Oh, shit John.
He comes around to her side, kindly. Did you dent my door… you bloody did too.
They examine the dent, leaning close, she has her glasses on the absolute end of her nose. She says: oh, don’t worry about that, that’s nothing… but he bends closer, looking doubtful. There are two more ladies, crowding in and looking solitious.
She says: I’m going over to the tootie, come on girls. And they shuffle off together, carrying bags, cardigans, hats and irreverence.
Another man emerges from the car and comes around to stand on the footpath. He calls out: you girls watch what you’re doing.
He says to the luckless John: If she gets run over, she’ll blame me. Then they examined the post that injured his car.
When’s your insurance due, mate? They move to the edge of the road and talk in low voices.
Then they turn and look through the shop window, They say nothing. They bend to look through the window. Still they say nothing. Conversation has come to a halt, they are looking at books and there is nothing to say.

Then the second man says: pointless sort of places there, aren’t they? Pointless having these anymore.

He looks back across the road, back to something that is not pointless: gawd, here they come, look at ’em coming across that road like that.
But the first man, John, stood for longer looking through at the books.

He says: well, my grandmother had a shelf, full of book and all of em blue, actually it was nice, we kiddies used to stand in front of it, not allowed to touch them, wouldn’t have dared, my grandfather was a bastard, a cruel old fool. But those books, they were important. Because they were nice, added colour to her life that was really shitty. I only just remembered it.

The others crowded close, breathing on my window, looking polite, waiting for the story to end.
One lady said: very nice.
Then John took his hat off and nodded at the window. The he put his hat back on. He said: well, let’s get a cup of coffee then.

 

 

 

 

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