This morning a man came charging across the street and collided with my door hard enough for me to think that he had fallen into it. But he hadn’t.
He was angry though.
He said “I can’t find the door…”
I asked him “Which door…?”
He said, “The door to the bloody bakery, what do you think I meant?”
I looked at him and he looked at me as though waiting for me to find the door on my counter somewhere.
Then I made a mistake. I thought I would be funny, I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t sell doors here.”
He was outraged. I had not helped him at all. He ducked his head down and stared at the doormat. I wondered what kind of diabolical timetable he was following to make his days so harrowing.
He decided to be patient and kind and to speak more slowly in case it was me who was the bloody stupid one. He said “To get into a bakery there needs to be a door….”
I said: “The door to the bakery is just around the corner, where the bakery is.”
He hung onto my door frame, and his head snapped to the left. He looked at the bakery tables on the corner in amazement,. He was genuinely shocked.
He said, “Thanks.”
I said, “See you.”
They are streaming past the windows of the shop, ribbons of them flowing up and down, like birds that jump and bounce because it is morning and amongst them their teacher saying: work it out you kids, tell me the best way to get through to the oval.
There followed an immediate thousand answers called out in a symphony of help and cooperation, would he hear a single one of them? They keep on filing past.
Strathalbyn is actually so bad… I caught this sentence, chipped out with precision and authority.
Can we go Pestkas…? This call was fluted over the top of the lines, intended for a teacher somewhere.
Can we stop Woolies…?
Which way to the oval? I heard the same young teacher just before he was drowned again in assistance.
Can we go Franks? I wondered where this was.
I’m not carrying your stuff!
He’s got a second storey mansion.
No, he doesn’t.
A boy hopped past leaving behind a trail of bird calls. There was a teacher following and looking annoyed. She told him to keep to the footpath. He regarded her. He was a canary and had no need of footpaths.
What’s your name?
What name? This girl was walking backwards, turning and turning but always remaining backwards.
This place, it’s always closed.
I know, right..
These were the last of the last, the girl tapped a water bottle against the windows as they passed.
Soon the street was silent again and there was nobody out there.
He came into the shop and the first thing he said was wow, sorry!
Then he told me about Moby Dick and did I know that every tough gangster in every big deal movie featured that exact gangster in jail reading Moby Dick…
So now, this customer was reading Moby Dick and taking a long time about it because each time he returned to the book he had to go backwards a couple of chapters and regroup , you know, to get it all going again.
His girlfriend was the most intelligent person he knew and was always reading, always, all the time and never stopped and so now he was going read everything too.
He talked about Animal Farm, 1984 and Brave New World, some guy had told him to read these as well,
He said: lovely!
He said that his girlfriend was like, amazing, and that I would think she was the most intelligent person I had ever met, and this is because she is. She told him to get reading and he was like: all right, all right I’m doing it. He loved Moby Dick.
Moby Dick (he said) had heroes and death and bargains, it had toughness and tough blokes and all the time this bloody whale. Does he even get the whale? What’s with the whale? It had boats and that shit that makes candles. But the tough people.
He had both hands raised up trying to sketch out the toughness, but he stopped and looked embarrassed. He said: I guess you hear this all the time…the trouble is that I’m just getting into it.
He reminded me that his girlfriend was such an attraction and I would see it if I met her.
Then he left, swung out of the door the same way he came in and said: bless you darling, it’s good that you are into books like this, and then he was gone…
Photography by Doreen Kilfeather