But then he came back

Joseph Lorusso

‘Thanks man. Thank you kindly. God bless.’
When this young man came into the shop, I asked him, ‘Are you a teacher or a student?’
‘No, actually, I’m a Christian. You gotta read, man.’

I agreed.

‘Occasionally I’ll drop in, for now on, and I’ll get something, ok?’

I said that that would be great, and he turned to leave, but came back to me.
‘This is great, good on you. This’ll do me for the winter, great stuff. And I want to thank you for being open and being here because we still need books.’
He stood there, a tall bonfire. Gesturing. Holding Plato, Jonathan Swift, and The Lives of the Poets. Trying to find sentences. Unable.
Me, trying to find sentences; unable.
Then he was gone, walking past my window, strongly with his head down, swinging the books in front of him where they admired the winter and dismissed the cold.

Painting by Joseph Lorusso

Oh….

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“Nowadays I can usually tell where a bean was grown, as well as its species. These come from South America, from a small, organic farm. But for all my skill, I have never seen a flower from the Theobroma cacao tree, which only blooms for a single day, like something in a fairytale. I have seen photographs, of course. In them, the cacao blossom looks something like a passionflower: five-petaled and waxy, but small, like a tomato plant, and without that green and urgent scent. Cacao blossoms are scentless; keeping their spirit inside a pod roughly the shape of a human heart. Today I can feel that heart beating: a quickening inside the copper pan that will soon release a secret.
Half a degree more of heat, and the chocolate will be ready. A filter of steam rises palely from the glossy surface. Half a degree, and the chocolate will be at its most tender and pliant.”


Joanne Harris, The Strawberry Thief

The small hand waving; a moth’s wing

Alexandros Christofis (2)

This family; three adults, one child. Spent a long time here in the bookshop talking, nodding, browsing, talking more. And the child – I hardly saw him. He was quiet, absorbed in a book about rockets. He sat in the cane armchair under the heater. His family circled, murmuring, calling out to one another. One of them took a phone call, which was mostly laughing in low tones to the caller.

The child read.

The phone call ended.

‘What’d he say?’

‘Said it’s still on.’

‘No way.’

‘Yep.’ More laughing.

The child read laying back, head relaxed, the book held up in the air.

They gathered to go. Suddenly they were all in front of me, tangled, talking and jostling, trying to get out of the door. I said ‘goodbye’. But they didn’t hear me.

But the child did. He had one finger looped into the pocket of his mother’s jacket. She was pulling him along, gently. He looked back; looked at me. His other hand, down at his waist, waved, a wing, a fin, held up in acknowledgement and kept there until I saw it, then lowered. I looked at him. He looked at me. Then they left.

Boy Reading by Alexandros Christofis

I might start reading Hemingway. I might start reading him. See what it’s all about.

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Men in orange work overalls, two of them, came into the shop. I had The Beatles playing, and one said, ‘Penny Lane!’

They had bottles of coke, they wore beanies and silver earrings. They consulted smartphones.

‘I might start reading Hemingway. I might start reading him. See what it’s all about.’ His friend nodded, ok.

They handled the classics. Alex Garland’s, The Beach made one of them put down his coke. He read the back of the book, kneeling on the floor.

The other man disappeared into the back room.

He came back to science fiction.

Leans back to see the top shelf, hands crossed across his front, holding the coke by the neck. Leaning now in front of art. Trying to see the bottom shelves.

Now, leaning into fantasy, resting a shoulder. The other man is still on the floor, his boots are tremendous; clutched by mud.

‘Cheers mate. Better go.’ They move quietly, slowly.

‘Do you take card, mate?’ (to me). One is buying Dexter. ‘I’ve seen this series.’

‘Cheers.’ They turn to leave, but one comes back. His friend treads patiently from side to side.

‘I’ll just get this as well. It’s reasonable.’

He says to his friend, ‘It’s reasonable. Need my wallet.’

He dashes out to a car, then back in, ‘Sorry mate (to me), didn’t have enough.’

His friend stands patiently, holding the door with outstretched arm, head resting on the arm, one boot on top of the other, gently.

‘Better get back.’

He pays. They leave quietly. Out into the bright cold.

Choosing a raspberry cardigan

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I went shopping for clothes with my daughter. We entered a young person’s clothing store. Beautiful, with wood, space, light, and music. And metal – the racks, the posts all shone.  The clothing displays matched – hazelnut, vanilla, snow grey, powder blue, black. Cinnamon. Chocolate. Everything caring about the approach of winter. The staff were young. Confident. They approached my daughter, but not me. I stood near the boxes of coat hangers and clothes relegated to discards. This is the place to be. From here, all of life.

There are people turning in front of mirrors, first one way, then another, faces softening between despair and possibility.

‘It’s not me.’

‘I love this.’

Craning the neck, ‘What’s it doing back there…is it straight?’

‘Is this all right?’

Staring hard, intensely, into the streaky shop mirrors at reflections that won’t obey. Not blinking. Willing it to work.

‘This isn’t working.’

‘Ok, that’s ok, do you want another size?’

‘No.’ Depressed.

Levi’s, Moto, Lee. Outland. A sign that says Nudie Jeans are coming. Another sign taped to the wall, Recycle Your Jeans Here. Ask Us How.

A young woman stretches gently a raspberry cardigan. It is still on its hanger. She turns it this way. Then another way. She rubs her thumb delicately across the tiny fruit buttons.  Is it soft? Is it strong? Will it be kind to me?

What are we looking for when we shop? What are we looking for? What do we think we know?

‘I’ll get this.’

The shop staff, they love everything. Everything is cute.

‘Great. Isn’t it great. It looks great on you. I love this too.’ 

I’ll pay with card.’

‘Great. That’s a cute bag.’

‘Oh my God, thanks,’

There are huge crosses on the floor. At the entrance, a table with hand sanitizer. And printed instructions on How This Shop is Keeping You Safe.

‘How much are the shoes?’

‘Do you have any eights?’

‘I was hoping for black maybe..’

At the entrance, a commotion because school has finished and young people are gathering, loud, exuberant, and not standing on the crosses.

One saleswoman calls, ‘Ellie, can you go sort those kids, none of ‘em have used the sanitizer.’ I watch Ellie, with chewing gum, head strongly for the door.

 

My artery

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Two men met up with a crash in the doorway of my shop. Neither had been expecting the other. It was cold; they were hurrying. They shouted at each other to stop.

‘What’s wrong with your gopher?’

Here? Needs a seat belt. Going down Mitre 10, getting some screws, see it’s come away again.’

‘Oh yeah.’

‘Piece of shit.’

‘Ha. Yeah,’

They sort of settled in. One leaning against the window. One sitting.

‘What’s been happening.’

‘Me artery, thickening they said. Or something.’

‘You going in?’

‘Yeah. First available appointment. Fukn Royal Adelaide.

‘Yeah. Gees.’

‘Doc said I better.’ I didn’t even know I had that.

‘Pain in the arse, mate.’

Yeah, bullshit, isn’t it.

They were motionless for a minute, watching people go past. Watching people come in here. Watching a man standing next to his car and hand each of his children a pink iced bun from a cardboard tray. Through my door I can see coconut all over the ground.

‘I used to have a really good health.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Take it easy, mate.’

The window darkens, shadows, then I look up again, and they are gone.

The man at the car is bending to speak through the rear car window, ‘They only had pink ones, I’m not going back.’ Then he straightens up, drinks all the rest of his coffee and walks back past my window toward the bakery.

 

Photography by Charles Millen

At the window

Jonathan Cooper (2)

“I have not always had this certainty, this pessimism which reassures the best among us.
There was
a time when my friends laughed at me.
I was not the master of my words.
A certain indifference, I
have not always known well what I wanted to say, but most often it was because I had nothing to
say.
The necessity of speaking and the desire not to be heard.
My life hanging only by a thread.

There was a time when I seemed to understand nothing.
My chains floated on the water.

All my desires are born of my dreams.
And I have proven my love with words.
To what fantastic
creatures have I entrusted myself, in what dolorous and ravishing world has my imagination
enclosed me? I am sure of having been loved in the most mysterious of domains, my own.
The language of my love does not belong to human language, my human body does not touch the flesh
of my love.
My amorous imagination has always been constant and high enough so that nothing
could attempt to convince me of error.”

Paul Eluard (1895-1952)

Painting by Jonathon Cooper

Small things like shapes

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I wrote this in January 2017, on Australia Day. It was summer. Now it is winter, which always makes me think about summer.

“A child said to me that he likes my glass lantern because he likes small things like shapes. He said that when he looked into the glass he could see cars going past, and that the cars looked better in the lantern than they did going along the road as real cars. His mother told him there were Beast Quest books on the shelf, and he said, ‘Maybe’.

She said there were also some Star Wars, and he said, ‘Maybe’.

A lady was pleased to see a copy of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. She said it is on her to read list which has a thousand books on it already. She said the list is wearying. She did not see the lantern.

It is Australia Day. The family with the small boy who likes shapes are across the road; they have been to the bakery. The father is trying to interest the child in some food but he is standing with his nose pressed against the fir tree, he must be looking at more shapes. The father looks weary. The child drops the paper bag on the ground and looks down at the spilt food. He makes binoculars with his fists and looks down at the broken food. His knees are bent with concentration. The parents are having an argument.

Just outside the door of my shop a man has opened his esky on the pavement, and there is no ice. His wife asks him why he can’t even pack an esky properly. He raises both hands in the air and stands there motionless, but she has gotten back into the car. Then she locks all the doors.

I wonder if anyone else will come in for a book today. Then I remembered the small boy who likes shapes; he had chosen a book called Pharaoh’s Boat which had pyramids on the front. So I did sell a book today!”

I couldn’t get into it

Paola Grizi

People who love to read speak more eloquently of it than they realize.

Two ladies, friends, came into the shop, and one said she was not going to buy a book –  she didn’t need one. But her friend bought two. One was a murder mystery. She said, ‘This is something I’ll get into.’

Her friend read the back of it, and said, ‘Woo.’ Then she said she might get one. ‘I have a library book, but I can’t get into it.’

They both spoke of the act of reading as physical and immersive.

The other lady replied, ‘Why’s that? What is it?’

‘Oh, some mystery. I got lost.’

‘What happens?’

‘Don’t know, couldn’t follow it.’

‘Yeah. Hate that. This looks good, though. Once I’m in, that’s it for me.’

‘Like Sue Grafton.’

‘That the ABC lady?

‘Yeah. I’m really into those. And J.D. Robb. Takes me out of here.’

‘Yeah, yeah.’

 

Sculpture by Paola Grizi