Amazing how this camera angle makes my shop look so good!
Father and Son are here (again). They’ve been visiting for 10 years, since son was about 8. That would make him around 18 now; he’s grave and courteous and choosing outstanding and bewildering literature.
These parents always brought their children to the shop in the school holidays and let them burrow down and choose their own stuff. Wise. I remember the children were dark and quiet with bright-eyes and shared jokes without saying anything.
Now Father and Son are here again and he’s no longer at school. Still bright-eyes looking at me over a black mask and holding a copy of Arcadian Adelaide by Thistle Anderson (which is hilarious), and how could an 18 year old know about that book. But he does. With his large serious watch and thatch of wild hair.
But now Dad’s found a find on a shelf.
‘Goon Show, Harry.’
But Harry’s got Arcadian Adelaide and isn’t looking up. But it doesn’t matter. Families are like that, especially when it comes to reading.
Dad’s reading titles aloud: ‘My Goblin Therapist, I want my daughter to see this. She’ll want this.’ Families that read do that. They know about each other’s reading.
The father says to me: ‘Where’s your satire section?’, and I say: ‘At home.’ He understands.
Dad stands and looks at shelves. Son kneels easily with no cracking joints or signals from muscles. Both men absorbed.
‘Dad.’ Son gives an urgent low call.
Dad turns slightly, but is himself unable leave something.
Son is not perturbed because just registering interest is enough; just moving the air slightly with breath is enough. For family.
Harry has hands in pockets and feet crossed, relaxed.
Then he sits with phone.
Dad stares into science fiction.
They have a stack ready, but for now they just sit or stand and stare at things.
Painting by Vickie Wade
“The proper, wise balancing of one’s whole life may depend upon the feasibility of a cup of tea at an unusual hour.”
Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), How to Live on 24 Hours a Day
Ceramics by Elizabeth Price
Laughers are people who just keep on laughing. They use laughing as speech. And each piece of laugh is an actual sentence with words and eyes that only they can understand. These two started it at the door.
‘I don’t actually need any books.’
‘I want a copy of…..I had one….but I gave it away.’ They came in bursting with their own news.
‘Oh right. Lets look around. This is cute. Where’s your book anyway?’
‘I gave it away away away.’ They laughed low and long.
‘What is it?’ They laughed low and loud.
‘Ohhhhhhh. Ok. Ok. You getting it?’
‘Yeaaaah. Ha. Look at this: Jonathon Livingston Seagull.’
‘Oh God, he’s Jonathon Livingston Seagull.’
I liked their clothes: sandals and soft cotton things from another era. Everything she did, he admired. Everywhere she went he followed. She looked back to make sure. He looked at her making sure.
‘Do you like these books? Do you prefer to cook from a screen?’
‘I don’t know. Is this low carb? Is this good? Should I get it’
‘There’s this guy that I work with at work. He’s quite interesting.’ He followed her listening and prepared to not like that guy at her work who was not interesting.
But she’d already forgotten that guy. ‘Oh God, look at these cat books.’ He followed her, quite rapt and agreeing on the cat books.
They swayed on past me and I couldn’t hear them anymore.
Then they came back, and he read out my signs of advice over the front door: read wildly read wisely read widely. He looked at her wildly. With his wild eyes over the blue slightly crooked mask.
They went back to classics and stayed there on their knees, leant over books and talked in whispers about Saul Bellow for ages and ages, and outside, the hot day just had to go on without them in it for most of the afternoon.
Illustrations by Linda Rothchild Ollis and Magda Boreysza
There was a small group in here, a family by the way they talked to each other, and they must read a lot because they shuffled around without checking where they were going; they didn’t mind running into each other. That’s how you know it’s a family.
Anyway, the father and daughter, both stalking the same reading material, collided softly in front of writers and writing , and stayed together hugging, but still looking down at the books they each held in one hand.
“They were fine and slender. At any given moment they stopped every bit as much lines, every bit much in the same state as at the beginning. Interrupted, always interrupted not because they terminated, but because no one could take them to the end. Circles were more perfect, less tragic and didn’t move her enough. Circles were the work of man, finished before death and not even God could finish them better. While straight, fine, freestanding lines – were like thoughts.”
Clarice Lispector, Near to the Wild Heart
When I pass wheelie bins on foot (rather than car), I am closer to their plastic mouths and throats and so can examine contents with a critical face. And note who put the wrong bin out. And who places things incorrectly, or, worse still, doesn’t sort at all.
When I pull my bins to the road, I hope nobody notices any of my bin discretions.
Once our bin got swapped with our neighbour’s, which is impossible. Our neighbour had just cleaned his. Ours was truly foul. And his ended up at our gate, where we later exchanged bins but not eye contact.
The truck drivers did it. Because why not; it’s a sensational way to blend citizen angst and make our recycling look doubtful, seeing as it isn’t ours.
I admire binners who cast their bins to the road broadside and trudge back inside without looking back. Disregard council instructions this side to road and spin the bin so its chest is angled wrong and its lips oily from the cracked margarine container clamped butter side up to the roof of its mouth.
I put my bins side by side so they can sit with straight ankles and thin mouths and hate all the other bins in the road who all rock and spill the weeks data at each other. Bin gossip.
‘Full of magazines and margarine lol.’
‘Busted crockery, busted bit of fireplace, bit of old rug.’
‘Got stood up.’
‘Someone took a mask out o me and used her again.’
‘What’s that under yr rib?’
‘Can of spew.’
‘They recying bits of tiffany lamps, they?’
‘Nope. Garry’ll ditch that.’
‘Parrently that family there’ve got a new coffee table nice one with tiles stuck on and none loose.’
‘Yeah. You’ll be eating ‘em soon. Varnish like sugar. Give us one when they come.’
‘Here he comes that stupid truck. Get ready to spew. The barker of Barker. Seatbelts.’
But my bins only whisper together, and the ones across the road are even more sour; straight and silent until I go away and then wheel out along the kerb handing out pamphlets.
There’s one down the road that’s always on its back at the end of bin day. Can’t seem to land right and doesn’t care either. It’s always laying with slumpy square hips across a pile of gravel and other bits of household stuff the truck won’t take. Sometimes it sleeps there until the following bin day, and is then dragged back in and force fed another week’s failures.
I like walking along and seeing them all standing there in mountain pose. Mouths locked around what we believe we don’t want because we just have too much of basically everything. Bins sucking on leftover confectionary, rattling fast food pots beneath their teeth, squeezing vegemite jars between thighs, tying cardboard to their soles in summer.
Imagine if we didn’t have wheelie bins. How much of our life we’d miss.
“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
I’m halfway through my 10th year here on Dawson Street, and nearly at the end of my lease – ten years was my ultimate plan- and I didn’t imagine I’d be able to go beyond that. However, my landlady is generous, and she wants me to stay, and so we’re planning to renew the lease after all.
There’ll will be a few long term changes, though, to help keep the shop going as best I can when trading is uncertain and not as consistent as it used to be.
From next week, I’ll be trading only four days a week from 9am to 5pm (instead of 5 days a week from 10am to 4pm). This means I’ll be here for the SAME number of hours but over longer days. This gives me 3 days away from the shop to earn a small income for myself (and for my super).
I’ll always be available by phone, email, and Facebook regardless of where I am. I’ll continue writing the blog, and I’ll still take all the new stock home first before any of you can get at them.
Thank you for your continued support and enthusiasm. It motivated me to come up with this new way of keeping things going, and I’m looking forward to it.
Here’s to R E A D I N G, no matter the circumstances, the times, or the era!
“All good children’s stories are the same: young creature breaks rules, has incredible adventure, then returns home with the knowledge that aforementioned rules are there for a reason.
Of course, the actual message to the careful reader is: break rules as often as you can, because who the hell doesn’t want to have an adventure?”
Brian K. Vaughan
Illustration by Okada Chiaki