I really like Agatha!
A group of people came in off the train. There were about fourteen of them, all friends and all speaking English and what I thought was German, but turned out to be Dutch.
They loved the books. They moved from room to room. They knelt to read the children’s books to each other, in Dutch and in English, a working counterpoint that swam in bright notes all over the shop.
The husbands were shouted at. They were too slow. One man wanted a certain picture book with a kangaroo on the front. They stood in a circle around the book, tapping the pictures, talking about the kangaroos and the fairy penguins. Then he couldn’t find his wallet, or his phone. He was shouted at again. The words were beautiful, effective, unfamiliar. The wives waved bags in the air and made shushing sounds. They made sounds of impatience. They made sounds of derision. Fluent cascades of words and argument clattered about everywhere, Patricia Cornwell, Agatha Christie, Asterix were all examined. A John Grisham book was thumped back into the shelf.
No, no, no, no! A husband offered a possibility. But, no!
Two husbands went outside and stood with their shoulders raised against the shop. A wife tapped the glass, and they swayed but did not turn around. They looked across the road.
There were so many conversations. So many books. So many opinions. Somebody brought some books to the counter and said, ‘We’re from Holland!’
Then it was time to go. The husbands were shouted for, ‘The train, the train.’
When the last person had gone, it was quiet.
Painting by Kenne Gregoire
On Thursday it rained, laying the summer and the dust to rest.
Somebody passing outside said: what brought this on?
Their friend answered: I don’t what brought it on but we’re not ready for it.
The postman said: we’re in for it. The letter he gave me is wet.
A family shouldered through the door and told me it is raining. They are looking for Mr Men books for the baby.
The baby says: hello hello hello hello hello hello puppy, hello puppy, hello, hi, hi…
The baby threw all the Mr Men books on the floor. This is because he didn’t want them. His father tells him that he would like to know who ordered this rain!
Simon is picking up a book he had ordered and told me that it was him that ordered the rain, haha. He said that now he will go and read at the bakery, waiting for the wife, I have a lovely spot, it’s reading weather again, I hope she takes her time. He salutes the sad baby as he leaves.
Another man browses in silence, along the shelves, along the rows, along the spines, slowly, reading out loud but silently, caressing each title in his mind. He reads his way downwards, later he will tell me that books are endless.
A lady outside said: shit. Shit this bloody rain, it’s supposed to be summer. Her friend told her that summer ended ages ago. The veranda is dripping.
I am asked for Cider with Rosie, The Land of Painted Caves and A Brief History of Time.
There is a young woman, balancing on one foot, considering Francois Sagan, she is bending her head over that beautiful little paperback, thinking what things…? Francois Sagan herself would not require an answer. An old lady was pleased with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle and The Complete Lewis Carroll. She said that she once knew Morse code and every night she reads until 10.45pm and when she left she said: thank you for all of this.
A couple languish against the shelves whispering about everything they have read so far. The looked very happy and very urgent, urgent to continue adding and adding. They take with them Hilary Mantel and Chinua Achebe’s There was a Country. Outside a man is leaning against his car and smoking and staring hard at the Lee Child books in the front window. He gestures toward one of them and says something about Tom Cruise to his friend. The other person laughs.
An old couple leave with nearly all of the Agatha Christies. They tell me it is cup of tea weather.
The young woman who had been balancing on one foot has chosen a copy of A Certain Smile by Francois Sagan and she leaves, balancing on this radiant accumulation to her life.
Then it is quiet again, and just the rain.
Artwork by Yelena Sidorova