That child

This child came in just on closing. Entered by herself. She was carrying an enormous chocolate muffin, holding onto it’s rear end with a paper bag, and she walked at me, like herself, her own walk, with an orange drink, and another paper bag full of clinking coins. She stared at me over the jumble, holding the end of my afternoon gaze with bright direct and unalloyed eyes. I had to sit back and reassess. I looked for a parent. She didn’t.

Her hair had escaped the morning’s organisation, framed her head in soft snakes, as alive as she was, ready to strike at my disinterest. She said,

‘Hello.’

I answered, ‘Hello.’

She hesitated, and helped me out, me, the one needing assistance.

‘How’s the bookshop going?’

I said, very well, thank you’, a limping answer like the ones from my childhood when I used to be questioned about school.

The child was kind. ‘That’s good. Is cash ok here?’

She stood there looking directly at me, not breaking the stare, the chocolate framing an active oval around her mouth, her hair poised in spikes and loops, her eyes dark and joyful, hopeful that I would allow her something.

She indicated her paper bag of money with gratitude. That’s good, I was worried, I want a bookmark, that one, that sorting hat one. Today at school there wasn’t much to do, so I sorted the whole school into all the sorting hats, and I knew who to put into Gryffindor. It’s easy. Do you know how to?

I said I did, hoping she wouldn’t know that I didn’t.

She was delighted and rattled the paper bag of money. The chocolate on her face gleamed. Her hair relaxed but still watched me. She said, thank you for the shop, have a good day and afternoon. She struggled with the door, keeping the half-eaten cake upright, the orange drink calm, and her overwhelming face fixed straight onto mine, slid out, was gone, a spark of something, gone now.

The boy who bought his friend a bookmark

Pascal Campion (2)

These children come into the shop on weekday afternoons, school bags, drink bottles, friends, phones, everything. They had been looking at the bookmarks and talking about their lives. On other days they stand by the tables or the windows and talk about their lives. Sometimes they stand outside and look in and talk about their lives.

One day one of the girls asked me to put aside a bookmark for her as she didn’t have the money. So, I did. Then, some days later, one of the boys came back. He had a job now, mowing lawns and he said he did a pretty good job with them.

He would like to get that bookmark for the girl, his friend. A gift. And he did. He looked pleased with it but while he was looking happy, staring down at the bookmark, thinking about it, she came in!
Then they both stood there looking at the bookmark. It was a silver pirate sword with blue glass drops and silver swirls that sparkled or maybe it was their faces that sparkled, was hard to tell.

Artwork by Pascal Campion

The Pleasing Group

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A lady visited this morning to put a notice in the window. It is an excellent notice about a local art group, an excellent group.
She stopped though to linger over the bookmarks.
She said: I don’t really use them. She bent low over the bookmarks, stroking the cool flanks of the metal stems.
She said they were absurdly lovely, that she might get her daughter one, that the gold owl was very pleasing, that the fish was probably the one, that the gold dragon was handsome…she said they make a pleasing group.
I thought that the bookmarks, unvaluable trinkets that they are, went through some sort of metal and glass conversion when they were considered under the softened eye of a browsing reader. They do for me. They mark the beginning of a sliver of reading and then mark the end of that same fragment. They are only glass and pins and rings built one by one, slowly, across the summer evenings. But under the gentle fingertips of discerning readers they gleam slightly, the dragon stirs, the mermaids move their muscular cold tails, the gecko shivers, the snake’s tail draws up in anger.
This lady bent low over the mermaid, she held up the tiny lamp to the sunlight, the swung the silver owl, and stroked the sailing ship and put aside a bronze dragon and a gold owl, they clicked one by one as she laid them down. One for herself and one for her reading daughter. She hung the clock, trembling in emerald green back on its cage. She said: I really shouldn’t.