Alone

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This morning, when I am unlocking the door of the shop and balancing books and tasks, there are three friends waiting there, leaning, waiting for another friend who is at the bakery. They wear school uniforms but not of the local school. They are all watching their phones. The missing friend arrives while I am setting up, he carries a guitar case. One of the boys says to him: are you playing tonight? And he answers, yes, but not basketball. The other boy leans backwards and angles his phone as though to take a picture of such folly. He says, you are man! You have to play. The boy with the guitar says, I am, but not basketball. Playing this, by myself.

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.

 

 

The little girl who said no…

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There is a little girl here at the shop,  hoping that her books – The Cat Warrior series – have arrived, but they have not.

She is impassive, stern,

I know she is a formidable reader, knowing exactly where she is reading and why. She will not be lured to something else while she waits. To every suggestion, she says: no.

I admire everything about her.

She is confident; she will not be swayed by any cheerful and generous hope. She is slightly contemptuous of my offerings.

I admire everything about her.

She can’t believe her books have not arrived, it has been ten days and this is what I said – ten days.

She eyes my benevolence and she will not agree.

I admire everything about her.

Finally she does look elsewhere; she does it for her mother and for me. It is her doing it for us, not for herself. But it is not a giving in, she remains dignified and generous.

She chooses The Maplin Bird by K M Peyton. This is an historical novel, brilliant,  but not an easy read for a ten year old. It is one of my favourite books.

I tell her I am impressed. She looks at me, entirely unimpressed.

I admire everything about her. When she leaves she is hugging the book to her chest and she begins reading before she is in the car, on the footpath, not even remembering to open the car door.

I admire everything about her.