The Empress

Red Shirt on the Steps by Darren Thompson  (2).jpg

I’m just going to look in the bookshop.
A woman said this outside the shop, she said it to her family, or perhaps they were friends, but anyway, they were all male and all young except one, her husband maybe.
Are you serious….one boy said this on a note of desperation, his voice slid around on the word “serious” trying to find something positive to stop the downward slide.
I won’t be long. I thought she was calm and good and I hoped she might come in. They had stood for ages in the doorway, they looking down (at phones), she looking in.
Are you serious…this said by another boy, he had headphones and long black jeans that rolled underneath his shoes and were worn away like old matting. He had a black singlet and on the front of this was the word Satan.
Just get into the car. This was what she said next while I was hoping she might come in.
… are you serious… This again from the first boy who swayed back and then downwards, marking the agony of his life right now.
Get in the car. And so, like that, she trimmed the arguments and parted the agony, opened the door and came in and I was pleased. She was serene and upright, pulling the summer in after her and needing nobody for attendance.
Outside the window were her menfolk, family or friendfolk, slumped in a sort of comfortable defeat, dropped against the window, one boy hoisted his shoulder against all new ideas. The headphone boy stood still in his own private response, eyes closed anyway. Another, a third boy made binoculars out of his hands and telescoped her through the glass, his orange T-shirt stained the light, and I saw that his eyes tracked her from shelf to shelf and sometimes he made his eyes desperate  thinking she was looking at him. But she wasn’t. He wanted to go home but she didn’t.
All those boys drifted over to their car and I watched them. The car was parked right outside the shop, it was white, they opened the doors and left them open. There were chip packets all across the back seat.
One boy lay across the back seat. One boy sat with his legs on the dashboard and the other possible brother slowly baked his evening plans, sitting on the footpath.
There was a father too, he was already in the car, was reading the newspaper and not bothering to question the rather beautiful afternoon.
Inside the shop it is cool and nice and she, (the empress), is leaning with Janet Evanovich, leaning against the cool wall, an empress, not hurrying, not concerned with outside.
When she left, much later on, she paused in the doorway and re entered the summer exactly in the way she wanted and all the sons stared at her wordlessly and she stared back at them in exactly the same way. It was excellent.

 

Artwork: Red Shirt on the Steps by Darren Thompson

There aren’t enough books to keep up…

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A child reader told me this on Saturday morning, sadly, because the Pippi Longstockings had run out and she had finished Tarka the Otter and The Magic Faraways, all of them, and there were no more Dork Diaries, but there should be and so what is there now…..

She leaned against the shelf, thinking with every ounce of herself about where to go next…and her young mother leaned into the chair and read some news on her phone that was very interesting.

This child thought she might have a go at the Skulduggeries but doubted that they would be any good. She though that The Twilights were ok…

She had read Ballet Shoes and Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Incredible Journey, and I asked her where she found these books and she said: at school.

I offered her some popular choices and she was polite but not enthusiastic. After a long time she chose The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong  and told me that this book smelled nice and most of the others don’t so she would choose this one.

 

Sculpture by Valarie Hadida