This morning, outside the shop, a young man stopped to look through the long window, he is about 16, maybe. He is dressed all in black, including a black beanie even though it is a warm day. He has a backpack made of canvas and leather and a pierced eyebrow. But his mother, who is just behind him and carrying three heavy bags, tells him he is not getting any more fuckin’ books. She walks on tiredly, carrying all the shopping, all their problems, their whole life there in amongst the bread and the shampoo.
The boy is shading his eyes, perhaps to see better, he examines the shelves for a long time.
People on the footpath outside the store often do this, but not for this long.
He stares at the books on the table in front of the window, turns his head to read titles, he shades his eyes to see better, staring into something for minute after minute, and longer. He turns his head abruptly toward the end of the street, his mother is coming back. He moves toward her, puts earplugs in, he takes the smallest bag, carrying for her a small part of their life. They move away again, and he is singing along to his music that only he can hear.
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.