I did go and look at those books. It was a library of a woman who had died.
The lady spoke of her mother. We were standing outside the garage, shielding our eyes from the afternoon sun. There were fruit trees and two dogs, cardboard boxes, and a horse behind a railing – it was warm and quiet. I could hear the horse breathing. She was telling me about her mother; all the things she used to do, the gratitude of communities, the reading, her passion, her; the mother.
I could smell quinces.
‘The things a person loves are always, always recorded in their library.’ The daughter leaned back in amazement and pride as she said this. It was a delicate opera of grief, sung outside (to me) next to a bucket of yellow quinces. The daughter was wearing pink and white. She said, ‘Don’t lift those heavy boxes, you’ll hurt yourself.’ Her mother, Barbara, was one of my first customers. She read Don Camillo. And there they were, the books she once bought from me, right there in a box, in the sunshine, next to the quinces.
Still Life with Quinces by Vincent Van Gogh
This morning, Robert came in and was disappointed that none of his books had arrived. But he assured me he would be ok, that what was really bothering him was the beer he drank last night.
He told me that once when he was down at Glenelg for fish and chips he drank three coopers and had a vision. This is in the old days when you drank good beer and always had a vision. He could have a table sale of all the visions he had had. But the alcohol of today is befouled. It used to be made properly, aged, brewed in the bottle and made with love. These days even the wine is made and bottled by the thousands and the vintners don’t even know who is drinking it. It’s a sad thing. He said that people that love books also love and appreciate the quality of things and of experiences.
I told him how I myself read Indulgence: Around the World in search of Chocolate by Paul Richardson and polished off three blocks of Whitman’s finest while I read it. I said that I don’t believe that books will become obsolete any more than food will. He said that this is up to the government.
I asked Ken if he read his science books at the table and he said how annoying it was when you have to put down the book and the gin and tonic and answer the damn door. But he agreed that eating and reading and drinking and reading are completely complimentary in the best way.
Will said that he is not allowed to eat when he reads books in case he spoils his books. But at school they are allowed to.
Prue asked me to find her a copy of Ken Follett’s World Without End as soon as possible so she could replace the library copy that she ruined with a wine stain.
Brian bought another Lee Child which he reads in his ute across the road with a vanilla slice and a chocolate milk. He does this every second day.
Helen asked me did I realise how impossible it was to get rid of chocolate cake stains from the pages of children’s books.
John came in from the bakery and asked me not to tell his wife that he had been there. I am lucky to be near a large, busy bakery as so many of my visitors come straight from there to here. He had come in for some Don Camillo books, funniest things ever written and good to enjoy with a beer. Although he was not allowed to drink beer.
Photography by Rubee Hood