Mum came in and admired my shoes

It’s still raining. Mum came in with a chocolate cake and a bag of lemons, and said, ‘Well those shoes are bright indeed.’

I said I was sick of the rain, and she said a bit of rain doesn’t hurt. Then she went out again and over to Woolworths. It takes her a while to get across the road now. She doesn’t stop at the bakery: she doesn’t agree with their scone recipe.

Outside the door, a couple on pause and examining the window display:

‘I’ve never read that one.’

‘I got sick of it.’

A couple of teenage girls: ‘You never know what you’ll find in here. How good is that?’

There’s a fevered discussion going on about Netflix and Tom Hardy. Everyone is damp from the rain. Outside a horn blast across the road. An old man walking along our side calls out, ‘Ok. Just keep your shirt on, pal.’

An old lady paid for her books with an Apple watch, deft and efficient. Then it’s quiet again.

People pass the window: I hear them: footsteps on wet pavement and black moving shapes against the light. I think about it, what my eyes catch and interpret as a person. How the shapes erupt and then regroup when two people meet and pass each other. Then I see bright pink, a beanie, paper bags, a swinging a dog lead with no dog on the end, cars hissing wetly behind them.

In the afternoon, it becomes so quiet, I can hear the clock ticking on the wall next to me. Every now and again a blast of rain.  

Ian came in for Carol Ruiz Zafon’s The Angel’s Game. Outside the sun came out brief and hot, and across the road a long line of people are standing in the buzzy sunlight. I go outside with my coffee and lean against the fence.

There are nine people and they need to cross the road. Five have walkers and one man has a walking stick. He is too far away. He’s going the wrong way. A lady yells, ‘Get Pops back.’

A young man jogs down to Pops and manoeuvres him across the road, his arm curved protectively around the old man’s back. Rain again, but the sunlight remains, flicking the air with gold and briefly turning the shower into cascading tiny bubbles of light.

The other people are still lined up on the kerb, all talking to each other as they look first one way, then the other and then pausing again to say something to each other.

A man passes me with coffee, and says, ‘That looks like an event trying to happen.’

But they are off, crossing slowly and all in a line. A ute slows and then stops.

They are nearly to the kerb. They are at the kerb and turning toward the bakery, and I have to go back inside. The sunlight is gone. There’s a couple inside waiting for me and one is saying to the other, ‘That history book there, the big one, you can get that for me.’ And he answers, ‘What on earth you want that for?’ And she says to me, ‘My God, great boots.’

At a market in Darwin

My first time in Darwin: like a dream. Heat, light, rain: we breathed it in. It was hard to breathe. Then we had to come home again. Everything was different there.

At Mindil Beach, people were soft and relaxed. The market was busy. There was every kind of food. We couldn’t choose.

My grandson climbed into a tree with a trunk like an office block. Twisted roots hung from gigantic heights like tropical thighs: he scrambled and climbed, and soon two more children joined him, clambering in the heat and the extraordinary light. I wondered out loud: is it an avocado tree? A child answered me seriously: no, it’s not avocado. It’s a lemon tree. The other child said, ‘It’s a tree tree’. I walked the tree’s perimeter. There were empty wine bottles in the sand underneath. The little girls were called to family. My grandson was called down. He came, bouncing through green worlds.

Live music: the singer absorbed and passionate, apologising because she was so happy. She sang with closed eyes, leaning into the heat of the evening. We all sat about on the grass eating. Behind the singer, another performer setting up.

Amongst the market tents, so much food, coffee, soap, jewellery, clothing, my grandson got a small metal hovercraft. Music. The stall holders gossiping in tight warm knots between tents.

‘That’s not what they said last week.’

‘I know mate. It’s bullshit.’

We walked without a plan. I, myself, want to live here. But everywhere I go, I want to live there.

An Uber driver started before I was properly in the car. He said, ‘I’m so sorry madam.’

In the foyer hotel we were offered a complimentary drink. There was cold water, fruit juice, soft drinks, beer, red and white wine. I selected a frosty bottle of white wine and cradled it to the lift. A group in the foyer were about to complain. The wife told her husband he could have a complimentary beer. He subsided.

‘Geoff, do you want a beer?’

‘Well. All right. If there is one. All right then. I will. Why not.’

One morning, we went to a market. Food, coffee, fruit, vegetables, crystals, everything in dense warm quantities. A lady shopping in a bikinis and bare feet and a gentle crocheted shawl against the rain.  And it’s raining.  I saw a mountain of bananas. The stallholder with earphones was dancing delicately behind his stall. I should like to live here.

We stood with coffee. A young woman passed us, talking straight into a video call. I saw briefly on the screen, a face. It was a loud conversation. We only heard her side of it.

‘Have you just woken up?’

‘Who’s that with you?’

‘Did they stay?’

‘Are you sleeping together?’

‘Fuck you Damien.’

It’s so hot here. We’ve been cold for some time in South Australia. From our hotel one morning, it rained and rained. I filmed it on my phone as if the sound of rain was new to me. It isn’t. But intensely hot rain: that is new to me. I want to live here.

Up on the top floor, the hotel sunset bar: open from 3pm and with free canapes for all the guests. We rush up in the lift at 3.30 to try the canapes: square bowls of twisties, cheezels, pretzels, a beetroot dip with no spoon, corn chips, a tray of sweating cheese slices, a bowl of fuzzy lollies. A hot metal bath of saveloys.

People approached the buffet with delight. Some still have their bathers on, fresh and relaxed from the hotel pool.

‘Oh, you’ll like this. These little sausages.’

‘Too right.’

A man piled cheezels into a bowl and added tomato sauce. He carried it over to the pool table and his mates rushed over for the same. A man at a little outside table stacked cheese slices and ate them folded into small squares. A bottle of beer sat cold and ready, happy to wait for the good folded cheese. His companion, in a smart suit, drank red wine, and in front of him, a plate of humble saveloys.

The staff rushed, for they were understaffed. They apologised. They rushed to make it nice for us. Diners kept arriving, gazing rapt at the buffet, piling plates and sitting outside to enjoy the view: this is most of Darwin city and the horizon, a jewel at any time. And then the sun goes down in a blaze of arrogant light, stripping and taking with it any values you’ve held right up to that point.

I sampled the joy of the diners as they passed me with saveloys and corn chips and decided that I too was joyful. A waiter settled margaritas in front of a group of women who clutched each other’s hands, thanking him, and him smiling and rushing for the next order.

My grandson passed me with a bowl of furry lollies, his face a lit lamp. He left the tongs on the floor. Happiness: obviously what we allow.

Notes for Saturday

1. It was busy. It was excellent: the antique fair was on, and the town was full of visitors from all over the place, some even from Bairnsdale, who were collecting old things and who wanted a copy of Moby Dick. But I didn’t have one.

They said, ‘Never mind. There’s always tomorrow, ‘and I agreed.

2. There was a knotty commotion outside the door when a family emerged from a car and couldn’t quite get themselves to the bakery.

‘What are you doing Jasmin?’ A young voice, low and outraged. ‘What are you doing?’

I couldn’t see or hear Jasmin. I only heard about her. The brother’s voice sounded again.

‘No. I’m not even kidding. Friggin hell.’

Then I heard Jasmin.

‘Get lost Shaun.’

‘You get lost.’

‘Come over here mate.’  That was dad, who laid a settling hand on Shaun’s shoulders. Shaun said urgently, ‘I’m not even kidding.’

‘I know.’ They disappeared slowly to the bakery, Jasmin hopping behind. She had on a bright red beanie.

3. Someone asked me for Nina George books: ‘I’m looking for the Paris bookshop lady.’ Someone asked me for James Bond books: ‘I’m looking for James Bond.’

4. A young couple piled books into the bottom of their pram, the baby bumping slightly while the volumes were being arranged. They explained to me: ‘We’re making a library.’

5. Outside the door, a teenager said, ‘Where too Pop?’ and then, looking at his phone, followed Pop to the bakery.

6. ‘That’s the second time in Strathalbyn.’ An old lady said this to a friend as they looked through my window. They didn’t look happy. Then one lady said, ‘Look at her sitting at the desk.’ Her friend said, ‘Oh yes. I see.’

7. There was constant clicking and tapping and rustling from the back room. A man opened the door and said to me, ‘It’s ok, I’m just looking for a very distracted lady.’ The clicking and tapping from the back room abruptly stopped and a lady yelled out: ‘I’m here Alan, you go on.’

‘Thank you very much, I will.’ And he did. He crossed the road in sudden sunlight, swinging a bag and his head from side to side.

8. A man looking at books in front of me suddenly looked around and said, ‘My dad was a pilot.’ Then he turned back to the shelf. I felt as though I’d missed a bit of conversation somewhere.

9. Somebody rang for a book I didn’t have. Outside a motorist sounded a horn for a long angry 15 seconds. Inside a lady said, ‘God I hate that.’ Then Sarah dropped in. She’s very pleased with her doctor at the moment but not with the crowds in the town. She said in a glum way, ‘These crowds.’ Then Robert came by, but his order is lost in transit somewhere. He said, ‘Typical Australia useless post.’

10. The town emptying out. More rain, then sparkly sunlight. The last stragglers with coffee and not hurrying. Dog wee on the front of my shop as usual.

Illustration by Bill Bruning

‘I don’t know if anyone ever goes into this shop. I shouldn’t think so.’

This wiry, rusting observation was made right at my shop door. And loudly. The speaker was an old lady, bent over a walking stick. So that’s ok. I respect age at all times, especially as I’m gaining so rapidly in it myself.

She was talking to her husband probably. He looked startled and looked through the window with rapidly moving eyes. He made a peaceable remark, and soothed, they continued on with the hundred mile journey to their car, which I could see from my counter.

It was cold. There were drops of rain on the spinning balloons outside my shop. One person over at the bus stop, huddled against the cold pole of transport that isn’t there yet.

Inside, a man sitting in the waiting chair, lurched up at his companion and said, ‘What’d you get this time?’ and his companion, who had a biography of Christopher Wren in one hand and his phone in the other, said, ‘Got a biography of Christopher Wren. And this here is worth a read.’

 He was pointing to a biography of Winston Churchill on another shelf. ‘This one is a goer. I’ve read it.’

Outside, the car with the elderly couple slowly, slowly pulled out gently into the traffic, still participating well despite everything.

I looked at the Winston Churchill. ‘Should I read it?’

‘Do.’

I made a half hearted promise. But I had The Root and the Flower including The Near and the Far with an introduction by Penelope Fitzgerald next to me. And it’s next. Sorry Winston.

The men left on a note of blue happiness.

The Root and the Flower is by L. H. Meyers. I’d read about it somewhere else, never heard of it or him. Published in 1935 and apparently a minor classic and astonishingly imagined. That was enough; I decided to crack it and see what’s inside. It’s about India.

A child came in and gave me two books for the shop. A Beatrix Potter and a Little Golden Book. Both hers. It was raining outside.

‘For you.’

‘Really?’

The child doubled in intensity. ‘Yes.’

I stared at the books, emblems of fortune and compassion.

‘Really?’ Outside, the rain dropped and swam in its own disbelief.

‘Can I keep them?’

‘No, you sell them. Here.’

‘Of course.’

The child’s mother arrived, damp and busy, ‘Come on. You done?’

I looked at the child. ‘Thank you.’

But she’d gone, out the door and into further worlds and busy with them.

After that I drooped softly at the counter; people do come in!

Illustration by Di Fournier

How strong is his strength?

My grandson asked me this question at the shop. He had my Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader down from the shelf. He knew they had some form of power but isn’t familiar with them yet.

He asked me, ‘Can we measure it?’

‘Oh well. How do you measure strength?’ I asked philosophically.

‘With this ruler.’ He’d found a cardboard ruler inside a book.

So we measured the height of Darth Vader. He was 24cm.

‘He has 24 of strength.’

I agreed.

Luke Skywalker had lost his cloak and tools, so we didn’t measure him. I’d bought them second hand and incomplete. My grandson stared at Luke Skywalker without saying anything.

Then outside the shop, two people passed the window talking together: a father and son talking together, hurrying because it was cold, and both wearing rugged blue jumpers, scarves, and hats:

‘Yeah. Yes. That’s what your mother always said. You should go with that.’

They disappeared toward the bakery.

Noah and I stood Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader side by side. My grandson looked at Darth Vader, ‘Is that the dad?’

I said it was.

‘Why is he the dad? Why is he lost his stuff?’

Suddenly the the same pair passed the window again, this time holding paper bags from the bakery against their chests and still talking:

‘And there was a school teacher fellow here, used to always carry that bag of eggs around with him, remember?’

‘Did he break his boots?’ Noah asked.

I looked at Darth Vader again.

Outside the door a lady said to her husband, ‘You start and stop and start and stop. Now get out of my way.’ He said, ‘Keep your hair on.’

Noah asked, ‘Where’s his power pack?’ I looked back Darth Vader.

‘I think that got lost.’

‘Can we find it?’

A customer came in. She looked at us approvingly. ‘I see you’re busy in here.’

A young man came in for science fiction and looked at Luke Skywalker, who was now propped against Poetry and Plays.

‘Woah, mate. Cool. These for sale?’

I said they weren’t.

Noah, kneeling on the floor, said, ‘He’s lost his powers and coat.’

The customers left. Noah left. I put Darth and Luke up crookedly because I can’t reach. Later, I found the ruler under the chair.

Do you know how much pages there is in this dog book?

There’s a couple of families in the front room of the shop, nicely tangled and knotted, as families tend to get when they’re relaxed and warm. I like to listen to them. This little question was flung.

‘Do you know how much pages there is in this dog book?’

Someone answered, ‘Mmmm.’

‘There’s 3080.’

‘Yeah?’

There was a soft clatter: books falling.

‘Careful.’

‘I want the first Goosebumps.’

‘I want Selby.’

‘Does that say 3080?’

‘Brian, leave the pram alone.’

‘You read this, Helen?’

‘Long time ago. Give us a look.’

‘Taylor. Is that where they go? Looks wrong.’

A parent wandered out with a paperback clamped under one arm. He consulted his phone. A child followed, holding the parent’s hand, swinging from it, leaning in, clamping an ear to the parent’s thigh and walking easily, a delicate and bent stalk. The father rested the paperback on the child’s head. She smiled.

‘You ready, Troy?’

‘Yeah.’

This family left with an old soft copy of Animal Farm, held carefully in anticipation, and which had recently balanced briefly on a child’s ageless and silky thistledown hair.

The family left in the front room continued buzzing softly.

‘Does this say three thousand and eighty?’

‘Maybe. Look at the numbers.’

‘It says 38.’

‘I think so, too.’

‘Can I get it?’

‘You should.’

The child emerged with the book. They held it up to me with two hands: an offering.

I asked for the necessary $3. The child had the coins. We exchanged the necessary courtesies:

‘Enjoy your winter reading.’

‘Ok.’

I watched them leave, a family, a nub of 3, moving in and out of each other’s thoughts faster than any forlorn and hopeful technology. The child was showing the book to the parent; the child’s face was unable to hold a shape, the jaws compliant and full of heat, trying to find an outline for the significance of the purchase; the bliss of carrying home a bliss.

The family collided with itself in the doorway. A bandaid came away from someone’s small wound and lay flat and spent on the mat. The mother said, ‘Come on,’ and they sailed clumpily out. In the pram, I saw a tiny foot raised straight up; a flag.

Artwork by Le Chat Peles Collective

At the excellent public library in Murray Bridge where they have Lego Club

I took my grandson, who’s five, to the Murray Bridge library. He said he already knew about libraries because Mrs. Smyth takes them. At the Murray Bridge library, they have Lego Club for parents and kids. The models are displayed in a glass cabinet outside the library. I wanted to go inside and get at the books, but Max pressed his nose to the glass. He named the models: Minion Lego, the Bowling Alley Lego, Scientific Friends Lego, Spider Lego, Spaceship Club, Small House Pets, the set of UFO.

I thought we should go inside next and get at the books. At the door, a young man in uniform and a clipboard, ‘Are you here for the event?
I said no, and Max said yes. But we weren’t. Max looked at all the families entering the Room With Interesting Things Going On. But we hadn’t booked in.

Max tried 3 different seats in the book train. He found a book called Predators Bite and sat on the floor with it. Then he put it in the bag and asked me about rattlesnakes. Then went over to look through the window of The Interesting Room. The event was over. The dazed librarian was packing up.

Max climbed into the book train and read Predators Bite again, and then The Waterhole. He asked me about rattlesnakes again. More families came in. One family ate lunch at one of the tables. A lady with a clipboard was talking to two teenage girls who wore rucksacks and hiking boots. A librarian stuck a machine out of order sign across one of the borrower terminals. Toddlers running everywhere. The kind man with the clipboard stood quietly. Max’s bag was heavy and had to be dragged. He came to help me because I was so slow.
‘This?’
It was Danielle Steele. I said, Ok. He was pleased and packed it carefully.
‘I got you this because it’s fat.’ It was Anna Karenina. I said, Ok.
‘Do you want this maybe?’
‘Read it already.’
‘This?’
‘Read it.’
‘This.’
‘Nope.’
‘Look at THIS.’
‘Ok. Yes.’ It was Jasper Jones. Choice.

‘This has fireworks on it.’
‘Ok. I’ll give it a go. (It was The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall. Never heard of it.)
‘What’s a go?’
‘You know, give it a read.’
‘Oh.’
‘Get this Nanny. It’s got green on it. ’It was Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett. ‘Yes, put it in.’
There was a crowd of teenagers rotating through Young Readers and then falling into beanbags, consulting phones, chewing gum, eyes urgent. Max watched, standing with one hand on the shelf and one small foot stacked on the other foot.

He came back.
‘Get this, because you’ll like this because it’s got a railway train track on it.’ It was Enemies within these Shores by Debbie Terranova, the train track barely visible at the bottom of the front cover.
‘Good work.’
Get this because it’s got a monster see there.’ It was The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. Strong pick.
Nanny get this maybe. It was Savage Lane by Jason Starr, who is apparently an internationally bestselling author.
‘Ok.’
Max spoke in an urgent voice. ‘Look at THIS.’ It was V2 by Robert Harris. ‘It’s about rockets. And moons.’ He looked at the cover. There’s a map. I’m getting this.’ He packed it in.

‘This has got a bit of red or something on the back.’ It was Willa Cather, an old hardback with gold faded covers and a weighty nonchalant page block needing to prove nothing. Unusual for a public library where most books are now achingly new, average, and safe.
Willa Cather: O Pioneers!
Max watched my face, knowing he’d stuck gold, and pleased.
‘Is it good?’
‘Very good indeed. How’d you know?’
‘I do. I’m a big guy.’
Willa Cather.
Time to Check Out. We had to drag the bags. Max sat under the terminal and packed the bags. The machine got stuck at book number 14, and a librarian dashed to help.
A man tried to use one of the other terminals, not seeing the out of order sign and banging his books around and sighing. He only had two books. We were taking too long. Max was reading Predators Bite under the terminal with books scattered around him in an untidy grid of escaping tiles. And I was reading O Pioneers, with the printed docket for all the books we’d borrowed curling around my ankles. Oh Willa Cather.

The coffee people

Come into the shop with extra muscles and more blood than other people. Come in grinning. Eyes sparking humorous energy. Can get down to the bottom shelves even when balancing hot coffee; the bottom shelves are fun. They get the music I’m playing, sometimes executing a few imperceptible dance steps next to Biographies.

When the sound of motorbikes shaves the air away from the inside of the shop, the coffee people don’t notice. Coffee is a hot fragrant cushion. The young couple nursing steaming hot coffee look at me and nod happily. There’s another family in here too this morning, flushed and fresh from cold grass and junior soccer. They are on their way to get coffee.

One of their children bought a book about chocolate to the counter. His two golden coins were hot clutched. He handed them to me, hot, clutched, melting.

A smaller girl appeared at the counter, just her face. Then a five-dollar note flapped onto the counter in front of me.

Then her book poked up slowly and was laid next to the five dollar note: Lego Star Wars. I gave her back a coin and her eyes widened, then softened.

The coffee people cross and re cross the floor, going from room to room beaming light, carrying Ernest Hemingway and Chaucer. Reaching for Johnathon Swift, The coffee illuminating and warming sudden new interests.

I can hear children quarrelling smally in the back room.

Now the green grass soccer family are leaving, everyone with a carefully chosen book, and mum with a paper bag, a newspaper, her book, and a son burying his head into her stomach as they bundle through the door and into the cold which isn’t cold for them.

The coffee people continue, ‘What about the collected works of Charles Dickens..?’

‘We’ve got most of them.’

She nods and dives at the lower shelves. Something else.

The people who walked past the shop and who were obviously all in the same family  

I was outside. I was leaning against the fence next to the shop getting some good weak afternoon sun. This family came from the bakery all loaded up, and they passed me slowly all in a row. First son: an adult walking gracefully. More like loping, so that I looked down at his ankles, automatically wondering where the loping came from. It was his ankles. They weren’t tense. This is unusual. It meant he wasn’t in a hurry. It’s been many years since I’ve seen someone walking who is not in a hurry. Most people beat past with every bone tense and fulfilled, eyes stiff, and a list somewhere.

But he didn’t. His ankles were fluid so that his feet turned in slightly with each step, a small dip, as though acknowledging something hilarious and hopeless about the footpath. He had time to notice the footpath. He didn’t even hurry toward his car.

He wore charcoal jeans, shirt and shoes and had textas and pens in his back pocket. He held paper bags and coffee. He was followed by a small child, maybe 6 years old who had the same stride and the same ankles. The child turned with every step to survey everything being offered. There was the fence, some falling sunlight, a wet pudding of leaves rotting in the gutter, and me, looking on. But it was enough. The child’s head swivelled greedily from sight to sight. He walked with his small feet turning in on warm fluid generous and tiny hinges.

Then came Dad, or Pa, or Grandpa. He walked with the same lope. But there was stiffness in the joints. He carried more paper bags and a coffee and a small fruit juice. He wore the same jeans as his son but they were deep ancient green. They were new looking and very clean. I looked at his boots because his boots seemed to demonstrate the strange family ability to walk. This unhurriedness he’d given his son and grandson. I guess it’s passed from generation to generation: the ability to not hurry.

The thing is, it was actually their faces that stood out. They all had the same mouths. They had three generations of identical jaw. Their heads turned from side to side with a smile lurking behind the jaw muscles. Their faces were smooth and the teeth slightly protruding, as though acknowledging something humorous about to happen.

I heard Dad say that he couldn’t manage the car seat buckles for Grandson. Dad climbed slowly into the front seat. Son deposited paper bags onto the driver’s seat and jogged back around to the child. He buckled him in easily, and the child was saying that he had a giraffe in his hands, and he held his small hands up to show the giraffe. His dad said, ‘I can see it. Let’s get buckled in.’

Then he closed the door. They all drove off, and I stayed leaning against the fence to get a bit more sun.

Art by Roger Wilkerson

The small tasks that are done on long weekend Mondays

It’s just traffic driving past really, not fast or slow, just endless, and the sky’s dark and the air is grey and cold. Everyone’s going home. Only truck drivers are stopping for food from the bakery. They walk past checking phones and sometimes they look in see me sitting here: one driver smiled and waved. An older couple spend ages trying to park a caravan outside my door. She stood on the footpath waving directions. Eventually they walked past my door; she had a really heavy shoulder bag and stopped to adjust it. She looked cold and annoyed. They both glanced in at me and then away again.

The carpark across the road is empty. There’s just a lady with smooth pale gold hair. She’s coming across to the bakery. She has an evening bag with a long gold chain. She’s dressed completely in motorcycle leather, including the boots. She looks as though she could go anywhere.

Families with small dogs on endless leads: a father has to untangle terriers and little children who won’t let go of the leads, and he says, ‘All right, let’s just do it slowly. Bridget let go a minute, come on.’

A man walking past fast does an about turn and stares at my door. He stacks two coffees and enters hopefully. ‘I’ve lost someone.’

She’s here, looking at books in the back room. She comes out. ‘I’ll be here for ever.’ He hands her a coffee and says ‘Keep looking. Keep looking.’ They stand side by side with their heads on the exact same angle, hugging hot coffees to hearts.

A mother and two small boys sweep past, but the little boys come back and press noses on the window. Then they move away, but the older boy comes back and stares through at something again. Then he disappears, but returns again, and then again. I cannot work out what he is staring at.

There’s a young man eating a pastie. His shoulders are hunched and he keeps one hand in his pocket. He glances backwards without interest into my shop window and away again. A young woman meets him and he says to her, ‘What’d you get me?’

She says, ‘Nothing.’ And he throws his head back and laughs and says, ‘Mate!’ Then he throws his arm across her shoulders and they walk on, and an old man with a grim face and a green Woolies shopping bag walks up behind them, and then a young woman steering a huge pram with just one hand. Her other hand is steadying what looks like loose apples on top of the pram. None of the apples fall; she is so focused on this one important task.

Illustration by Valentin Rukunenko