David

Three people have just stopped at the window. Their car is parked behind them; one lady holds onto the car door, steadying herself before stepping to the footpath. They others lean to look through the door.

‘David would in there if he were here.’

‘Yes, he would.’ The third lady joins them. She also leans to look through the glass.

‘Yes. I think so, too.’

‘But not now.’

‘No.’

Menopause; a pause

The four of us all met somehow at the counter in my bookshop. Me seated, my friend standing, her friend leaning, another lady, here. That word comes up: menopause

and we all make “the face”, and our shoulders move slightly in outrage. The temperature of our bones glides (again) upward, silent and inappropriate, as confused as ever, keeping pace with life and not sympathetic. But we laugh and shout and laugh. We agree triumphantly that bras never fit. We have many ideas. Nothing can defeat many ideas.

Eventually one lady leaves, trundling her groceries and things out of the door in a little trolley. Her shoes are excellent; soft, and stitched and kind, looking after her, the person that wears them.

You’re not going in there

A young man says this (loudly) to his friend outside my shop. He is out of the car first. She is out of the driver’s seat second. He is joyful. ‘You’re not going in there!’

She stands in front of him, hands raised, palms outward, uncaring, ‘Get out of my way.’ She, languidly and easily, gazes right into him.

‘All right, you can go in there.’ He spins, grinning, round and round as though on roller skates. She remains motionless, content. I looked at her looking at him doing his thing.

‘Well, go on. In you go.’ He clattered past my door, tapped the glass and disappeared toward the bakery.

She came in, still unhurried and still content.

Young Woman Reading by Samuel Melton Fisher

Going to fly with these

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This morning, two young girls with beautiful shoulder bags visited the shop. I don’t remember them here before. They settled in. I sat back with respect. True readers.

Lord of the Rings…. look at these…do you have The Sils?’

‘Yeah, ages ago…’

‘Every book that he’s written…’

‘I know, right!’

‘Do you think I should get something about…’

‘I shouldn’t be looking at this, but I love roses…’

They are young and can kneel easily. They can include the bottom shelves. They are not fatigued by high shelves. Reach and lift. Scan books on their knees and get up rapidly again. Their shoulders are not rounded. Once a lady told me she cannot read the titles on any books above her head or below her knees, and I needed to get rid of everything on the highest and lowest shelves. She was really angry. She had shoulders that were argumentative.

One girl cradles, then hugs the book about roses.

They can both walk and read at the same time. I used to be able to do this. The angry woman had said that my shop would cause injuries.

‘Look at this.’ The girls whisper darkly and laugh and laugh and laugh.

They sit on their heels, easily.

Once a man said I needed to do something about my doorway.

‘You need to do something about this doorway. Bloody ridiculous.’

The girls are are counting coins on the floor.

They stand up and look at each other’s armloads, then look down to examine their own cuddled stack. Then they move to another shelf. They have not yet got enough.

The angry lady had said that she would not return.

One girl said, ‘I’m going to fly with these. Just got The Last Unicorn.’

‘Did you get that?’

‘Mmm.’

‘Omg.’

‘Cmon.’

‘Ok’.

They pay and leave, hugging their books. Hugging their books. When they floated past my window, they were hugging their books.

Wild Swans by Arnaldo Mirasol

The ladies who loved J.D. Robb

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They were funny because they kept arguing about who was best – J.D. Robb or Nora Roberts. Or Karin Slaughter. Or someone else…They couldn’t remember.

They used the hand sanitizer generously and did not agree with the trucks going past at such speed (too loud). They promised to lend each other their books. One lady thought the other would lose the book first. The accused lady looked fierce. She paid for her book, looking organised.

Another truck went past. They turned to watch it and made disapproving sounds. One lady began to tell us about a film with Tom Hanks that we should all watch, but her friend steered her out by the elbow, saying it was time for something to eat.

 

Artwork by Inge Look

Yvonne

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Yvonne was one of my first customers. When she came in, she apologised for using a kindle. She said, ‘You may as well know’.  She loved racy thrillers – Clive Cussler, and she said that when she was young, she was quite a dish.

Every day she walks the block with Marco. She rescued him. She said he’s a gem, but terribly naughty. She always asked after my family. When she was young, she learnt an instrument that nobody had ever heard of.

One day, she brought me in a glazed tile. She’d bought it up the road. It was a picture of my shop (as close as you could get) and she wanted me to have it. I was very flattered. I hung it on the wall. Every day, customers would ask, ‘Where did you get THAT?’

Yvonne said, ‘Gawd. You can get that picture anywhere.’

The day I closed the shop, I saw her walking calmly by, Marco clicking away at her ankles. She passed me when I dashed over the road for groceries. She said, ‘Times are grim,’ but she was squared up, ready for a challenge.

I remember Dion

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I remember Dion. He was one of my first customers. This was back when hardly anyone came in. Dion came in, and said, ‘Wow! This is great!’ Then he asked me how I was. I did not know back then that he would ask me this for the next five years. I also didn’t know that he wasn’t ok himself.

The first book he asked for was Twilight. He had seen the film, and thought it was the greatest film ever. He bought the book from me.

Still he visited, weekly, fortnightly, then monthly. I have not seen him for a long time now.

I remember when he gave up smoking. He asked me for a book on sharks. I showed him one and he bought it. Said it was fantastic. His hands were shaking.

Once he said that I would not want what he had. He never went into details about his health, or lack of it. He always asked after mine. No matter what.

Once he came in, full of head pain, and said, ‘Kerry, you’re gunna love this joke.’

Once he came in on a rainy day to say hello, and make sure that the shop was ok. I said that all is going well, and he said: except the weather.

The last time I saw him, he said, ‘Don’t worry about me, Kerry.’

I haven’t seen him since.

 

Artwork by Gürbüz Doğan Ekşioğlu

After 4pm, and cold

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That’s Leonardo da Vinci.

I know.

Saw it the other night.

So cute.

I know.

There are high school students here, walking about the shop. They always move so slowly, lean against the shelves to discuss something else. They examine books seriously, stroke the spines, put them carefully back.

I love that one.

That’s like my 6 year old brother.

Omg, that’s cool. Fiction.

Captain Cook.

What’s this music?

These girls tip their heads back to listen better.

I know.

Omg, what is it? My mum knows this music.

I know what it is. They played that at sports day.

No.

I’ll look it up.

They were holding onto a Complete Shakespeare. Amazed at the size of it. They stare down at the cover. One girl swings the book gently, exaggerating the weight. She places it back and looks at it sitting there.

He wrote all this. I love this book. My mum will kill me if I get this. It’s like, what about your bedroom, like, all the time.

I know. It’s Sound of Music. I think, this music. I got a crate for mine.

Oh yeah.

Do you want to read this?

Maybe.

Omg, is that what Roald Dahl looks like?

I love him.

So do I. Did you read Witches?

Yeah.

Same.

I have to go.

Omg, so do I. I’m getting this next time.

I love this owl.

Same.

Then they leave. As they pass me, they say, thank you, thanks, thanks….and then they are outside and gone, floating away in the cold wind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Friend Peggy

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Is not doing so well. I went to visit on Tuesday.

I remember when she first came to the shop. Irreverent, outrageous.

She has still read more than anyone I know. When I first met her I was surprised at her interest in science fiction. Her other interests are crime and thriller fiction, but across her long life she has read a staggering amount of other things. I always try to find something she hasn’t read.

Sitting there on Tuesday in her clean, blank room I brought up The Jewel in the Crown. She’s read it (but will read it again). I had brought her three other books; one fantasy, one crime (this pleased her) and a thriller that she said would be rubbish. I took that one back. There was a stack of crime on the white unit next to her. She has read all the Game of Thrones, she rushed them, she said, not wanting to die before finishing them all.

She said she wouldn’t be going anywhere soon. That she couldn’t get any bars on her phone; when she tried to get outside, the doors were all shut. She asked me to get her a door code. She wouldn’t mind a glass of wine. She said they made her get up and do stupid things down in the dining room. She asked me if I’d come back. She thinks I am going there for her sake. But being with Peggy sustains me!  I’m there for both of us.

She complained to the staff about the cup of tea that never came.

I remember her telling me she always carried books with her for the boring places, like church and the opera. She thought nothing of reading during any event, if it was boring, she would read.

Peggy only has one eye, a doctor once made her a glass one, produced it triumphantly, but she threw it in the bin. She said she had one eye and would stay that way.

When she lived in Woomera, her (ex) husband burned her library.

When she was a child, she spent a long time in an orphanage.

She thought she was ugly. She isn’t. She is striking, tall, spectacular, a bonfire.

She described a good day as one reading, at the pub, on the reds, a roast and a pile of paperbacks, and her. She was comfortable to turn her back on everything and read… so how come she always saw everything.

But now she thinks I am only visiting her out of kindness. But I’m not. I’m there to warm myself. I complained to her of all the work that I have to do at home, unappreciated, no peace and quiet, no end in sight, etc, etc.

I saw her listening to my litany of self-pity, saw the sun break through on her face, saw the grin. She was pleased with the never ending work, my sulking and self-indulgence. She was hungry for real.

I warmed myself for as long as I could and then went home. Have to find some more books for her. Not Lee Child (rubbish), not the classics (Oh God, no, read them all). Something real.

Artwork by Isidre Nonell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather

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This morning is sunny again, there was not so much rain after all. A knot of three good friends stand up against the shop window to discuss the problem of rain. Because it won’t come.

The rain, it’s shy this year.

It is, Mavis, why don’t you get out there, get it organised.

I’ve got a garden show this morning, after that, it can come, blast it. Needs to wait off till two. Then I’ll allow it.

Well, well then, hope it obliges. You’re a card! That’s what I say!

You don’t anything, Hank!

Then they all shrieked with laughter, picked up their bags and stepped carefully onward to the next part of their day: the information centre, Woolworths, an autumn garden show.