When I put my grandson, Max, to bed tonight here, he said, ‘But this smells like Noah.’
Noah is Max’s cousin, the same age, three, and a strong significant presence, like breakfast, or mummy, or love.
He indicated the quilt. ‘This is Noah. It smells like her.’ Him.
It does. It smells like the washing detergent that Noah’s family use, and it is Noah.
Then we read about dinosaurs. He falls asleep, strongly living, and asleep. His hand is still reaching for the lamp dial, an Ikea lamp with a brass dial that controls the light.
Then I go and look at some books given to me by a friend who is 94 and can no longer hold the books upright to read them. Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong; a set of four volumes dressed in pale green watered silk, announced in gold, housed in a slip case, and volume one with a large grease stain on the sublime watered frontage from when he last read it, propped at breakfast.
My friend, Richard, who can no longer hold the books up, is lying strongly, asleep.
Quiet inside, but outside the shop a commotion because there is a family crossing the road and scattering in all directions; they can’t find the bakery. There seems to be about 20 people in their group, all ages, many children, prams, a dog. The group gathers and swells and somebody unseen is calling directions and one child has seen the cat in my window and wants to come in.
He is told no, no time, no time. He says, on the way back? He is told, no way!
Another child stops directly at the door and says she needs a book about stones. So that next time they go to that beach, they can keep building. Two more children press close, leaning on, breathing on the window. The adults, the pram and the dog have moved on a little way, we can still hear them. Someone is calling, just get coffee, Brad, just get coffee. The children are silent, staring sideways, looking at the voices. The oldest child taps the widow in front of the wooden cat. She says, are you coming back next year? The boy says, yep. A smaller child says, if mum says. His brother says carelessly, I’m going anyway.
The oldest child says, quick, they’re coming. Then suddenly the children are gone. Quiet again.
All our kids jumped off that pontoon.
And it’s still there, moored in the middle of the bay, animated during the day, motionless across the evening when all the kids have logged off and gone back to the caravan park.
The pontoon was heavy, the water was green and cold and deep, and the games had no form, the platform had no rules; it was just get out of the deep, get on to the float and then get off spectacularly. It was about hurling muscle and energy and seawater into smoky, bubbling patterns. To get up, there was a metal ladder, to get off there was just the edge- then the plunge into the marine and someone else’s foot giving you a blood nose and everyone saying it wasn’t even them.
All the parents sat on the shore and wondered if they should get in, wondered if they would make it out to the pontoon, wondered if there was still ice in the esky, wondered if it was too early for a beer, wondered where the sunscreen was. They were just realizing that the days were starting to go fast, never realizing that these kids would have their kids and bring those kids to the same bay, that same pontoon, that life buoy still nodding generously for the next version of campers, parents and kids and eskies.
Photography by Paul Cullen ( thanks Paul, for this great photo of all our kids! )
There is a white ute parked directly outside my shop. And there are three tradesmen who have climbed out and are standing together, all of them checking their phones, and all of them looking up and around for the bakery. One of them carries a can of coke and a set of ear muffs, and he turns and walks to my door and shoulders his way in, he is still reading his phone. Then he realizes a mistake. He says, ‘Oh fuck, sorry mate!’
His friend, still outside, says, ‘You fucking idiot, that’s not the bakery.’
His other friend, who is on his phone, pauses to inform the others (by pointing) where the bakery is. The tradesman who entered my door gives them both the finger (rather magnificently, because he bends his knees and arcs with both arms and the earmuffs and the coke) this fingered insult over the whole earth and especially over them. He says, ‘But I do need a book, I need the next Game of Thrones before the rest of that shit comes out on screen.’
His friend says, ‘Man, you are not John Snow. You are, like, just a dickhead’.
And the tradesman (who is now John Snow) says that he is John Snow, and that he can read.
The third tradesman puts his phone in his pocket and says, ‘I’m eating now. You two bathrooms can just stay here.’
And then they all move toward the bakery; three friends, John Snow, dickheads, bathrooms, whatever.
Brenda and Frank came into the shop and they were bending forward, with raised shoulders and concerned hands as though pressed in through the door by the heat outside. When they straightened up safely, Frank saw me and nodded and told me that he did most of his reading on the can. He said: I’m going to branch out, starting with Mopy Dick, I saw the film, I read history you see, true stuff.
He bent forward to
stare at a set of Britannica literature and he was delighted, he said: is that
the whole lot… flipping heck… Charles Darwin…no, no, I don’t know him. But I’ll
find out! He looked around and indicated the whole shop, swept its outline with his can of beer: this is a place of good
Brenda, said, don’t worry about that, what are we going to get now?
I’m going to start at the top and work down, going to start reading that way, I really want to, don’t I, Brenda. She agreed affectionately, regarding him as the living treasure he actually is and they chose a copy of Moby Dick with delight and left again, blazing out into the hot day, going for coffee, carrying goodwill, a passion for living and Moby Dick.
This couple came in, came in very together and walked around the shop together and nodded over the books together. They hardly said anything.
Sometimes I heard them murmuring and laughing about something but only briefly. They were in the shop for ages, spending time in all the sections, reading even the children’s books silently and smiling over them. They spent a long time with a book by Jorge Borges called The Book of Sand. They talked and talked about that one. When they got to the science fiction they did not handle any of the books. They stood and looked up and down the titles, sometimes they said something to each other but they did not pull out a single book from there.
They did not buy any books at all but when they left they thanked me for having a bookshop.