Mrs Elman said that her hippeastrums are being frosted each morning and that she needed to give the trees a damn drink whether she wanted to or not and there was no point in avoiding it. She also said that the Chinese are a cunning race after what she saw on television last night.
She has come in to the shop to fetch some more reading – thrillers are her choice for the winter. She is admiring the sun through the window, noting its warmth after the cold that iced her hippeastrums this morning. She remembers that a friend of hers is standing guarantor for a family real estate purchase, she tells me that this is not a thing that SHE would do as it’s the right way to end up with nothing. She advised her own daughters of a better way.
“ …told my girls to share up and square up what’s mine after I’m gone and if there’s nothing left you can take the begging bowl around to have me buried.”
Outside the sun is gone and it is chilly again. She stands still just thinking peaceably.
She loves to read Jo Nesbo and David Baldacci, she and her husband used to read them together. She is tall, she stands with folded hands and a strong umbrella and she looks out of the door at the tangle in the street: cyclists, walkers, a stamping horse float, cold cloud….
I am reading Night and Day by Virginia Woolf and she looks at the cover. But she is not interested in Virginia Woolf… one of those silly, clever people, wasn’t she…
She suddenly says: young people want everything at once don’t they…I only ever had lino…no carpets of course…and you never saw us looking for leather. Nothing was ever easy… I think that the only way to go on is to see if you can.
And then she left.
Photography by Pavan Trikutam
As I walked away from my old life, I wondered if it were true. What my uncle had said. That I was changed and could never lift my head again. So I tried. I lifted it.
Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
An older lady came in with her husband. He was quiet and he sat looking through the children’s books for a long time. He sat on the cushions for the children and stared at the pages, often he was smiling. She told me that they both loved to read and he was from Latvia. And she described the books she was wanting to read now, they were mostly about the war. She told me that her husband had once been a member of the Latvian Army and had become a displaced person because of this. And that while he was a displaced person he was ordered to go to Siberia and then he would have been shot.
She continued on looking at some books for herself. Her husband, who was much older than her, was now reading Caribbean Tales: An Anthology.
Later, she came out of the back room to continue their story: but luckily he got to come to Australia. He got to come here to live instead of a prisoner of war camp because that’s what they were. But then his wife died. He came to Australia anyway and just ten years ago he married me you see and as I learn his story all I can think is that some people are luckily and some are not.
We went to Latvia two years ago and we went to the War Museum and they asked my husband for permission to record his story, they were passionate to record all of it because they said that much of their history is lost and my husband is a living resource, you see. What happened to him was not very nice. But he has never complained and he has never stopped reading.
I looked at her husband and he is bringing me a book: Australian Working Dog Stories and he says: I really like your Australian kelpies, they are wonderful, beautiful dogs.
Artwork by Jungho Lee