Unsquared again! And the boy who bought his sister a bookmark

A big old straggling family come into the shop. Lots of them and stretched across a few generations. It was raining outside, the wind blowing it against the door. All of them had rain on their shoulders. One man was wiping if off his glasses. A girl texted on her phone with the rain misted all over it. They were lively and unorganized, so I gave them Dave Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance (on my Boombox speaker hidden away behind a pile of Dickens).

‘Oh my God, remember this song? Remember this movie?’ A young man elbowed an older man, an uncle maybe, who didn’t respond; he was looking at a biography of Mao.

The young man moved into a small private dance.

The family began to disperse. Some back outside, some into Classics, some into their phones. The dancing man continued on next to me. He used just two soft square feet of carpet, eyes closed, one hand still holding a copy of Treasure Island, the volume he had picked up just as Brubeck began his idea.

The family talked in small groups. Rotated and change their gestures. Head to head; an argument about tall ships, chin and eyes showing authority. There is whispering, hissing, and then pushing. Family member are on phones, on knees. The dancing man still scratching the beat in the air. An old lady, a grandmother maybe, looked at him over the top of her glasses. She has a copy of Wolf Hall. Later she puts it back. The music ends, and the young man straightens up unconcerned and moves into the front room. My playlist moves to Pavlov Stelar’s Hit me Like a Drum. The old lady suddenly becomes mobile and warm and strong. She dances three steps, one after the other. Then she stops and looks at me sternly. She moves into another room.

I play Alexis Ffrench’s At Last, and a lady in Gardening sighs and puts her head on one side. Who is she? Is she with them?

There’s another argument. What’s the capital of Romania? ‘You wouldn’t know, Graham.’

‘Look, mum, it’s a bunch of breeds of cats. You don’t want that, mum. Look at this. Get it. Get it for your shelf.’ Mum shakes her head.

Someone reads out loud three times, ‘The Cats of Dipping Dell’.

‘Found anything of interest, Margaret?’

‘Well. No.’

A boy buys a bookmark for his sister. He says, ‘Quick, before she comes back.’

The all stream out, and on the way Papa purchases a copy of Pinocchio for Lilly, who says, ‘Yes, I’ll read it. Stop asking me that all the time.’

The boy who bought the bookmark is last. He looks back at me. His face is a lit lamp.

They’re gone.

Illustration by Sarah Jane

This bookshop is crazy

Glueck/ Geahnt hatte er es schon lange

Two young people, a couple, consulted their phones, looked at lists, and asked me to help them find the books they wanted. They wanted Sigmund Freud, Hilary Mantel, and Gone with the Wind. They made a stack with The Penguin History of the World on the bottom and their wild evening party plans on the top.

‘Tonight’, they kept saying to each other.

But they didn’t leave; they kept looking, unable to stop thinking. ‘Man, this place is crazy, we should go, do y’have Jonathan Swift?

Later, at dusty three o’clock, an old man told me that we have to get kids off computers. ‘They don’t read, they don’t want to learn… always doing things they shouldn’t. What about those game stations and drugs? How do you keep your shop going?

He turned around and turned around and found his wife in her bright orange coat reading Bring Up the Bodies, and said, ‘Come on, we’re going home.’

 

Artwork by Gerhard Gluck

Yes, But Kids Just Don’t Read Anymore…

DSCN3369

It is the school holidays. Teachers are hilarious and free and collecting Colin Thiele for Next Term. The bakery is busy.

A young family visited with three teenage children who scattered immediately to different areas of the shop. The boy brought back Specky Magee, the youngest girl brought back three volumes of  the Eragon series and the oldest child brought back Lonely Planet Africa, Wolf Hall and Heidi. They were told they could have one book each. They obviously expected this and launched an onslaught… unfair…..not right….can’t believe it….omg……

The parents remained unmoved. The imploring continued.

The parents offered the bakery as reward for a quick exit.

The children remained unmoved. The boy now held a copy of Asterix and the Banquet.

The oldest girl turned her back on her family and asked me if I had any of the Mammoth Hunter books or Here Be Dragons  by Sharon Penman, which is, she said about medieval Wales and Prince Llewellyn.

The youngest girl was holding the Eragons with desperate eyes. But I could not collude as the parents were standing hard by. The children moved aside to whisper furiously over their dilemma. I wondered if they would sacrifice some of the books back to the shelves but they didn’t.

The oldest girl added the sequel to Wolf Hall to her pile. The younger girl added two Enid Blytons and the boy held onto the Asterix. I avoided eye contact with all parties.

There was a long discussion about lack of space at home.

The mother was sure that they already had a copy of Brisingr.

The boy added two Skulduggery books to his pile and then brought out his pocket money in an envelope. And broadsided his parents with the offer to buy the whole lot.

This won the day; the parents paid approvingly for everything on a credit card.

When they left, triumphant and laden, the father turned back and winked at me. He said there’s nothing like kids arguing well for what they want and wanting genuinely what they argue for. Then they went to the bakery.