Shelved vampire books. Sorted the Cat Warriors. Put the biogs back into alphabet. Gave Robert a mask because his got lost. Bought a pie. Ate it crouched against a fence on the way back from Pestka’s because it started to rain again.
I listened to most of a furious theory of a one world government, which the teller didn’t finish because I put Gregory Porter’s Liquid Spirit through the speaker as a soft drowner. It worked. The angry person moved their head backwards in a slight duck movement. This is because Gregory Porter sings jazz, and jazz is already angry. Liquid Spirit outranks any other noise; it is organized. It pricks at rich rage and lets it all out with brighter and more useful colours. The arguer against masks and government, who is actually a really nice (and tired) person, looked at the dictionary they’d just bought and said that it was a really good dictionary. Then they nodded a couple of time, and they nodded in time to Liquid Spirit. That’s ok; how can you not. Whatever they are, it’s probably me, too.
Another man near us began drumming on his book. He’d been looking through engineering. He tapped his credit card on the books. In time. And banged his books together. In time. How can you not.
Some kids roared past the window, going back to school? and one of them yelled, give it back you fuckhead. Well, why not!
The other person left without finishing their story. It wasn’t that they were wrong.
It’s just that Gregory Porter tells it a different way.
There is a piece of music called Unsquare Dance, by David Brubeck (1920-20120). According to Wikipedia, ‘his music is known for employing unusual time signatures as well as superimposing contrasting rhythms’.
Anyway, when I play Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance in the shop, the shoppers stop and shift their eyes slightly. It’s very subtle. As though trying to find something. Irritated? Needing to separate the music from the air. I know what it is. Absorbing though the shelves of books in the shop are, Unsquare Dance breaks though everything. Superimposes itself? I don’t know. Bu unless you allow some part of yourself to travel with the Unsquare, the rest of you can no longer find anything else you want.
This is true. One morning I let the song out and watched its deep rubber bands step hopping all over the shop. One old guy, leaning in to read the titles on the books and fogging up the spines, got snagged on David Brubeck’s contrasting rhythms and began a slow smooth dance of his own right in front of New York Review Classics. He didn’t have a chance. When the piano part started, he started too, beating the shelf with two fingers, both ears caught between the drumbeats and his shoulders no longer his.
Is this because of the pace or the rhythm?
He left eventually, with two books, and all the air around him unsquared and bits of jazz bass still in his ears.
One of my grandsons dances to “Unsquare” frantically because his legs can’t keep up with the beat that his blood and bones can realize. Can he see the squares refusing to square in the music? He is only two years old and so can unhook his knees and allow his lower legs to extend at fast true right angles as he dances. The rest of his self becomes rubber. Whatever he can see, it’s clear to him what he has to do to get from the beginning to the end and remain in one piece. He works fast. He claps until he no longer can, and then gives the rhythm to his head. When the head has done a share, his hips move in to help – until, overloaded with data, he unhooks his knees and downloads everything he has. This is when he turns to rubber and twists himself amongst bass, piano and snare drum without touching any of them. Arrives intact and asks for it again. It’ll be a long time before he finishes playing with this.
‘No, not cold, it’s just me, I’m always cold.’ He smiled sideways. This young man, springy and bouncy with glasses that were always about to fall off, was in my shop, looking for any book that is really good.
He swayed from side to side, sighs, smiles. He said he could spend a long time here. He holds a book and stares down at the cover. Doesn’t move. Stares at the title, turns it over and stares at the back. Says, yes.
Then he heard the saxophone.
Customers always take some time to hear the music. The music drops, clean and delicate, down on top of them from a speaker above the Wordsworth classics. Some people stare up at it in amazement. How did that get there? Today, it’s saxophone, and he heard it. Accepted it, as an extended part of the books. A continuing of Pinocchio. An addition to agony, or Primo Levi. An impossible, possible blend of Edward Abbey and Margaret Atwood.
He leaned into the curve of it, eyes closed, moving his ears up and down the shining notes. He said, smooth. He said, Smooth, with a capital S.
He said, ‘I haven’t had lunch yet. I haven’t even had breakfast yet.’
This man often comes to the shop. He always pauses, notices whatever music is playing. This afternoon he came in out of the rain quietly, and he noticed the music as usual. He raised one hand, reached towards it, nodded, didn’t say anything.
Then he went to look at books. I don’t remember what he chose, only that he liked the music. He lined his books up, stacked them without looking, said, yes, this is good. I don’t know if he meant his reading or the music or the rain; many people were delighted with the rain. He left, vaguely conducting something, not fast, just in agreement.