The raspberry saddle

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There are three of them here in the shop, a family, an adult daughter and her parents and the father is silent and examines the door locks. The mother looks at the books, closely, with her eyes half shut. The daughter carries books around. The daughter tells me about a copy of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising that she had once, the glue let go, it unglued itself, the binding fell apart. She said it was her mother’s fault for reading it aloud so much.

Her mother said, what was the accusation? And the daughter said, without looking up, you know…

The mother leaned back and looked into the past with pleasure. She said yes, it was our fault, our generation did it, read like that. I remember. Remember Lord of the Rings? And you used to be into the unicorns.

I’m not into unicorns, I never was.

You used to be.

I never was.

Then the father said: yes you was.

The daughter looked at me and said, see, I had a mum who read to me like anything.

The mother thought about this with her eyes kind of half shut and then said, thanks babe!

After they left, they stood in the alcove outside the door for a long time. The daughter was telling them a story about a unicorn, she said it had a raspberry saddle, she said, do you remember it mum, do you remember that, and the parents were nodding and nodding and trying to remember it.

 

Artwork by Emma Ersek

The Old Man Who Said He Had Memory Problems

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Yesterday an old man came into the shop and said he had memory problems. He was very apologetic. He said he loved to read and had no trouble with that, he could remember just about everything he had read. And they were all beautiful memories.

He had forgotten his wallet and he went back outside and stood just outside the door and shook his hands gently from side to side and waited. Sometimes he glanced back at the books in the windows and he smiled at me, he seemed sad as if he was causing me trouble, which he wasn’t. He nodded kindly at all the passers-by.

There is an autobiography of Mark Twain on the front table and he looked at that through the window for a long time. Then his wife returned with his wallet and they both stood there, still outside and I thought they were talking about Mark Twain because the old man tapped on the glass and indicated the book and then they both laughed and nodded together. They stood there undecided for a while, they didn’t come back in, instead they headed toward the bakery and they looked pretty happy!

When I Was in Grade 4

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When I was in grade 4, I got into trouble for doing the wrong thing. This, back then, was to read all the readers in the box too fast, and then ask for more. The teacher said I was selfish. I tried to read more slowly, and I tried really hard, I ached with slowness and generosity and cooperation.

But then I committed a worse travesty. Our grade 4 task, back then, was to write a review of one of those books. I chose the best one: about a goat and possibly a wizard and there were white and purple illustrations and this little reader had been read a thousand times and not all by me. I believed that to review meant to write out the whole book, word for word and so I did, my pencil wearing down in spirals of ecstasy, the words printing themselves in disbelief.
The teacher said: is there anyone so stupid as you!
She made me jump and I crept back to my desk, wondering if I was still there. But I was and I was and I was. The teacher had handed me back, in contempt, my lovely copy, to keep.
And so at the end of the day the teacher packed her bag full of bad temper, fatigue and the end of summer in 1974 and I packed mine, choked it to the straps with treasure, my own copy of a book about a wizard and possibly a goat, copied out by me, and then I dragged its immense value home, dancing.