Lemonade, dancing, a hot day

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Outside, on the footpath, (a hot day), is a child with a can of lemonade and a family. He is spinning around the post just outside my door, slender and agile, spilling none.

He turns and dips around his mother. She’s standing in the shade, using her phone. She says: Please concentrate on what you are meant to be doing. And he, in acknowledgment, turns faster, round and round, spilling none.

There’s a sibling sitting in the front seat of the car, door open, hot seats, sticky with his own drink and watching on. The dancer dips and hoots, making outrageous angles with his head and elbows.


…around the post, around his mother, dances madly for his brother. The brother nods.

Back to the post, a cool metallic partner that supports his smooth zigzag to the ground and back up into the heat. Spills nothing. It’s time to go.

Mum says, ‘Use the bin,’ and he does, smoothly.

They leave.


Artwork by Denis Gonchar














People want the sun

Victor Ngai The Day


There’s not much space outside the shop because there are tradesmen out there, and hard at it. Ladders, paint pots, shouting, traffic cones, a hat thrown down, a bottle of coke, one cake tin. Passers by make comments.

‘Good job.’

‘Looking good.’

‘Good day for it.’

One man crashed through my door backwards, still in conversation with the painter outside.

He said to me, ‘Sorry about the door, you’ll get a new one won’t you!’ His wife looked at him and he went back outside.

On old lady edges around the painter’s van, trying to find a spot to finish her coffee. She says, ‘Don’t mind me.’

People want the sun.

‘A bookshop! Well!’ These two ladies paused to admire me, a miracle. One man bought a book about Mannum to post to his grandkids ‘in the outback’.

The takings for the Strath show tickets are picked up. The lady says, it’s nice out in the sun.

Alan puts his head in to say, G’day mate. (He’s going home for a curry).

My mum brings me a block of chocolate to take home for the family, which I eat here.

The painter is leaning against a post in the sun, shouting into his phone, ‘I’m having a record day, I’ll read it in a minute, just send it again’.

There’s a family stranded in the middle of the road, and a truck showers them with outraged beeps. They all stare as it goes by, and the driver stares down at them. A lady in here says the council should do something about that.

The painter is still shouting into the sunlight, ‘I’m having a record day.”


Artwork by Victor Ngai


So nice, outside


The unexpected warmth, we aren’t used to it yet.

Everybody who comes into the shop stands briefly in the doorway and the day outside flares blue over their shoulders.

People with dogs, pulling and pulling, stopping, pulling, jerking forward again, a girl reading in the sun over the road, drinking a bottle of coke slowly, two old men running across the street, the arms pumping powerfully – but not the legs. The legs will not be hurried. They rock back and forth with imagined speed, and shake fists at the motorbikes that made them run in the first place.

Hot footpaths. People standing outside cars to eat instead of climbing grimly inside them. Cars parked with people asleep against the hot windows. Walking is slowed down, people glance at the sky, stand still to drink coffee. Laughing and talking at the kerb, not trying to cross the road immediately, happy to wait in the sun, finding extra things to talk about.

Two ladies rugged up sensibly outside the shop say, this won’t last.

Kids belting past yelling – I’m not even playing on Saturday, is Sam?


Please come in

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I have a sign on the door that says, “please come in.”

People walking past read it out loud. Often my door is mistaken for the door of the bakery and they have to back out again, apologetic, disappointed, sometimes annoyed. This week one man shook the rain from his umbrella and then hurled the umbrella at the door as well. His wife was pretty mad and said, what an earth are you doing? He said, the blinking thing let go of me. She turned her back and walked off. He looked in a worried way at the water all over my door.

Children see my sign as a direct invitation addressed to them. They stop and point at it. One man read it and then came in because it was cold. Then he left again. He said, just getting warm, don’t actually read.

People read the sign out loud and then say, yeah as if! Who’d go in there? A bookshop! One man called Harold would not let his wife come in, he said, that’s where you pay new prices for useless old books. His wife, who had been in earlier, looked at him perhaps thinking that he was a useless old book. That she’d paid a new price for.

One lady sang out, pleeease come in. Her friend sang IIIIII don’t thiiink sooooo.

One old man said, thank you for the invitation. He had stood there looking at it on the door for ages. He bought a biography of Ernest Hemingway.

Passers by come fast down the street, especially if it is cold or raining. This is why they come through my door or bang up against it or look through hoping to see cream buns and cups of tea. Then they have to straighten up and keep going, their faces ovals of apology and confusion.

Remember that pudding…?

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There were two people outside the shop one afternoon, on the edge of the footpath and unable to cross the road. They were loaded with bottles of coke, a bag of ice and packets of corn chips and they were handling each item separately, they were very loud.
The traffic was not considerate of them, it just kept passing by and their heads were going from right to left and right to left and they were getting mad. So, when the sheep truck bellowed through and shaved all their supplies the woman said: fuck that stinks, and withdrew back onto the footpath and against my windows where they repacked their evening supplies. There was also a carton of beer that I hadn’t noticed, it was standing against the wall, waiting to be carried.
The man said: look at that cockhead! And they are watching the motorbikes now leaving across the road, leaving in a group which they consider necessary and holding up the traffic so they can stick together.
The woman said, what a twat, and they both nod, their heads turn from right to left and right to left and they note certain cars, frowning, interested. He says, that’s a shit car. Mum had one.
The woman agrees.
Remember that pudding she made? With all that cream…and chocolate milo or something? Yous all helped.
Yeah. Not milo.
Look at that. They are watching a toddler unwilling to climb into the family parked car, roaring, kicking, alive with rage. The couple look on approvingly. He says, look at that little bloke.
She suddenly says, this a book shop here, and he says, no don’t go in for Christ sake, let me finish me smoke, then we’ll get going. She says, I read that, that there, see it, the billabong kids.
He says, no mate, no billabongs here.
She says, god you’re a fucking moron. I read that, these kids. Hot country.
But he is standing, gathering the ice, the beer, the corn chips and the afternoon.
So, they are ready to go, all the cargo is steady and they approach the kerb. But there is a misjudgement and he sets sail but she doesn’t.
He reaches safe harbour across the road but she is still docked.
She yells, fuck, I’m comin’ over, just wait! And he waits, waving and hilarious, watches her make the crossing and when she leaps to the other side, with the ice and the bottles they embrace and say, fuck, did you see that… and then they walk off hand in hand into their good billabong, chocolate pudding evening.

The Beetles



One lady came into the shop but not to look for books. She leaned in and told me a long story about genealogy and gardening and this story went for a long time. I wondered if it would end. The trouble is that she is angry with a neighbour over a broken piece of fence and I am pinned to the counter with the golden spikes of someone else’s enthusiasm.
She kept drumming her nails on the counter to remind her of the next part of the quarrel. Sometimes the finger nails drummed a path directly toward me and then pointed at me as though warning me not to think of doing the same thing as the neighbour.
After a while the scraping fingernails started reminding me of some kind of scratchy beetle and I was aware of wanting to smash the hand flat with a massive Oxford dictionary that is next to me. A lightning (painless) but powerful strike that would flatten the beetles to a paper-thin preserved indifference. So flat that she wouldn’t be sure of the difference between her hand and the Jehovah’s Witnesses flyer next to it.
Imagine if she walked out with the Jehovah’s picnic invite instead of her own hand. Imagine the new outrage.

I can’t find the door

51775654_1494764423988205_520481570201534464_n.jpgThis morning a man came charging across the street and collided with my door hard enough for me to think that he had fallen into it. But he hadn’t.
He was angry though.
He said “I can’t find the door…”
I asked him “which door…?”
He said, “the door to the bloody bakery, what do you think I meant?”
I looked at him and he looked at me as though waiting for me to find the door on my counter.
Then I made a mistake. I thought I would be funny, I said, “I am sorry, I don’t sell doors here.”
But he was outraged, and I had not helped him at all. He ducked his head down and stared at the doormat as though in desperation. I wondered what kind of diabolical timetable he was following to make his days so harrowing.
He suddenly decided to be patient and kind and to speak more slowly in case it was me who was the bloody stupid one. He said “to  get  into  a  bakery  there  needs  to  be  a  door….”
I said: “it’s there, just around the corner.”
He hung onto my doorframe, his head snapped to the left, he looked at the bakery tables in amazement, he was genuinely shocked.
He said, “thanks.”
I said, “see you.”
Fucking idiot.

British Tits

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I made a window display after Christmas and lined up the books in an amusing way by accident. Many people stopped to comment. Some leaned back and leaned in and read and re read. Some people have taken photos. One boy said to his friends: omg, look at this: British Tits or something. Is that what it says? But his friends have walked by.
One lady said: oh well, that’s a funny old set of books.
One man stopped and pointed, he tapped the glass over and over and his laugh split in pieces and dropped all over the footpath. But his friends, one with a walking stick, had moved on.
One lady rode her bike across the footpath and stopped at the window and took a photo of the display.
Some older teenagers lingered there, and all worked hard to say the funniest thing. One boy said that his tits had thrush and his friends looked at him politely but without enthusiasm.
One man parked his motorbike and took ages to stow his helmet, fold his jacket, haul out his bag, find his wallet. He stood packing things in and out and regarded the display impassively. Then he went to the bakery.
A child said: look at the cat.
On man said: British Tits to his wife, twice, and she looked at him and didn’t smile.
Two old ladies together read out the titles and looked at each other and laughed like anything. One of them said: what’s wrong with Australian tits. Her friend leaned back and laughed about sixty years of life easily up into the sky. They walked away arm in arm and triumphant.
Some high school aged students, two boys and a girl walked past and one boy read the title in surprise. He read it out loud but the other boy didn’t hear and the girl raised her shoulder against the joke and so he could not continue it.
One man roared out: British Tits to nobody and nobody responded and he continued on to the bakery.
Sometimes I feel as though I am on a houseboat. And life gently gulps past the window, removing and returning, on and on, and never really stopping, not even for British tits.

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Christmas is quiet here

A man walked past this morning wearing a green shirt with a printed Christmas tree and headphones with a long chord and the chord hit each post as he passed it and I heard the clinking each time until he picked it up and wrapped it around his neck. He has a newspaper and a coffee and when he stops at his car, his friend who is waiting, says: turn it off now, man and the kerb next to them is hopping with sparrows and they both look down at them while they drink their coffee. Inside, a man has paid for his books and said to me that Christmas was a quiet one this year, he was off to get a pudding or something and some beer, it would be ok.

There is a young girl drifting around, lost in some place, not here, and a lady near her has red tinsel tied to her glasses. She says she can’t come at second hand books for Christmas herself but her friend, Dot, always gets some but she is silly as a wheel anyway. Eventually she tells her friend, Dot, who is silly as a wheel, that she would wait in the bakery. And she passes the young girl who is drifting around like slow music and she snaps the door shut and goes away from the second-hand books. The young girl is carrying plays, poetry, short stories and a complete volume of Edgar Allan Poe, and as she leaves, she tells me she is on holidays and this is why she has bought too many books. Then she has to wait in the doorway to let a man pass by carrying a wooden window frame containing rectangles of coloured glass; he says sorry there, sorry there, nearly there and the footpath is stained with lozenges of red and green and yellow and a child crouching down holding out both hands to the sparrows at the back of the ute receives coins of coloured light across his forehead and the girl with the poetry walks the other way and the crouching child’s mother calls him away from the car and the child says that the birds are magic birds who only eat twisties and water.

Merry Christmas from The Book Keeper

Breathing the Coffee


They were moving along the pavement this morning, past my shop, past me setting up the signs, the little boy was running lightly along the air and his father was following, balancing two cups of coffee and drinking from both, holding them at elbow height and leaning back, breathing the relief.

The little boy stopped to check the sky three times. Then he said: I’ll just go this much in front, I’ll just go along out of here and he measured his steps precisely, looking back at his father’s feet and keeping in front just a little way, then more, then more, breathing the happiness. Then he was miles in front and heading for a caravan parked down the road and the father following with his elbows out. Two ladies were passing the other way and looking on critically and one said to the child just watch yourself and then they were level with me, looking past me into my window and one said to her friend, don’t think we’ll get much in there. And then they were finished and passed by me too, breathing the discontent.