Came in just before closing time. It’s cold. We’ve got autumn now. She is about nine. She has that child’s mouth where the teeth lead the entire face. She is picking up a set of Percy Jackson books, a huge stack, and she can’t stop grinning because they made it in time. She said, ‘We made it in time.’
Then she bellowed through the cold door, ‘DAD.’
I could see him through the glass, on the footpath and sorting through his wallet, finishing a smoke.
He came in, ‘Don’t get excited’, he said, wanting her to get excited.
‘Don’t put them in order because I already know how they go. This.’
She rearranged them slightly. ‘I’ve already read them. Dad, get them.’
He took out his wallet again and got them.
I offered a bag, but she would not part with them. They were in her arms.
I read all of these books. In one of them, the naughty little sister and Bad Harry go to a party. They find the birthday cake, which has been hidden from the children. Between them, they eat all the cream and the lollies (called sweets) that decorated the cake. I remember there were jelly babies treading through the cream. And silver balls. They ate until they felt ill. Then the mother found them in the pantry. The pleasure of the stolen cake and the jelly babies treading through the cream. The tiny silver lollies in the dark pantry. What was a pantry? Suddenly, when I was seven, I loved pantries.
Collecting books for collections is intensely enjoyable. Many people do it, especially young readers. It doesn’t matter what the book is, if it fits a collection, then it is worth having. I now do it myself. If a book has been published by The Nonesuch Press, I want it. I don’t know why and seldom bother to worry about it. Books in collections are slices of something good; fruity, restorative, rich. When a reader says, ‘I’m adding this to my collection’, I know what they are referring to. They are keeping it for later. Later is a realm of time ahead of us that has seats, shelves, warmth, and wooden tables of quiet food.
A set of books is something you can enter (like a realm), and inside it is a complex place that is never still and never complete.
Images from PenguinBookADay