Choosing a raspberry cardigan

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I went shopping for clothes with my daughter. We entered a young person’s clothing store. Beautiful, with wood, space, light, and music. And metal – the racks, the posts all shone.  The clothing displays matched – hazelnut, vanilla, snow grey, powder blue, black. Cinnamon. Chocolate. Everything caring about the approach of winter. The staff were young. Confident. They approached my daughter, but not me. I stood near the boxes of coat hangers and clothes relegated to discards. This is the place to be. From here, all of life.

There are people turning in front of mirrors, first one way, then another, faces softening between despair and possibility.

‘It’s not me.’

‘I love this.’

‘What’s it doing back there…is it straight?’

‘Is this all right?’

Staring hard, intensely, into the streaky shop mirrors at reflections that won’t obey. Not blinking. Willing it to work.

‘This isn’t working.’

‘Ok, that’s ok, do you want another size?’

‘No.’ Depressed.

Levi’s, Moto, Lee. Outland. A sign that says Nudie Jeans are coming. Another sign taped to the wall, Recycle Your Jeans Here. Ask Us How.

A young woman stretches gently a raspberry cardigan. It is still on its hanger. She turns it this way. Then another way. She rubs her thumb delicately across the tiny fruit buttons.  Is it soft? Is it strong? Will it be kind to me?

What are we looking at? What are we looking for? What do we know?

‘I’ll get this.’

‘Great. Isn’t it great. It looks great. I love this too.’ The shop girls, they love everything. Everything is cute.

I’ll pay with card.’

‘Great. That’s a cute bag.’

‘Oh my God, thanks,’

There are huge crosses on the floor. At the entrance, a table with hand sanitizer. And printed instructions on how This Shop is Keeping You Safe.

‘How much are the shoes?’

‘Do you have any eights?’

‘I was hoping for black maybe..’

At the entrance, a commotion because school has finished and young people are gathering, loud, exuberant, and not standing on the crosses.

One saleswoman calls, ‘Ellie, can you go sort those kids, none of ‘em have used the sanitizer.’ I watch Ellie, with chewing gum, head strongly for the door.

 

At the supermarket, I had to wait outside

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I arrived early and stood in the beautiful morning. The man on the door, a shepherd of sorts, waved and gestured us through, slowly, slowly, just a few at a time. You know, because of everything. He apologised as if it was all his fault. As this is a small town, he knew many people. He said, Sorry Sharon, there’s no toilet paper’. She said, ‘Don’t need any, just getting some milk and shit.’

He said, ‘Yeah.’ Plenty of that, mate’.

We stood about and looked at each other. Everyone stood apart.   There was no queue. The man waved an old lady through. The sun shone down.

I stood there in the beautiful morning. The door opened and closed. The security guard was looking at his phone.

A man came up and tried to go in. The man on the door said, ‘Get back mate.’

The man said, ‘Jesus just need some bread and that’.

‘You can’t go in.’

The man said that all this is bullshit.

The security guard said, ‘God Barry, it’s no smoking.’

The man said, ‘Jesus, I’ll just finish me smoke around here then.’

The doors opened and closed. The man at the door, said, ‘Ok, ok, in you go.’ He looked at his phone.

I went in and looked for walnuts. That was all I wanted.

 

I don’t know how these places even keep going…

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Outside, some passers-by look through the window at the biographies and one man says: I don’t know how these places even stay open. Fucking hell, we can just get books on the internet, just as easy. His friend says: yeah…

It is a public holiday here in South Australia and Strathalbyn is full of people on their day off.
I am reading The Brimming Cup by Dorothy Canfield and looking up every now and again wondering if anyone will come in to the shop and buy a book. Maybe no one will, but Dorothy Canfield makes this all ok.

The door does open though, and two old ladies come in and they are confident and bright and a propelled onwards by their solid and purposeful cardigans. They know already what they need to say:
There’s your Ken Follett.
I’m not usually one for that kind of thing.
Oh, see the Ray Bradbury…
I wanted to get on well with it but…
There’s a relation somewhere there – some one with Dickens, a grand daughter or something.
I’ve got most of the Dickens.
I’ve got all of the Dickens. You’ve seen them.
I don’t hold with that sort of writing.
What do you mean?
Clive Cussler.
Oh, good heavens, we don’t bother with him. I told you that.
I like Bryce Courtenay.
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes…
But that film –
No, that’s all right, of course it is –
I’ve read some of those
I’ve read all them all.
Oh nonsense…
Isn’t Herriot still very good
Very good indeed.
Gracious and serious…
I have a problem with that.
I’m one for having books around me.
It’s the way now isn’t it, though, to have no books.
Look at this rubbish.
Well, yes but why make a whole new film about it… 
Well, that’s right.
I think we need to give all the young people one each of all these grammar books.
Well, you can try can’t you….
I shouldn’t just blanket across everything, I know I’m judgemental.
Yes you are, now look at that…I’ve got that…
Yes, I’ve got that too
Yes, I’ve got all of hers.
Gradually they pass by, they don’t see me, they don’t need to purchase a book and they pass by and out though the door, they confront the solid spread of bikies that are gathered on the footpath outside and part them like butter with a hot knitting needle and they go on home.

And then  –

The skateboard family is back! The oldest boy has a book which he carries around and carries around. His mother is within the novels, his brothers are by and by, here and there but mostly with Star Wars. One brother is eating from a paper bag –  sherbet bombs. He is looking at the roof through a haze of sherbet, he is in sherbet bomb heaven. The oldest brother is waiting outside, balancing on his skateboard and staring significantly through the window at his family that are keeping him waiting.
The boy with the book presents it to his mother, he is staring upwards into her face, in an attitude of prayer. She looks down at her son. She says: you got that book last time.
He says nothing at all.
She says: but you gave it to your friend. We should get that one for you this time. He looks at her, astounded by her memory. He hugs the book to his chest and leans backwards under its enormous valuable weight.
They all weave around and around and here and there and then eventually purchase their books and leave together, with skateboards and sherbet and the book of life and one brother saying: get out the way…and the boy outside saying: thanks for taking a thousand years.