The couple who kept on telling each other to leave

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Which they did, the entire time they were here in the shop, we should leave, are you done, I’m done, can you try to finish, we have to go,  but they couldn’t leave, their eyes were caught, over and over again, on Lolita, on Mona Lisa: A History, on Justin Cronin, on A History of Leisure travel, on A Catcher in the Rye, on The Narrow Road to the Deep North, because each catch came with another story, another narrative that they first told each other and then repeated to me. When she laughed, she stood on tip toes and leaned backwards, and he would say, yes that’s it. Then he said: well, thank you for your kind, kind, kind thoughts and thank you very much and soon to see you again and then he wrenched the door nearly off its hinges, left it floating in the warm street and they marched away together, she was reading aloud her biography of Charles Darwin as they walked, he was nodding and saying yes, yes, that’s right…

Eugen Spiro, Reading Outdoors, 1936

The Boys at the Window

Maljavin - Sister Alexandra

The boys at the window, on a cold afternoon, very recently, were headed to Woolworths to buy things to eat. They stopped at the window of the shop and stared together at Hilary Clinton’s book, Living History.

One of the boys said: her!

The other boy answered: I know!

Then they straightened back up and continued on their way. As they left, one boy said: my mum used to always read a lot, books like that. When I got home from school she was always reading. When I was little she would always yell out like: is that you?

His friend said: like it could have been an assassin or something…

And the first boy answered: yeah!

 

Painting ‘Alexandra’ by Filipp Malyavin

We’re going off the jetty..

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There is a family here and they are on their way to the beach. To Second Valley because their Grandpa and Nan live there. The boy has a yellow bucket, a bright pineapple yellow bucket with a crack in the side. He brings me the bucket so we can both examine the crack.

His parents are looking through the cooking books. His younger brother is swinging on a table leg and slowly eating a stick of pink liquorice. Outside the shop there is a service van with a phone ringing loudly into the warm air. The smaller boy nods his head twice to each ring.

The older child is asked if he has found a book. He answers that he doesn’t want one, he wants a starfish. For his bucket.

His mother asks him if perhaps he isn’t being sensible.

He tells me that at Second Valley there is a jetty and they will go under it and find stuff. And then they will go up on it. And then bomb off of it.

His mother asks him if he would like Magpie Island by Colin Thiele.

He tells me that he doesn’t need to even bring a towel because his Nan said not to. Because she already has one there for him that’s orange.

His Nan makes tomato sauce.

When is he on the beach he is going to get a starfish.

An the best thing about this beach is the jetty, underneath is cold, on the top is hot.

His parents call him to come and find a book, but he still doesn’t want one.

They are apologetic; they tell me that all he wants to do is go to the beach. But I remember living by the sea and near a jetty. When I lived across the road from the sea that jetty was miles away. I was five. It took ages to walk there. But last year when I went back the jetty was actually very close to where I lived. It had moved.

I remember the jetty, underneath it was cold, on the top it was hot. The hot planks smelled like fish all the time. There were always sand dunes smoking in the distance. Underneath the jetty, the hot sun came through in gold bars that broke everywhere, the water was deep, it was green glass and all the sounds were deep sounds; even the wood had a deep sound. When it got too cold you could climb up on the steps and sit on the wood that was now too hot. You could shut your eyes and see the heat in gold flecks on your eyelids. And hear the water and the salt and other kids and seagulls, and very faintly you could just hear Christmas. Then we would get up and walk back to the sand and go to the deli on the foreshore for mixed lollies.

The child is still telling me that he will get a starfish off of the jetty. His dad says maybe not and they needed to go now. And then they all left, with some books, the pineapple bucket and an anxious plan for a starfish.

Artwork by Debbie Mackinnon