I should get this

‘I should get this.’

‘Why?’

I could see the person asking why, but not the person he was talking to. She was in a corner of the shop, muffled in books, piling them, talking to him from general fiction where she was sitting on the floor.

‘Because remember how I stole your sister’s copy after the funeral.’

He looked startled. He made a shrugging kind of face, alarmed but preferring to know nothing else about the matter.

‘All of us have got vascular problems.’ This was a lady passing outside who had paused to examine the biographies through the window. She was speaking to a companion.

He laughed, or someone did. Then they moved on. I heard her say, ‘Wasn’t that book about Julie Andrews? God she’s a diva.’

Then funeral couple left too. She (carrying a stack) now satisfied, he, still mystified.

Later, Robert and Sarah met at the counter and exchanged a remedy for a tooth abscess. I don’t know how this conversation began but it increased alarmingly in volume and gale. I was concerned, the clashing of some personalities can trouble the stratosphere, especially unapologetic characters such as these. Sarah, holding that window biography of Julie Andrews, and Robert writing on a piece of paper, oil of cloves, oil of thyme, oil of (other things) and unable to finish lettering the words because now they are also arguing about Jerusalem, Centrelink, Rudyard Kipling, the government, woollen beanies, vaccinations, Russia, The Talmud. The Catholic Church (nest of vipers).

I have many customers, unconventional, uncomfortable, writing it their way. Lonely. Passionate readers. Gracing me with their presences, their turmoil, and their them. Difficult, refusing to not ask the questions. What I’ll remember in twenty years’ time as most real. So, I have to get it now.

Robert said he attended the gardening club in the little place where he lives, but found it confronting. At the meeting they gave him a slice of seed cake. He said that the people alarmed him, but the cake was nice; he wished they had given him a second slice.

Sarah was enthusiastic, she said, ‘That’s nice.’

He told us that every night the Queen drinks a glass a champagne and Sarah was overjoyed.

‘She’s earned it. She’s earned it, God bless her, she’s earned it.’

After Robert left, Sarah said, ‘what a nice chap!’

Sculpture by T F Lazeroff