Inside, Outside

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There are two ladies here discussing Things. First they talked about their children and then about Woolworths. Then, a water meter (broken). They have not looked at any books yet. Maybe they won’t. It often happens this way when people meet unexpectedly in a shop.

Today, my quiet door is hard at work. Earlier, a young man had thanked me for alphabetical order. He had held both hands out and said, ‘Thank you for alphabetical order…you’ve no idea what a difference it makes!’ His friend said, ‘Let’s go’, and edged the decision toward the door where the talking ladies moved aside without seeing him. But the young man was not ready to go. He was at Poetry. He suddenly said, ‘Get me out of here, I can’t go on’, and his friend said, ‘Thank God’, and they went outside to check phones, holding the door open, and we heard one of them say, ‘Sue isn’t a real vegan anyway.’ We could also hear a man in a suit standing next to his parked car with a coffee, and saying into his phone, ‘Do you want to drop those ladders off? Just go to my house then. Just bloody do it. Yeah….. yeah, ok…..yeah, I know….God. Why?’

The door closed

It opened. It was Don, hoping for his book on the Australian cameleers, but it was not in yet. As he left, he shouted back through the slowly closing door, ‘Off to Moonta with the Mrs, can’t wait. There’s history up there.’

The door shut. It opened.

‘Hello, hello, can we browse? Just been in the bakery. John’s still finishing his bun.’ Then she shouted back to someone else, ‘Get John.’

Outside, the man in the suit was saying, ‘And at the end of the day shit happens. I know that for a fact. Have you heard from your lawyer?’

The door shut.

The talking ladies moved comfortably into the doorway again.

A man asked for Lee Child. A lady asked for Sue Grafton. A couple asked for The Diary of Anne Frank (the uncut version). They told me that when they went to Amsterdam etc.

The man outside finished his call and began another.

People came along the footpath from both directions. There was a wild commotion of dogs. Everyone stopped and apologised, and said that their dog doesn’t usually do that etc.

The man outside is repeating into his phone that at the end of the day, shit happens, and he has always known this.

A child in the front room is standing motionless with a copy of The Hobbit on her head and staring through the window. She says to her mother, ‘Can we get this?’ and her mother nods without looking up.

The ladies in the doorway are leaving. I can hear them going up the footpath, ‘Well, I just tried it with beetroot, and the results were fair at least…’

Why take so long!!!

Zeus and Hera - Athena Fountain by Carl Kundmann, Josef Tautenhayn and Hugo Haerdtl,

Outside the door of my shop, there is shouting. Tradespeople gathering for morning tea, taking all the parking spaces. They wear orange and blue; safety vests, gloves, and there is a helmet on the ground. Next to that, a phone, and a coffee allowing steam into autumn. They lean over utes, sit on the pavement, back against my window, a bookshop. They don’t look in. They are smoking, checking phones, holding paper bags, staring at the ground. Eating.

One worker is outraged. In the bakery there were some old ladies who had Seriously Held Up The Queue. One had argued about, well, nothing, and the other couldn’t see the pies. They had taken a  long time. Mate!

I imagined the tradespeople in the bakery, shuffling in massive boots, watching the savoury slices sliding into other people’s fucking paper bags. Unable to shunt the queue forward because Alice and Gwen were too small for a proper confrontation.

I heard the complaints.

‘Oh my God!’

‘Why take so long? Bring your glasses. Jesus. It was like, 25 mins. WTF! People have to eat.’ The tradesperson speaking, a woman, is glum.

The others, all men, listen politely and nod properly; It Is Not Right.

One man is leaning on a ladder. He has placed all his stuff on a plank that is resting across the ladder in the back of one of the utes. She bangs the plank for emphasis. He holds the plank steady, watching his coffee. He says, ‘Yeah.’

She says, ‘But the lamingtons are good.’

Another person says, ‘Could of eaten three!’

Someone asks, ‘Were you scared of ’em?’

‘Who?’

“Those old ducks?’

She says, ‘Yeah!’

And they all laugh, leaning back, relaxed, looking through my open door and not seeing it, a bookshop.

“Better go.”

But none of them move.

‘Better go’.

‘You go Leo, you dickhead.’

When I next look up, they have all gone. There is just a coffee cup left there, gentle and full.

 

 

Image: Zeus and Hera – Pallas Athena Fountain, erected by Carl Kundmann, Josef Tautenhayn and Hugo Haerdtl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Spins…

…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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kids in the car

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Outside, in a car. There they are! Two children having to wait in the car for a parent who has rushed to the bakery.

I watch the car windows go up and down. Up and down. Spindly arms flicker. They are calling to each other, their little voices like recorders, fluting.

I watch an old lady pause and look in the window. The front passenger offers a small hopeful wave. The way children do. Unsure if it’s ok, but offering anyway.

Then he leans back, stretches forward, leans back again, with those little stalky arms up and touching the roof.  He checks that a smaller sibling in the back is attentive to his rather magnificent stretching. That child is nodding, nodding, nodding, but is looking out of another window.

The sudden grill of motorbikes makes them pause and stare at each other. The younger’s face is stretched downwards in that way children do, to fit itself around approval and joy.

The front one goes swish swish with his hair. He reaches out and flickers both hands right to left in an abrupt and convincing parody of a pianist thinking before descending.

He is singing.

Suddenly he reaches across to the back and offers a packet of something. He puts the packet gently into the sibling’s face to properly display the feast. They eat in these positions, together.

There are two small bikes strapped to the roof. I see now that there is also a dog in the back. I stand in the doorway of my shop, enjoying the sun and everything.

The front child returns and begins playing jazz piano on the back of his seat. The audience (of one) gazes forwards, rapt. The thin arms bounce and run, hover and dive, his fingers stripping the upholstery as he releases some ribbon of sound he has heard on YouTube or somewhere, somehow. His thin frame quivers across his own deadly reach. He must stop now, panting.

Another child goes past, staring in. Mr Front Seat disappears from view. Then his eyes appear. He points over the sill with his finer. Is he a sniper? Nearly as deadly to humankind as a jazz pianist. The passing child continues past. Walking and looking backwards at the car, eating biscuits.

Mum returns.

They talk, nod, seat belts, more nodding, a long conversation, she is holds the packets of food in mid-air. There is a long story from Mr front seat. Mum is interested, listens right to the end, then she leans back and kisses Mr Backseat. He leans back, replete. She deals out food, fastens her own seat belt, pull gently away from the kerb, eating from a paper bag bag, the children likewise, like little horses, noses out of sight and eyes closed.

Artwork by Pascal Campion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got two impatient men out here

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A lady visited the shop this morning and stayed mostly with the biographies. She circled around briefly, noting this and that, nodding and looking, but always returned to the biographies. She said, ‘I love them.’

Then she said, ‘I’d stay longer, but I’ve two impatient men out there.’ She wagged her head from side to side and raised her eyes to the roof. She remained looking thoughtfully upward, as though seeing some solution up there.

Then she looked back into the biographies. There was a tap on the window and an urgent face appeared.

She said, ‘Oh damn them.’

She opened the door an inch and stared out, and they stared back. She said, ‘I just told her in there that I’ve got two impatient men out here.’

They jumped back in alarm. One said, ‘Well that’s not true is it. We just want a cup of tea. You go back in there to your books and fancies. Can’t she Frank! Why can’t she do that!

But Frank was not helpful. He had turned away. A cup of tea! He disappeared from view.

She joined them outside, sighing, suffering, and I heard her say, ‘Well, my goodness”, as they continued down the street.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Murdered by a gopher

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There are two men outside the front windows of the shop. They have stopped, are leaning over to read the titles of the books.

Now, I have read that… but what on earth was it about?

He swings his bag at the window and the Lee Child book that sits with its chin on the window, facing the rain.

Don’t know what’s wrong with me head, must be the rain.

His friend looks through the window, at Nelson Mandela: Conversations with Myself. He says, look at that one, that’d be good. Yeah, the rain.

Go in?

Yeah, why not.

But they don’t. They turn instead and look toward the bakery; their wives are out and approaching fast. But suddenly all four of them are pressed uncomfortably into my doorway, needing to let a gopher drive through and one of the men says that the footpaths are damn stingy in this town.

His wife has recovered, she asks if they’ve had a look at the nice little bookshop and he says they’ll have a go at some morning tea first, better get it down before the bloody gophers murder them all.

The weather

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This morning is sunny again, there was not so much rain after all. A knot of three good friends stand up against the shop window to discuss the problem of rain. Because it won’t come.

The rain, it’s shy this year.

It is, Mavis, why don’t you get out there, get it organised.

I’ve got a garden show this morning, after that, it can come, blast it. Needs to wait off till two. Then I’ll allow it.

Well, well then, hope it obliges. You’re a card! That’s what I say!

You don’t anything, Hank!

Then they all shrieked with laughter, picked up their bags and stepped carefully onward to the next part of their day: the information centre, Woolworths, an autumn garden show.

 

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.

The Drought

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This morning when I was outside the shop sweeping, a man stopped to commend my work but thought it was a waste of time until at least we get some rain. He had a tray with four coffees and was walking back to his car, parked across the road. There were three people in his car, looking out at the coffees.

But he stayed to chat for a while, talking about the rain that was coming this week, how the ground needed a drink, about his garden back home, his dog, his library and the dust in the air and how he could tell his wife was getting mad because now she was winding the car window down. He turned to go and said, well, you know what they say about the rain, it always buggers up a good drought!