When school kids go past the windows

They go fast. They lean forward as they walk. They watch each other’s faces closely.

Hands in pockets. The pockets, rectangular slabs of phone. The phones move in and out of pockets, shining oblongs of light.

Someone shouts, ‘Just think how much food you could eat, bro!’

They look in my windows. Bouncing a football, a basketball, a firm punch that argues with the footsteps.

‘Mate, he’ll go down.’ This was shouted lovingly when a motorbike hissed past, the rider standing, plunging through the intersection, the afternoon bakery audience angrily captivated.

They young people are loud. They must converse in shouts. Sometimes a bicycle or a scooter slides through the group, obliging and skilful, the rider chatting as she swerves.

I have spinning balloons that hang underneath the edge of the verandah. Once a boy raised his hand to bang them, but then didn’t.

Huge heavy school bags. Backpacks for the mountain. They bounce from side to side, the weight keeping pace with the walk.  

When it’s freezing they wear shorts and t shirts and carry huge bags of twisties. They look through my windows.

They all talk at once. They look in the windows. They walk shoulder to shoulder. Once some boys tapped and tapped on the glass, ‘Hey, guys,’ but the girls inside were not distracted. They had books to get.

Once a kid passing the window answered someone else, ‘I’m not getting a book you dumb arse.’

They are all colourful and glorious in the cold wind.

Penelope and the Suitors by John William Waterhouse, 1912

Four things notable about today

Jean-Jacques Sempé

These were:

Three teenagers outside my shop on kick scooters, one wobbling, the others adroit, all watching the ground carefully and weaving in and out of passers-by, graceful in winter.

Two people pass, loud, as people usually are in the mornings. There was a flash of checked shirts and jeans, a tap on the edge of the door, that’s all. But their voices, loud, loud, floated back, hanging in the doorway:

‘I saw a wagon type one the other day.’

‘Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…’

‘It’s really good shit.’

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’

Lena visits wearing gardening gloves. Safe.

Terry, in a sapphire blue beanie, reads out loud to me from a little joke book he has just bought. He reads about twenty jokes to me, and says, ‘This is great, it’s just the one – thank you so much. Gunna give these to my grandkids.’

His face is a lit lamp.

Illustration by Jean Jacques Sempe

 

This Weirdy Weather

Pascal Campion.jpg

Yesterday was hot, and the ducks on the road into Strathalbyn sat too close to the road and refused to move. People came into the shop and said, ‘God, it’s hot!’

Today is cold, rain in the morning and people coming in and saying, ‘My God, this is strange.’

One man said that a second ago, it was summer.

His girlfriend said that she doubted it, and would he pay for her books.

He said, ‘How am I supposed to do that?’ But he paid for the books and looked pleased.

She said, ‘I love this weirdy weather, you can read in it.’

He said, ‘I know.’

She pointed out that he didn’t like reading.

He said, ‘I know, but I might be going to start,’ and he looked around for a book to start with.

She said, ‘I don’t believe you’, and looked pleased with him.

Artwork by Pascal Campion

Alone

Pascal Campion .jpg

This morning, when I am unlocking the door of the shop and balancing books and tasks, there are three friends waiting there, leaning, waiting for another friend who is at the bakery. They wear school uniforms but not of the local school. They are all watching their phones. The missing friend arrives while I am setting up, he carries a guitar case. One of the boys says to him: are you playing tonight? And he answers, yes, but not basketball. The other boy leans backwards and angles his phone as though to take a picture of such folly. He says, you are man! You have to play. The boy with the guitar says, I am, but not basketball. Playing this, by myself.

Artwork by Pascal Campion

These Girls are Friends

Gaelle Boissonnard.jpg

These girls came into the shop together, very hot and very happy and they circled in a purposeful sort of way each of the tables and then came over to me and said they were out practising their hiking skills and fitness and that’s why they seemed kind of fit. I said that I noticed that they were kind of fit. The first girl said yes and she bounced in her shoes in strong sort of way. Her friend had a backpack and she was examining closely a copy of Black Beauty. She didn’t say anything, so the first child continued the story: they were practicing for a hike and getting their fitness up. They looked at each other and nodded and said I had nice books in this shop and then they swung out of the door and on down the street to continue the hike, the day and the strength.

Artwork by Gaelle Boissonnard

The Interview

girls

Yesterday afternoon there was a great crowd outside the bakery – I could hear them but could not see them – it sounded like school children to me. And it was, some of them, all friends, soon came past, eating from paper bags and drinking coke and fluttering by like birds. They glanced briefly through my door as they usually do, looking through the door without seeing it. But this time, one girl indicated the door with her elbow and said to her friends: see that shop there, well I totally went in there once and asked for a job and they were like just FUCK off!

I tried to remember this interview, but I couldn’t. Still, I thought for a while, imagining myself interviewing possible employees for my tiny business and that felt very good! But I would not dismiss any applicants that way, except for Donald Trump.

 

Sculpture by Dirk de Keyzer