The Ladder



A young family visited the shop; they are a group of experienced readers. The siblings bunch together, anxious to make the first discovery of Brotherband…eventually, though, they scatter. They, all of them, maintain an exclaiming commentary, to which nobody listens.

Oh my God…

I really love this.

I’ve got that…..and that…

There’s none here. Thanks for nothing. But this is here…

But nobody looks up.

The youngest is reading out loud….an older brother looks down kindly. He says…no….ladder…it says ladder…see?

Undeterred, she keeps reading aloud. She does not say ladder. She refuses to use this word. He attempts to close the book on her nose. He says LADDER. But she wants the word rabbit; it has more value because with this word she can outwit her family.

But her brother has moved on, he has found book one of The Edge Chronicles: Beyond the Deep Woods. He shows his brother a picture of a gyle goblin…and without looking, his brother says: yeah, that’s good!

Their parents are in the other room, I can hear them arguing over the Rutherfurd histories. She is saying: we have ALREADY got this one.

A lady enters, thinking it is the bakery. I direct her around the corner and she says: well, fancy that!

Robert comes for his Bullfinch Mythology but it has not arrived. He looks longingly at the Ray Bradbury but says his pension has not come in yet.

I am asked for Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, The Story of Silent Night by Paul Gallico, Migaloo The White Whale, The Shorter Oxford Dictionary of Historical Principles, (volume two only) and also Pirates Don’t Eat Bananas.

People come in with purposeful lists, they circle around, intent only upon Ruth Rendell, they often leave empty handed, never ambushed by Other Possibilities. They are never lured to a book by its dust cover or seduced by leather or impressed by weight. They leave grimly, no luck today.

The small child that liked the word rabbit is captured by Yann Martel. She traces the lines of colour with her finger, from powder blue down through emerald, to leaf, to clay, to gold. There is a child walking across the gold, she taps him kindly. She bends so that the book is level with her face, there is a monkey walking through the green. She says: that’s a monkey.

Her parents emerge from the other room and remind her to be careful. She says: that’s a monkey,  but they are still wading in argument and do not attend to the monkey. Her mother glances across eventually, though and exclaims: oh that’s Yann Martel, he wrote Life of Pi.  Her husband says: we already have it. The little girl says: can we get a pie?

The brothers come out, they have one book between them and it is volume 9 of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The brothers look at their sister warningly: she is not going to read it.

She says: ladder.



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