This is how some readers stand in front of bookshelves in the shop. Sometimes, they’ve spoken to me but forget. But that’s ok. I’ve spied spines on shelves, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and forgotten what to do.
It’s when we are most able to let ourselves happen.
Other readers pass through as though they are angry, but they’re not. One old lady bent over a wheeled walker seemed angry. But she wasn’t. She bought Paul Gallico’s Mrs Harris Goes to New York. I said, ‘My mum has this book.’ She said, ‘Oh yes.’ And her daughter, who was there to carry the books, shifted onto another foot and looked at her phone. She was angry. But that’s ok. So am I. So are my daughters.
Outside my shop, on Saturday morning, a couple of motorbikes coughed low and steady. Throaty suggestions of leaving. I hoped so. But they didn’t. They were waiting for mates.
A customer said, ‘Noisy buggers.’
‘What do you think I’m gunna do? This was shouted right at the door. A man urged companions straggling along the footpath, who ignored him. He shouted:
‘Come in, come in, come in. Just want to show this book to yous.’
‘We know you Marley.’
‘Na. Na. No way. Ok I’m going in. Watch this.’
He didn’t come in. He was moving through a pastie as fast as he could. And shouting:
‘I don’t know why you won’t come in. I’m not taking the piss. Real.’
‘What book you getting Marley?
‘Facebook. No. Joking. Just come in and look at this. I just want to show you something.’
‘Not going in, Marley. Just fuck off.’
Marley leaned against the post outside my door and finished his pastie, soothed. The group moved on, Marley trailing them, dancing with both arms going from side to side and his head following, strong and rhythmic.
At the door a new voice saying, ‘Oh, oh, oh, a bookshop.’
‘No, let’s go. You won’t cope.’ This couple in the doorway, unable to agree. ‘I’m going in. I need something.’ He want into the front room. His partner leant against my desk and consulted his phone. He said, ‘If Miles was here, this wouldn’t happen.’ He looked at me, and I agreed. Good old Miles.
The partner returned. ‘Come on you.’
‘What’d you get?’
‘Sword in the Stone. Coffee now?’
‘Yeah.’ They left.
Outside, more shrieking at the window. ‘I want to go to bed and sleep. I lay there with me eyes open all last night.’ Laughter
‘You going in then?’
A group of people looked through the window, bending to peer through the glass. A man said, ‘Is it books? Not much happening in there.’ They moved on.
But books, being alive, have veins and pores and moisture. Mould spores multiply in the lush haven of a book, the paper growing life and disintegrating lusciously, like us. Liquid and angry, rhythmic, and still having the shopping to do and a good series on Netflix waiting.
Sculpture by Ans Vink