Fiction

Day Shift At The Bookshop

By: Enda Boyle  

Surrounded by books

  It was a perfect Autumn morning, everything spilled into the bookshop from the front-door, wisps of candyfloss thick fog had not yet cleared. The tangerine glow of the streetlights shone through it. In the red-leafed birch tree groups of Redwings stirred. David opened a window to let the smell of the brewing coffe spread out. The new stock had been put on the shelves, the welcome sign had been hung and the water bowl for passing dogs was full. Not bad for David’s first day working solo.

    David was still unused to being dressed and productive at this time on a Monday morning. For most of the year he was confined to the spare room of his parent’s house, ever scince his contract with the Folklore muesum had not been renewed due to budget cuts after the government pulled funding. Monday mornings were always the worst, on Tuesdays he went to the jobcentre and had a pint on the way home. Wednesday was the weeks pivot David could see the light of the weekend ahead. He went to his ‘job club’ on Thursdays that sometimes took up a whole afternoon. Friday was the start of the weekend and no one reasonable could expect you to find ruminative labour on a weekend. But Mondays were the worst on Mondays you had to face the fact that you had one wasted week behind you and possibly another one ahead of you. David always found it more difficult to get out of bed on Monday mornings. Normaly he was out of bed and had toast cooking by 8:30, on those Mondays he was sometimes still in bed at ten listening to the television news seep up from the kitchen below his bedroom. This job was only casual just a few hours a week. Still when a drowning man was offered a lifeline, he grabbed it with both hands.   

    One of the few perks of lone working at the bookshop was that David got to pick the music that would be played that day. A small black recoard player was placed on a chair behind the front desk. David had begun to bring his own albums from home. Today’s offering was Neil Young’s Comes A Time, lyrics about coming down from a misty mountion and sowing seeds in the field of opportunity seemed charged with an intrusive fragile optimism. David stood by the first box of new stock waiting to hear the first warm soul-stuffed blast of Young’s harmonica which would signal the real start of the working day.

   David was sat behind the counter trying to use the computer to work how much to charge for a second-hand biography of Salinger when the bell on top the door rang. Standing at the door was Anna McKnight, her coopery curled hair was tied into a bun she wore a combat jacket and black doc martins coverd in mud. David had not seen Anna scence they had left school and memories of their last encounter still made his ears burn and turn the colour of cooked bacon. He buzzed her in maybe he could do her a deal on the biography, Anna had always been intrested in literature bringing the good news of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gary Synder back with her from holidays in California.

“Morning Anna if you just bear with me for a minute, I be with you till then feel free to browse”.

She was on her phone and did not look up when David addressed her.

“I’m not really looking for a book, but I was wondering if you had a printer I could use it’s sort of important.”

It was only then that Anna looked up, her eyes widened, and she bounded towards the counter and hugged David.

“Sorry I didn’t recognize you for a moment what happened to your hair?”

“What can I say when you stare into the abyss the abyss plays chicken with your hairline until it retreats.”

“At least you dress better than you used to I still have nightmares about the time we went to rent a suit for the formal.”

“Don’t pretend you did not enjoy skipping the school dance and hanging out at my Uncle’s flat?”

“Yes, I loved sitting next to you on that awful busted green sofa watching John Carpenter movies while waiting for that late pizza. On the other hand, that evening was the last time I ate meat and between us sometimes I still miss it.”

“Oh yeah that was the time you started on your green kick. How did that work out work out for you?”

“In the end I pleased Mummy and Daddy by doing Medicine at Queen’s which I failed after a year. I then went to study Environmental Scince in England and now I’m back saving for a postgrad. All of which you would know if you ever did social media and let people who aren’t in your circle of tedious hipsters keep in touch with you.”

Anna picked up a bookmark from the counter and slapped David on the arm with it.

 “Anyway, did you say you needed a printer”?

“It’s funny you should ask me about my ‘green kick’ tell me what do you know about the logging of the Great oak forest that used to order school?”

“Yeah of course what about it.?”

“Well about a third of it has been sold off loads of these ancient trees are marked to be cut down. I’m spearheading a group that is trying to prevent this. We are waiting on an injunction but while the court process it we are having a rally. I was wondering if I could maybe use your printer? I have a poster on a pen drive here.”

“Yeah, no worries we have a jet printer in the office it should not take long.”

“Cool listen I hate to do this, but I have collect some T-shirts from a place around the corner. Is it ok if I leave my pen with you and pick up the posters later?”

“Yes, no problem”.

“No problem.”

“Cool I will be back around one maybe if you’re free I could buy you lunch. Oh hey maybe if you’re free you could come down and join us. That’s how I always remember you at protests. I always think back to the student fees occupation, you sitting on the front steaps of the council offices under that red flag reading Chomsky. Just something to think about.”

  With that she turned around a speed out the door. If she’d left any faster she would have left a smoky outline of herself smouldering  in front of the till.  But then Anna was always like that recklessly dashing from one thing to the next. She was a perpetual motion dynamo powered by her own passions. David was different for too long now he had been running on an empty tank. He still performed the basic functions eat, drunk and kept himself entertained but it had been ages scince anything in life was charged with any significance or meaning. Outside the fog had lightened and the day was frost-clear. Across the empty blue distance David imagined her could hear the whirl of chainsaws. He had waited long enough and now it was time to follow Anna back into life. Everything was waiting outside the bookshop door.

Categories: Fiction

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