In celebration of independent bookshops
The rain beat down with a ceaseless fervour, bouncing off the hard gray cobbled street, and glinting in the street lights as it ran in tiny streams down the cracks in the road.
It was late November, and Margot was hurrying along the street to her favourite bookshop. As she turned the corner, a fierce wind blew against her.
She shivered, and drove her hands into her pockets deeply, winding in her neck tightly to her shoulders and securing her chin beneath her scarf.
With a quickened pace in her step, she reached the door of the bookstore and hurried inside. In an instant her glasses had steamed over.
She was unperturbed, however, since she was within the confines of a warm and dry space that could heat the body and excite the mind simultaneously.
Closing her eyes and breathing in deeply she could spell the faint odour of newly printed books and fresh ink stark upon unbroken pages, mixing with lavender candles that Matilda burnt in the winter.
She sighed, contentedly and having partially rubbed her glasses dry, she began unbuttoning her coat.
She was interrupted in the process by Marcel, Matilda’s dog, who had come bounding up to greet her as though she were an old friend, in the same manner as he did with all customers who entered the shop.
He was a large, soppy black labrador, who, upon sitting at her feet, slowly slid to the ground, wagging his tail as he went, so that he might have his tummy scratched.
She finished taking off her jacket and, having hung it on the pegs by the door, bent down to indulge Marcel with the attention he so evidently desired.
Glancing up as she was hunched over, she felt a surge of ease and comfort as she looked around the shop.
The lamps that stood in the quiet corners, above chairs and stools, gave a soft orange glow to the room, elongating the shadows of the white book cases that provided a stark contrast to the dark winter’s evening that had gathered outside.
Again, she breathed in deeply, and felt the worries of the world leave her body as she enjoyed this moment of respite.
As she turned her attention to Marcel, she heard Matilda shuffling in from the back room, where the shop continued.
“Hello Margot,” she said in a kind and friendly voice. “How are you?”
Margot sighed audibly, “Exhausted and cold,” she said with a smile.
She nodded understandingly, “It’s that time of year,” she said. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“I would absolutely love one,” Margot answered. Matilda, with that restful look in her eyes, simply nodded, and slipped in behind the counter to stick the kettle on.
She knew how Margot liked her tea, and so there was no need to ask her how she took it. Margot straightened herself up, and went into the back room to peruse the shelves.
She enjoyed the back room. The walls were covered floor to ceiling with wonderful books of poetry and fiction, each more tantalising than the last.
In the summer, the room took on a fresh and lively air as light poured in through the window at the far end.
In the winter, however, it was the perfect haven of cosiness, and Margot could pass many an evening, perched on the window seat listening to the rain driving down from outside as she thumbed through the pages of assorted books, considering what to buy.
Today was no different, and by the time Matilda had brought her a cup of tea and set it down on the table by the window seat, she had already amassed a pile of 8 books.
There was something so enticing, for her, to be standing in front of a wall of books, and she often felt like a child in a sweetshop when thinking about what to buy.
The neat rows of uncracked spines called out for her attention, pressing themselves upon her senses, offering previously unimagined universes to be explored.
It humbled her to see a sample of the scope of humanity’s intellectual endeavour, ordered alphabetically and by genre, pressing down upon her from the high shelves.
Those shelves teemed with infinite possibilities and opportunities, and the rich and wonderful potentials of the human mind were enough to make her dizzy.
And yet, despite the vastness of knowledge and intellect that was arranged before her, there was something calming in the thought that all of this was there simply to be enjoyed.
No matter how quickly her list of “books to read pile” might grow, there was a satisfying pleasure to be found in each and every book she read.
Whilst she would never read everything she wanted, she loved this bookshop for providing a safe space in which she could at least try.
Glancing down at the small stack that she had amassed, she decided that she had enough to be getting on with while she drank her tea.
She settled into the window seat, enjoying the softness of the cushions as she took the weight from off her aching feet.
Marcel, who had settled himself next to her, pricked up his ears as another customer entered the shop, and went off to greet them with curiosity and excitement.
“Hello Gerry!” Matilda’s voice rang out. “How are you today?”
And as the gentle murmurings of their conversation wrapped a pleasing, quiet noise around the shop, Margot sipped her tea and felt the tension leave her shoulders, as she flicked through the pages of the books and lost herself in thought.
- Claude Pink