The house looked almost as if it were unreal, perched atop the small hill, rising old and mighty against a blue and cold December sky. It was early morning and not many people were about, and those who were did not seem to mind the house atop the hill so very much. After all, it was almost Christmas and they all had places to go, and presents to buy, and thoughts to think, and worries to harbour. For example: ‘Will Christie behave this time, and not turn up her nose at the sight of my casserole?’ Or: ‘Will Randall pass his last math exam before the holidays and save his A*?’ Or: ‘Will Cathy like the present I got her, or be disappointed once again by my lack of originality? Or has she given up on me by now, anyway?’
These were the thoughts which the people of the town were hanging on to on this blustery morning, and thus they did not spare a glance for the house perched atop the small hill.
Had they only known!
That there was magic in there, unfathomable and unsinkable, a ship so mighty you could never lose it to the waves. For it was a bookshop, and bookshops, I’m sure we all agree, are the most magical places to exist, next to that place where we go in dreams, where (mostly) all is as it should be, the difference between these two places being that the one is real and palpable, walk-throughable and smellable,
while the other is not.
White smoke was rising from the chimney of the bookshop perched atop the small hill, like cotton candy, blending with the shreds of clouds behind it. If a strong gust of wind would suddenly come up sharply, and unhinge the tiled roof from its frame, and take it with it, tile by tile, you would see this:
of shelves filled with all different sorts of books. Small and big, filled with photographs or not, those with thin pages and thin rims, those with rich, thick ones, those with small letters and those with big fonts, those with colourful covers and those without, those with a crimson ribbon and those without, hardbacks and paperbacks. Everything is to be found in the room without the roof, still, even without the roof, but in between the two covers of a book – solace, and grief,
and laughter, and tears,
and hope, and anger, and
truth, and not.
If you would look some more from above into the bookshop without the roof, perched atop the small hill, you would see some heads moving about (of course the heads would be attached to bodies but as you’d be looking from above, through the roof-shaped gap, you would not really be able to see the bodies, and the heads are much more important anyways, in this business of books, because that is where the magic happens), and those heads would be moving in uneven patterns, nipping from the foreign language section to the crime aisle, and back towards the non-fiction, and from there to the counter, to ask, and be heard, and be recommended something to. One might say: “My father liked this one book by that Swedish author so very much, you know, the funny one.”, and one might walk out of the bookshop without the roof, perched atop the small hill satisfied that the book one had just bought was just as Swedish and just as funny as the one that one had had in mind. Or, in the particular bookshop without the roof, perched atop the small hill which I am speaking of now, one might say, “My father-“ and one would not need to say more because the people of the town are known in this bookshop without the roof, perched atop the small hill, and so are their literary preferences.
“A town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul,” wrote someone once.
I think he may have been right. And I’m glad my town, with the bookshop figuratively-speaking-without-the-roof, perched atop the small hill, with the white smoke rising from the chimney like cotton candy, is not trying to fool a soul.