V — People get killed
People get killed. Are hollow. They come up to me like clear outlines with no insides, no complexity. When they die they fade. Slowly. So that if I look back and watch I see them disappear before my eyes. They leave a material token of themselves; I can pick it up and use it. I see the body isn’t there. Bodies are intersections of time and space where time and space does its thing. The body has no say in it. However, every now and then we remember that we have to die. Our bodies do tell us this much at least. Some people think they pull the strings but the whole thing beyond the body holds sway. Smack face punch face bite face cry.
Now: I want you to get back to real for a while, the man says. How are you going to do it?
I’ll open a small shop and talk about the things I sell and the people who come in.
What sort of shop is it?
Hardware store. It’s always a hardware store. I’ve come across loads. They’re traditional and always figure in such and such a story. They’re solid, robust. Traditional.
And what hides behind the people behind the counter? Behind that pile of pans and nails. People dying?
That’s right! People dying, yeah, like everywhere else. So what?
What’s the big surprise?
Nothing I guess. But when you read about such and such a place they try hard to convey a sense of timelessness, you know, security; a safe reference point. Like I said: no surprise there.
What about your customers?
Well, this old lady comes in once a week. Every Thursday afternoon around one. She smells of lavender like old-ladies do. Some old ladies. Carries a woven basket with a diamond design around the top. She doesn’t shuffle or nothing. She’s together like in body and mind. She wears a pale green cardigan of fine wool; very expensive I’d say. She wears a flecked wool skirt. She doesn’t smell at all.
He stops for a second, thinking; staring into the distance. Then he starts again: No. She’s not old. Not that old; she’s around fifty with dark hair tied up in a scarf.
Is she attractive, I ask.
Ummm, yes, I think so. I think you’d think so. And she’s nice, you know: a nice person. Always opens up with ‘good afternoon mister such and such.’ How are you? And I say: Fine! Thanks for asking. What can I help you with today? And she’ll look at the counter, rummage in her bag and pull out a list. I need some pegs. Some clothes pegs, you know. No problem; wooden or plastic? We have both. She’ll have the wooden ones, I guess. Yes she does. She never buys much, never spends a lot of money. Just house stuff like cleaners, wax and things.
Does she stop and talk when she’s done her buying?
Sometimes she does. Sometimes she has a boy with her.
Very imaginative, I smile. She must be a mother.
The boy’s around thirteen. Short dark hair, same color as the woman’s. It’s not shaved. Sort of grown-out shaved, like it needs shaving again. And he’s got a good face. Sharp features, not good looking or ugly but interesting. Odd thing about the boy is his clothes are a little old-fashioned; even compared to the woman’s. His trousers are knee-length with long socks pulled way up underneath. And he’s really quiet; never speaks. But he’s not afraid to make eye contact. Friendly eye-contact, but always behind the eyes he’s weighing it up. The cogs are turning. Tries to get a handle on everything. Everything in the shop and what the woman said and what I say.
Do you like him?
Yeah. I guess so! I never thought about it. He’s okay. He’ll be somebody someday. You’ll have an important conversation with him one day, in a few years. He’s marked for something special.
When was the last time you spoke to her? It’s hard to tell, he says after a while. Time’s dragged lately; got a bit blurred. Business is slack. I may take a vacation.
Sounds good, I say, trying to sound enthusiastic, cheery. I have to take a trip too. Want to come along?