There is a man standing at the counter asking for a copy of the Joy of Sex.

He has long blonde hair and is wearing a straw pork-pie hat.

He is also wearing a very short see-through net mini skirt, has an exposed midriff and a pair of unlikely tits.

The last copy I owned was eleven pounds, he tells me.

I study my computer screen. I tell him that we do not have a copy and that the new edition to be published in July will cost twenty pounds.

Twenty pounds, he says.

I am looking at the floor. Yes I say.

Why is that? he asks.

I look at my hands. I suppose it must be a coffee table edition, I tell him.

A coffee table edition? he says.

Yes, I say. I look at the ceiling.

Why? he asks, Why must they always meddle with things?

I know, I say.

Pah! he says then and adopts a flounce.

I watch him as he walks out onto the street proudly, head held high, swinging a handbag and I notice that it has started to rain.

There is a man staring at me.

He is standing in front of the till staring.

Can I help you? I ask him.

He shakes his head and stares.

You've been here a long time? he says.

Yes, I say.

I was just remembering, he says, I used to come in here and buy my Goosebump books.

You did? I say.

I did, he says, and you were here then too.

I was, I say.

And that, he says, was a long time ago.


There is a man at the counter buying a card.

He sighs.

I acknowledge his sigh.

I'm reading The Dying Animal by Philip Roth, he says and sighs again.

I nod.

Have you read it? he asks.

I picture the naked woman, a Modigliani, on the cover. I have tried to, I tell him, twice.

He sighs again and shakes his head.

It's know? he says.

I know, I say.

He pays for his card.

I mean, at my age, he says.

He shakes his head again.

We leave it there.

Almost out of here.

Kudos though, to the woman who phoned this morning to find out what time we closed this evening.

When we told her five o'clock, she said indignantly, But on your website it says you are open until SEVEN on a Tuesday!

Happy Christmas to the rest of you.