The Bookseller

the bookseller
http://photopaulm.com/2015/09/17/book-seller/
By: lisa evola

The boy picked up a blue tattered book and smoothed the pages that blew with the rising wind. His palms rested on the cover as he approached me on the walkway where I stood. “Here Mrs.”, he stated matter-of-factly. “Here is the book for you.”

I was astonished as he pushed its soft worn fabric into my uncertain hands. “Oh,” I said hesitantly, “I’m not looking for a book today.” I had paused on the street to check my phone. A short chirping sound had alerted me to a message begging for my attention, and I had stopped to sate its cry.

“I saw you looking Mrs.” He insisted. “This is what you are looking for.”

I had looked. As I paused from my task, the array of colors had caught my eye, and I had thought how beautiful its kaleidoscope had appeared. The sun shone brightly upon the assorted covers, blue, greens and oranges popping forth in a fury of brilliant hue. “I was just admiring the brilliant colors of your books, but I am not shopping today.” My schedule was tight, and I simply did not have time to linger among the frivolous. Time had, as of late, become a premium. And a premium that I could not afford.

As I looked into his crestfallen eyes, my heart tightened, and I realized just how young he was. He appeared no older than my youngest son, only sixteen; not yet a man. His clothing showed extreme signs of wear and bleaching from the intense sun in this desert region. And it occurred to me then that he was on his own, making his way through life in the only way he knew.

“Come Mrs.,” he said. “I have what you need here. My books, they are all very beautiful.” His pleading eyes convinced me of their desperate sincerity, and I allowed him to take my hand, then guide me to the steps where he displayed his treasures. I discovered that his name was Gabriel. “Like the messenger angel,” he told me.

“And what is your message?” I teased.

“This Mrs. This is your message.” He pushed the blue tattered book back into my hands, and I looked for the first time at its title on the narrow binding.

The lettering was carved deep into the unusual fabric that clothed its casing. The blue cloth of the book was of a shade I had not seen before, brilliant, with an almost transparent appearance. The fibers from below the surface hue showed thick with texture, and the frayed corners simply added to its uniqueness. The lettering itself looked as though it had been hammered in gold, and it glimmered in the sun, even though its age should have prevented its luminosity. Grandiose flourishes poured from the characters, embellishing the words further, drawing the eye to its obvious importance.

My breath caught as I read the letters strung across the binding: A Matter of Time.

I looked back at Gabriel and enquired of its cost. “Whatever it is worth to you Mrs.”

I opened my wallet, taking from it a large stack of bills; everything that I had. And placed it into the waiting hands of the messenger.

 

 

 

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Eglantine

This is a short story inspired by a beautiful, yet haunting picture by Paul Militaru Photography, called Eglantine…which is the rose hop from a briar rose. Enjoy!

eglantine

Fragrant perfume filled the air as my fingers stroked the leaves of the row of eglantine that grew beside the trail. I walked along its path, unconsciously caressing the twigs and occasionally catching my sleeves and fingers on the tiny thorns that lined its branches. The wild rose’s blooms had long since disappeared, leaving in their place the swelling of rose hips, bright in their promise.
My mother and I often collected them. Our days were always filled with brimming baskets of petals and herbs, roots and leaves, that served to restore those who came to receive her gift of healing. Ironic that they now lined the path leading to the monument of her death.
The last two days had been a blur, and realization was only now dawning as I walked the ever widening path that led to the clearing of sorrow, as they called it. It is a place of mournful repose, one that most in our village at one time or another had visited. Especially recently. A sickness had entered and spread at an alarming rate among the residents. My mother, being a gifted healer,tended to their wounds and fevers. But even with all of her gifts and knowledge of herbs, she was not immune to its ravages.
Mother had always been careful not to bring remnants of the illnesses she encountered into our cott, often choosing to sleep in the shed with our meager collection of livestock. Most often her ministrations were limited to farm accidents, new babies, and the occasional skin infection. But since the arrival of our new schoolmaster, one by one the residents bloomed with fever and sores. Some had been cured, due to careful tending from my mother; many died. “A most horrible end”, she had said sadly, refusing to elaborate upon what she had seen.
Then her move to the shed became permanent. She spoke to me through the window of the cott, explaining that most in the village were now sick, and since I was not yet showing signs of exposure, she would not take the chance of spreading the infection to me. That was three days ago.
The next morning she woke with the fever, and the door to the shed was barred from the inside. Refusing my help, she asked only for water, a pot and a few herbal remedies that had already been prepared. I left them beside the door along with some bread and broth. Both remained untouched.
The eglantine bushes for which I was named, now served as a reminder of my young life – of fragrant experiences mingled with pain, and of the sweet love of my mother. The pain and uncertainty that her death would bring was almost unbearable. I was now completely alone, left to follow in her footsteps, or not.
Sweet Brier Rose. She named me this because when I was born, my skin was the color and texture of the soft pink petals that bloomed in early summer. Mother most often called me by my full name and I loved the way it rolled off her tongue; a most beloved term of endearment, especially now. But everyone else called me Brie.
The path opened up, and I stepped into the clearing, and amongst the throng of people gathered there. Downcast faces, each bearing their own pain, rose to mine as I passed, and offered their silent prayers of peace: for mother, her eternal soul, and too, for my days hereafter. I was much to young to stay at the cott alone. 16 was the age of majority, and I had not yet reached it, would not for some years to come. They would not let me stay there alone, regardless of how much they respected my mother. The elders would take control of our home, and pass it to a family that needed it. Of course I could stay with them, strangers in my own home, but it would be hard. My choices were limited, but I would not yet pondered them as I could not yet get past my grief. I would be allowed a couple of days to gather my few belongings.
I did not know my father. He had gone missing just after I was born. He left with the rest of the village on a hunt and never returned. Mother and I had always managed pretty well, as her skill was renowned. We were not well off by any stretch of the imagination, but we always had food and enough wood to keep us warm throughout the winter months; the villagers made sure of it. And really, what else did we need? But I knew not one other soul attached to my family by blood. I would most likely have to leave the only home I knew. There had been offers of a bed amongst a few of the villagers, but I knew that the offers were made mostly as a kindness. Most cotts were filled to bursting with families and children, and with so many gone from the illness, the fields had been left largely untended. Food had become scarce.
My steps ended at the pyre that she had been placed upon. There were 6 of varying sizes, and each held a loved one that had succumbed to fever. Most often bodies of the dead were buried beneath a monument to their lives, but fear had driven the elders to proclaim that the diseased would be burned, leaving no remains of what had infiltrated our lives. I reasoned that when my mother was gone, there would be nothing left to hold me here but memories, and those would always be with me no matter where I was.
I walked to the base of her funeral pyre and placed an armful of flowers and herbs that I had gathered from our garden; all of her favorites. The roses that she had always so carefully tended, pink and yellow, and the white ones that she had told be once represented purity and the eternal light that death would ultimately lead to. They seemed appropriate now. Rosemary and thyme, barberry and blessed thistle bunched around them now, infusing the air with the fragrant blossoms. As I stepped away to my place among the gathered crowd, the scent lingered and I breathed deeply, memorizing its heady aroma. “I will never forget” my soul cried out to hers. And the tears began to brim.
One of the men from amongst the throng stepped forward with a lit torch. After a slight nod to the families surrounding the beacon, he touched its lit end to the dried grasses that waited beneath. The flame caught and spread, quickly moving up the post toward those who waited. I watched as the fire encapsulated her body, separating it forever from mine.
It was then that I saw him. Beyond the balefire stood a man who I did not know, whom it did not appear that anyone knew. He faced the ravaging flames with a solemn countenance, and I saw the wet upon his face. His grief puzzled me. Who among these did he weep for? As I pondered this, he looked away from the rite, and directly into my eyes. His eyes bore through me, the same icy blue as those that I possessed. My mother had always said they were the color of a clear sky in winter, unhindered by the clouds, and through them you could see forever. Now, even at this distance, I seemed to be looking into eternity, into what the future held.
Recognition passed between us, and cold fear gripped my heart, my mind refusing to accept what my heart innately knew. It knew this man. How? I let my eyes drop from his piercing stare, and I turned back toward the path of eglantine, back toward all that I had ever known. I had not take but a step or two, when a hand gripped my arm, insistent but gentle. And I heard my name. “Sweet Brier Rose?” The sound of it pierced my soul, and it pulled my eyes back to his.
“Brie?” A cold chill passed through me, as though his voice were a ghost. ”I am your father.”

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author of short stories, poetry, & prose