Lunar Cycles part three

The rich, subtle smell of paper and ink and a hint of magic filled the shop. Today the shop was lit almost moodily, a dim greasy yellow just highlighting the racks of old prints, papers, paints, inks, stationery. We walked down to the drawing paper section.

“So, does Paul prefer 90g Versailles papier-de-sorcelles or 100g Kyoto?”

“Is that what they taught you in school?” said Willard, smiling again.

“Yes…” I blushed.

“Hmmm… have a feel of this.”

I reached out and touched the thin, bluish paper. It felt slightly waxy and… this wasn’t papier-de-sorcelles at all, just ordinary paper!

“But how do you construct the object models in your spells and your interfaces?” I exclaimed.

“We just do the blueprint on here before we commit to papier-de-sorcelles. If you have a feel, you can tell it’s just right for pencilling. So, blue pencil first, then something darker so that it can be scanned…

“Then we transfer it from computer to papier-de-sorcelles!”

As Will spoke and explained about Paul’s process, I started to realise just how much new I had to learn. My head almost ached with the new information. How could I remember all of this? My course though 2 years long had prepared me only in theory- the way to structure spells, various methods to improve their efficiency, suitable materials and inks- but the actual process itself that was taught was very backwards. Computerised printing in relation to spellcraft had advanced quite a lot even in the short time that I had been studying. Even though it was well entrenched in traditional printing, spellcrafters due to their extreme speciality were prone to be initially mistrustful of technology and take time to implement it.

“Sorry, Sumaya, I’m probably talking your ear off!”

“No, it’s good, even if I don’t really understand all of it yet.”

He smiled.

“I’ve always loved spellcrafting so much. Even when my mum used to draw and ink little spells to find the keys in the house! So sometimes I go on a bit when I’m outside the shop!”

I felt exhilerated as we paid and made our way out of the shop. Will’s love for the craft infused me with a new joy for what we were doing, and seeing him open up and joke and talk was simply amazing. We stopped on the way at a tiny bakery on the way back that was full of light and the smell of flour and baking. I bought myself a pain-au-chocolat as two small children chased each other and weaved their way between me and Will, their friendly mother apologising profusely, and Will, a custard tart.

We wound our way, munching away, back to the shop, paper and inks in hand. As we swung the old door open, Paul appeared.

“Ah, there you two are! Now, I’ll be crafting a few spells for the fellows. Both of you come with me!” he beckoned excitedly as ever.

Spreading the wax paper on a large table, he started planning out loud; we began…

Lunar Cycles part two

Our customer’s name must, of course, remain anonymous. Let us just call her… Madame de Pompadour.

She walked in, dressed in black lace and finery, a large wide-brimmed ladies’ hat obscuring her features. Paul had been expecting her and ambled clumsily down the stairs.

“Sit down, sit down,” he said, indicating a small sitting area in the front of the shop. He gestured for Willard and I to join them also. I gave Willard an anxious glance, and he merely nodded.  Mme de Pompadour delicately lowered herself onto a seat next to Paul. Willard sat opposite Paul and I, to my extreme discomfort, found myself seated opposite the Madame. She looked straight into my face and I blushed deeply.

“Madame de Pompadour, Sumaya, Willard,” Paul pointed to us effusively, “Would you like some tea Mme?”

“Thank you.”

“Willard?” Will got up clumsily, went to the back of the shop and put the kettle on.

There was an awkward silence as the water boiled. Paul had not put on music this morning, expecting a customer, and so there was just the sound of the kettle, a car alarm whining insistently down the road, the occasional bird, and of course, the road. Paul checked his watch. I looked away from the Mme, who honestly intimidated me.

“Sumaya. Very beautiful name.”

“Ah! Yes, thank you.”

“Where is it from, may I ask?”

“It’s an Arabic name, but I’m Sri Lankan, Madame.”

“I see. Very good tea over there, I hear. I do like my tea.”

“Yes, I believe they do say it… is… good.”

She smiled. I blushed once again. I was no good at this client relations business, and I had no idea why Paul had insisted that I be part of this meeting. I was in this business partly to avoid dealing with other people as much; I was unprepared for the retail side of things!

Momentarily, Willard returned with four cups of fragrant English Breakfast tea on a tray along with cream and sugar. I added a little milk and 3 sugars to mine. Willard drank his milky and with no sugar. Paul- somewhat of an innocent when it comes to tea- drank his plain and with at least 5 teaspoons of sugar. Madame de Pompadour: she drank hers black and sugarless.

“I am here because I would like you to track down an item of mine which has been stolen. Paulsen, you remember my dear faithful last husband do you not?” she said with not a little bitterness.

My throat tightened- surely she was not dressed in mourning for a dead husband? A husband towards she had shown much enmity…?

“Oh, yes of course, how could I forget Charles! He was in here this very week, oh yes, in fact we just finished his order, didn’t we Will?”  Willard nodded, his Adam’s apple bobbing slightly as he swallowed some tea. I exhaled slowly, relieved.

“Well, Charles left me a rather nice silver serving platter after we parted ways. Sort of a pompous consolation prize for running off with that… rabbit-woman.” She glared in my direction and I smiled and looked down into my tea nervously.

“My house was broken into very quietly not three days ago and this platter was the only thing disturbed. Nothing else was touched. There were no signs that the display cabinet had been broken into, though it is locked and was locked even when I came down the next day.

“I know not who this could be- other than Charles, that so-called lady of his or one of their associates. While the value of that platter is not too much, it does have a certain… sentimental value to yours truly.”

She paused and smiled at me again. I felt a little bit creeped out by that smile. It was a little too familiar and friendly for my comfort, like being smiled at by a crocodile, despite her obvious magazine good looks.

“Right, hmmm. This certainly is puzzling and we’ll have to send a couple of our Fellows over to have a look at your place so we can start crafting some search spells. I’ll have to ask you some detailed questions in a moment, I hope you don’t mind, Willard, Sumaya, go and fetch me some drawing paper from down the road while I talk to the Mme.”

And with that we were dismissed.

“So, your first client, and it’s the Madame de Pompadour!” Willard smiled wryly.

“When Paul said he just had some customer dropping by I thought it would be some little old lady who needed her cat found, not the Madame herself!”

“Yes, well you get used to that sort of thing. We do have our own share of little old ladies, but Paulsen’s always got surprises up his sleeve.”

“Yes, indeed.”

Brunswick street during the day is vibrant and full of life. Students, homeless people, bohemians, the occasional lost looking business-person; they all inhabit this world. Sometimes it’s amazing to wonder at all this variety. A cyclist almost knocked us over on the footpath, rung its bell twice and waved as we talked. Cars streamed past and we had to negotiate the gauntlet of Alexandra Parade on a weekday. For a short time a random dog decided to follow us, until it got bored and wandered somewhere else. There was a sense of magic around, that day. As there should be :).

“So what do you think of that whole story?” I ventured.

Willard narrowed his eyes.

“I’ve never trusted the Madame, and I don’t trust her now. I think there’s far more to this than Paul is letting on.”

“That lady scares me, I don’t know what it is, she has this creepy way of looking at you.”

“Oh, that… no I think she rather fancies you, don’t you think?” I blushed yet again.

“No, no way, she’s Count Xavier’s consort, she’s not gay. Anyway I’m pretty sure that’s not why she was looking at me.”

“Oh Sumaya, my dear, you have so much to learn!” He nudged me playfully and grinned. I smiled back. This was a side of Willard I’d never seen before, and I felt a new warmth towards him.

We made a quick walk to Zetta Florence and walked in…

Lunar Cycles part one

Leta woke me up this morning with a big “miaow”. She was perched with her head just over my face. Giving a big purr and nudging my face with her damp nose I couldn’t resist but wake up even if it was 15 minutes before I was due to wake up. I gave the big wet cat a cuddle and found her some breakfast in my small, neat kitchen. I rummaged for some strawberries in the fridge, some yoghurt, the muesli in the cupboard. Poured the muesli into a large bowl, carefully chopped the strawberries into slices and arranged them on top, with a generous helping of yoghurt. Yum!

She and I ate together, the wet sound of her eating and me listening to the sounds of the city outside while I contemplated the muesli and the newspaper. I smiled to myself- an extra bit of time meant I could have a nice cup of tea too- and I picked out a fragrant black tea with dried peaches in it, inhaled its smell deeply, put a tablespoon of it into my funnel-shaped tea strainer and put the kettle on.

I wondered where that cat had gotten to to get so wet. Where do cats go? They must slip out and take the multiple secret ways through various gardens, laneways. One of my friends had a cat stolen… inexplicably the cat turned up 4 months later on the doorstep much plumper and with a new collar. So far no such thing had happened to my cat, thankfully. Whenever my friends want to scare me though, they always refer to “The Wind Up Bird Chronicle” as what happens to you when you get mixed up in bad stuff. I think they mean that you might have bizarre phone calls from creepy women in the night and disturbing politicians out to get you… but I always sort of assume they mean your cat will run away!

After my tea I rinsed the dishes quickly and put them away. Hmmm. How was I going to get to work today?

I decided to wander past the garden shop on Brunswick Street. I must have been the first person there, there was that empty sort of sound of tinny music playing in the space. I sort of thought twice about it and walked back out again. Whew. I got to work 5 minutes early and started setting up.

Later that day we had a new customer… I’ll tell you about her next time!

Polished and new

I got some new boots today. Polished and new. I tend to spend a little time with new shoes just rubbing a little extra polish into them. Get them gleaming with a deeper, duller shine.

I started  work a few weeks ago,  I’m just getting the hang of it now.  I’m working (ostensibly) at a printmaker. In some ways even though this isn’t exactly the work I was trained for, there is this nice contentment in inking, feeding the paper through, pressing down once, twice. Quiet, harmonious work.

Willard helps me a fair bit still. He’s painstaking and patient and serious. We’re all very quiet until Paul gets here. Paul’s the owner of the shop, very tall and kind of gangly with these glasses that perch on his nose and a misshapen jumper always :). He likes a bit of music while we work, so he usually puts on something eclectic. Today it was a collection of studies by Czerny (or so he said, jumping up onto the counter which had his computer excitedly).

Willard and I silently composing texts as if they were tunes and printing them off to the sound of solo piano cascading up and down almost in time to Paul’s keyboard and mouse. Paul humming away as a lazy fly floated through the damp air and out again. My mind drifting along as if down a gentle river…

We printed a good portion of our latest order by that evening. Paul went out for drinks, Willard hopped on his bicycle and swiftly darted down Brunswick Street, home and I?

I slowly wandered down the right alleyway home, loudly slammed the flywire door and the oak one, checked my email, tickled Leta, white cat, under the chin, fed her tuna and… slumped back into my chair, exhausted.

After a shower I was, once again

polished

and new.