The sliding door creaked as I pulled it aside, and the sparrows nestled on the roof flew to the sky in unison.
They crossed the road in a straight line, and escaped to the top of the station platform. I suppose there are lots of them because there are some people feeding them. There are quite a lot of old houses with exquisite yards, and it would not be weird to see someone feeding wild birds in the yard.
The weather this morning is good. The sea breeze was lukewarm, and still had some lingering heat left from the summer. However, as we were headed into October, the green view that could be seen in front of every house of the hills was starting to dull a little.
Autumn was about to arrive in Kita-Kamakura. Soon after, there would be a mass influx of tourists coming to Engaku Temple and Kenchō Temple to view the red leaves.
I placed the metal rotating signboard outside the shop. The white brushstroke words gave an antique sense, but it was new. The old signboard we had been using up till now could not be used due to a previous commotion, so we made an exact replica of the old signboard at a local old blacksmith. It was nicely made, but the only flaw was that it felt heavier.
With some effort, I dragged the signboard to the porch, spun the side with the words “Acquisition of old books, providing honest valuation” away, and revealed the name of the shop.
Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia
Right, this is a shop selling old books. It was an old shop that started operations in Kita-Kamakura decades ago, and I started work here in the summer–
My explanation however was a little brief. Midway through, I resigned, and only returned here to work last week. I was busy during this short time when I worked and resigned, and it would be very difficult to explain everything in a few sentences, to a point where I can write a book if I list the events. As I have to prepare for the shop’s opening, I shall leave that aside for now.
I pushed the cart filled with 100 Yen Pocket Books to the porch. and picked up the broom to sweep aside the dust that had accumulated on the aisles. The bookshelves and even the aisles were stacked with books, giving off a musky scent only old books would have.
This shop mainly dealt with literature books and humanities fields, like history and religion, and there were nary a recently printed book. Of course, the books here were all kept in the bookshelves of others, and they all had their own past. I suppose there were books that were carefully read through and treasured well, and there were books that were shelved and forgotten.
The books passed from person to person contained both the contents of the books, and their own stories too. The books left in this shop will soon be bought by some person, and a new story will be written.
Well, that is if they can be sold.
I heard a soft female voice, and stopped what I was doing as I looked back. There was a door at the wall behind the counter, leading to the inner house. The shop owner was inside; after dropping the spare change in the counter, she said she wanted to head back to collect something, and had not returned.
She was calling for me, and I entered the counter and opened the door. There was a dim corridor extended through the narrow entrance, reaching deep within. I could not find the owner of the voice.
An indistinct voice came from the ceiling; it seemed she was on the second floor. I hesitated for a little moment, removed my shoes, and entered the hall.
Like the shop, the inner house was too a little aged, as the floor would let out a creak that echoed through the corridor for every step I took. Normally, I would only enter the inner house just to use the toilet. Though I was an employee, there was no reason for me to randomly enter the shop owner’s house at will.
Besides, the ones living here are young females.
“What is it?”
I asked as I stood at the bottom of the stairs. There was a turn midway up the flight of stairs, and I could not see the second level. I suppose the new handrail was installed to facilitate movement on the stairs. The person upstairs at this point is a little inconvenienced in terms of movement.
The ambiguous voice rang. Was she asking me to go upstairs, or was she asking me to wait?
“May I go upstairs?’
What is it about? I inadvertently tensed up as I went up the stairs. I heard the shop owner’s room was on the second level, and though I had already told myself not to look around incessantly for no good reason,
I was shocked as I arrive on the dim second level. There were old books scattered all over the cramped corridor, and the covers have piled up to my waist. If it were anyone else seeing this without knowing the situation, he would have assumed this place to be a storeroom. There was barely a path for me to walk through the middle, leading to the sliding door within.
To be honest, such a scene was nary a surprise to me. The owner of this Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia was someone who finds sanctity whenever she had a book to read; in other words, she was a ‘bookworm’. When she was hospitalized, she even brought a lot of books to the ward room, and was warned by the nurse.
I stopped in front of the sliding door at the end of the corridor, and was about to say something, only to glance aside at something strange. There was a wall on my left, and there were old books piled up on that side too.
There was a little white bird with its wings folded.
However, it was not a real bird, but a painting canvas clasped between the books and the wall. I could only see a corner of it from where I was.
(Why is there a painting here?)
I was a little skeptical. This painting with a tack at the top looked rather dated, and there was a thin layer on dust of it. It was not hung on the wall, and neither was it kept; it was simply left loosely amidst the pile of books, and honestly, its state was an enigma to me.
I was a little curious about the painting itself too. There was a hill of books piled up in the background behind the bird; it resembled a part of the corridor itself. I had never seen a painting with many books as the theme. Was there anything else drawn on the other areas?
Suddenly, the door opened, and I recovered from my thoughts.
A petite lay with long black hair, not I, was the one who let out this cry. There was a plain Cardigan draped over her blue floral one-piece dress, and she had a pretty white face. She was approximately 25 years old, she had a pair of spectacles on her slender nose, and her head was about to be buried within my chest.
Her face, devoid of any makeup, went beetroot, and she stumbled back in a flustered manner. Her upper body swayed, and she barely managed to support herself on the crutch.
Her name was Shioriko Shinokawa, and she was the owner of the Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia.
“Are you alright?”
She averted her gaze shyly and looked behind–no, she was checking if the mound of Modern Popular Literature Collection books had fallen over.
It was a Japanese-styled room, made from two different rooms, with the partition removed. It seemed the second level was their living area, and the bed and clothes case were located near the southern window.
Other than that, there were books stacked everywhere; there were many varieties of encyclopedias arranged neatly on the wooden bookshelves with glass doors, and there were pocket books of various colors lined on the steel racks.
The large folios of photo albums and art books on the racks were almost about to reach the ceiling. There were also themed books on philosophy and history, and many columns of books towers, ranging from old literature collections to old manga magazines, were standing on the tatamis. Just like the corridor, there did not seem to be much place to stand on.
The large number of books left on the corridor was probably a spillover from this room. If this keeps up, this flood of books may gush towards the first level.
“I-I could not pack everything in time…it is terrible, is it not…?”
“Eh? Not at all.”
I had no intention of following up on that. I already knew that she would have so many books, and the scenery in this house was soothing to me.
I too did not hate books; I am interested, but I just could not read them. After flipping through a few pages, there would be cold sweat on my back, and my fingers would shudder. It seemed to be caused by some psychological trauma, and was basically an issue regarding my ‘nature’.
I could not read books, but I was interested in them–and issues regarding them.
“Is there something?”
“…Erm, can you please help me bring this bundle of books downstairs? These are mine, and I will not read them again…I want to put them on the wagon and sell them.”
She pointed to the tatami beside her. There was a pile of hardcover books placed there, bundled together with a vinyl string in a straight line. The 20 or so books were tied in two parts, and from the look of the spines, it seemed these were some novels and essays. They all looked old, but were not in bad condition.
“…Are these to be sold at 100 Yen per book?”
“No…each book is to be priced at 300 and 500 Yen. The top bundle is to be sold at for 500, and the bottom are to be sold for 300. First, let me check on their conditions.”
Shinokawa was a lot more eloquent at this point. She is someone who becomes lively when talking about books.
“…Please take away the 100 Yen books placed on the wagon.”
I nodded, but was suddenly taken aback. After she explained to me, she brought the bundle of books over with her left hand, and placed it on the tatami at my feet. Perhaps it was because her one-piece was a little loose-fitting that when I lowered my head–I saw her cleavage. I was a little overwhelmed rather than delighted, to be honest.
I could not tell her that I saw it. I knelt down in front of the books, and averted my stare.
“…So the ones below are worth 500 Yen?”
I asked to hide this awkwardness, and a white finger appeared in front of my eyes.
“It is the opposite…the ones above are worth 500 Yen.”
She turned directly away from me as I crouched down, and it seemed she realized her large breasts were right beside me. The tips of her black hair grazed by my ear, and left me blumbering to a point where I could not move.
“Sorry…is my explanation hard to understand?”
A sweet soft voice descended upon me. Perhaps this was not deliberate either.
I stared at the spine of books that were tied together by the vinyl string to suppress my fluttering heart.
Cra Cra Diary
At this moment, I suddenly noticed this name. The author was Michiyo Sakaguchi, and the grey covers had some light writing on it. For some reason, there were 5 books with the same name. Cra Cra Diary, Cra Cra Diary, Cra Cra Diary, Cra Cra, Cra Cra–frustratingly, it actually described the craziness in my mind.
“…What is this Cra Cra Diary about?”
I asked, and she remained silent.
“…After Ango Sakaguchi died, his wife wrote this essay.”
So the family name was Sakuguchi? I heard of the man Ango Sakaguchi; he was an author from a long time ago, and since I heard of him, he must be famous. Unfortunately, I have never read his works.
“This is a record of the affairs between her and Ango Sakaguchi from their first meeting until his death…the enviable couple’s life they had. I think it is a good piece of writing.”
I could not hear any intonations in her voice; perhaps it was because she was too soft?
“Then, what is this Cra Cra about?”
“After Ango died, the author opened a bar called Cra Cra in Ginza. According to the afterwords, this was a name she asked Bunruko Shishi to give. It seemed there were many literati who often visited this shop.”
She answered me as if on beck and call. This person really had a vast knowledge pertaining to books.
“Does it mean getting drunk after drinking too much?”
“No…it actually means a pigeon in French.”
It was an unexpected answer.
“Yes. It too can be given as a nickname for a plain girl that can be found anywhere.”
Upon hearing the term ‘pigeon’, I recalled the corner of that painting I spotted on the corridor. That bird however was white, and did not seem to be a pigeon.
I felt a sigh descend upon my head. It was rare of her to show such an attitude; typically, when talking about books, she would be very tense with emotions.
“Shinokawa, is there something wrong?”
I lifted my eyes to look at her, and could see the creases of the one-piece on the waist.
“Eh? Th-there is nothing wrong here…”
She got up and tried to leave, and I could not see her expression.
“It is just that, this book…”
“…This book may be well written, but I cannot find myself liking it.”
So was it that it did not fit her tastes? I suppose this would be the case if she intended to sell it cheaply; Any reader would have their own preferences after all. I picked up both bundles with my hands and got up.
“Then, I’ll bring these out of the shop.”
“…Please do so.”
I walked out of the room, and cautiously passed through the corridor while avoiding the objects on it. The five books of Cra Cra Diary swayed along with my movements.
Suddenly, a little doubt appeared in my mind.
(Why are there so many of them?)
If they were her personal books, it meant she bought them? If she read a book she did not like, why did she buy so many copies? I stopped in my tracks and looked at the ajar fusuma behind.
(…I don’t suppose it is anything really important?)
I shrugged and walked down the stairs. It was something trivial after all.
A chirping could be heard vaguely from somewhere, and perhaps it was a pigeon. After that, I forgot all about the books.