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Winner “Stories Space Summer Word Bank” Competition.

Folds

At Bronwig’s bookshop there's a notice on the door, in red capitals: IN LIQUIDATION.

It’s devastating. I’d been a customer since I was too small to see more than the top of Mr Bronwig’s head behind the counter. His hair was white, even then; delicate as cotton candy.

I didn’t come to Bronwig’s for the books at first. I came for the turtles. When you bought a book, Mr Bronwig would delicately fold a paper model to serve as a bookmark. He made various dinosaurs and a complicated dog. The one I liked best was a turtle, because as Mr Bronwig showed it to me, its mouth appeared to open, and I would scream in delight. Later, I discovered the illusion – it’s done by moving your forefinger a certain way – but it was thrilling.

Mr Bronwig offered customers tea and on Saturdays funnel cakes and lemon drizzle scones on a three-tiered stand. I was treated even better.

I came in every weekend searching for any book my pocket money could cover, just to get the model that came with it. One day Mr Bronwig handed me The Little Prince and led me to a weathered leather seat. He placed the cake stand next to it.

“I’ll show you how to make models,” he said. “Read first.”

He fed me books from then on and I curled up with them. He tutted at Harry Potter and replaced it with Little Women, then Jane Eyre, and Emma. Hours disappeared in that bookshop. I didn’t buy books; I just read them. Once I looked up: the light had changed. Behind the counter, Mr Bronwig was illuminated by a desk lamp. He was smiling at me. Where is everyone? I asked. We shut an hour ago, he said, but The Turn of the Screw is wonderful, isn’t it?

Time passed in a larger sense too. I began to help behind the counter. Mr Bronwig said he’d pay, but there was rarely much in the till. I began to make the models with him. The paper is different, he complained. Yet there was a mountain of discarded paper in the wastebasket, their folds in the wrong order. He’d made them out of invoices.

Mr Bronwig became more reflective, and struggled to remember words. Only the day before he'd stared out the window at some derelict land where a carnival was being erected.

“Used to be a baker’s there,” he said. "A grocer’s …"

"You’re still here," I said.

"Hmph," he said. "Business is like a…" He hesitated and pointed towards the carnival.

"Like a Ferris Wheel?" I laughed.

He shook his head – frustrated – and moved his hand like a wave.

"A rollercoaster?"

He nodded. "Even rollercoasters come to an end."

I only understand what he meant now, as I look at the sign. I pull it off, folding it into nothing, and go in seach of him. Because he's a story I don't want to end quite yet.

 

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