Thursday 28 February 2019


by Roger Noons


a glass of hot water containing a slice of lime

Beth read the letter again before taking up her pen.

Dear Dr Wilson,

What I could tell you is that since Toni came to work in my bookshop on Saturdays and during school holidays, our customer base has increased fourfold and the takings doubled. She has sold volumes of poetry and books on aromatherapy to six feet four inches, eighteen year old second row forwards, exchanged rude jokes with middle aged men and advised forty plus year old women on how to improve their appearance and sex appeal. 
All without complaint.
Each Saturday, she welcomes a ninety year old former GP and holds his hand while he drinks a mug of coffee; sells him at least twenty pounds worth of second hand books. He travels twenty three miles each way by taxi for the privilege.

What I should tell you is that she regularly ignores my instructions, borrows the latest popular novels for weeks at a time and mis-shelves them when they come back. She is casual about recording sales, particularly second hand books, rarely passes on messages and evicts noisy children and itinerant browsers who do not buy within minutes of entering the shop. She can be surly and unhelpful when in a bad mood. She ignores customers who fail to take her advice on what they should read.

I could and should tell you these things in the hope that you will reject her application and she will enrol at our local Uni and continue working for me.

But I won’t!

What I will tell you Dr Wilson, is that Antonia Mason is a highly intelligent, mature young woman who will prove a great asset to Somerville College, indeed the entire University. She will, I’m sure excel in English and Joint Schools, take a First and become so indispensable that you will not wish to lose her when she graduates.

Elizabeth Baines

Beth’s Books - Worcester.

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