by Richard Hillesley

The girl on a bicycle with her back stiff and her arms straight, her legs joined to the motion of the pedals. Her wheels fly through the puddles. Her skirt is a blur through the spokes. Her legs turn round and round. Her ankles bend around the frame. The saddle joins her thighs. Her heart is in mid-air.

The streets fly past her on flapping wings. Her bell rings and her basket clatters. The sun is on her skin and the wind flies through her hair. She rides like the wind, skids around a corner and sweeps to a halt. The stones alight beneath her.

The sun is hard and bright. The sky is blue and cloudless. She leans her bike against the railings and steps between the squares. Her skirts attract the workers on the street. She doesn’t care.

The bookshop was once a pub and still has pub windows. A dog is hanging out the first floor window. A man with a banjo sits on a bench by the shop next door. He sells knick-knacks and curios, second hand phonographs and antique telephones. She nods to him as she passes. He plucks the banjo and the dog in the window sings.

She goes into the bookshop. The book seller looks up and smiles at her. His eyes follow her across the room. He likes the way she moves. He says something to the man next door and calls the dog. The man puts down the banjo and the dog stops singing.

She glides between the shelves. The books come alive and pick themselves. Like a painter she paints between the shadows and illuminates the spaces. Like a musician she obscures the senses and scrapes away the silence. Scarlatti in BriggFlatts. Satie in Tulips and Chimneys. Debussy in Appollinaire.

She wants the books but she doesn’t have the money. She slips one into her bag, and she pays for the other two. The banjo player strikes a chord and the dog in the window sings. She moves towards the bike and hears a call behind her. The book seller waves his hand in the air.

– Hey,

he shouts, and she pretends not to hear.

– Hey,

he shouts, and she turns to look at him.

– You’ve forgotten your change,

he says, and she rides away. The sun is on her skin and the wind flies through her hair. The streets fly past her on flapping wings. He looks back and smiles.

– You can keep the other one,

he says, but she is gone and has left a space in the street behind her.

Richard Hillesley grew up in Kenya, South Shields and North Wales. Curious and disaffected, he travelled widely through his twenties, across all parts of Britain and Southern Europe, the Sudan and Libya, working as a casual docker, book seller, railway guard, and yacht delivery crew. He became a computer programmer in his thirties before moving to Totnes in Devon as a feature writer and later editor of the first UK Linux magazine, and has since devoted himself to writing fiction and poetry. Unbanging the Nails, a collection of his stories, will be released by Clochoderick Press later this year.