Sliced Bread

INDEX to Bites from the book "Sliced Bread"


From "Sliced Bread" by Rosemary Phillips

"Sliced Bread" a book by Rosemary Phillips
Granville Street was very busy. This was the south end of downtown Vancouver, near Davie Street (in the 1980's), a bit of a rough neighbourhood. Some nights, when locking the iron gates in front of West Coast Books, I had witnessed hookers getting their tricks and street people begging. The entrance to the shop smelled of stale urine and was usually cluttered with garbage.

There were a few customers in the shop that Saturday afternoon, browsing through the shelves.

An elderly gentleman walked in and dropped a pile of books on the counter and asked, "How much do I get for this lot?"

"It'll take me a while to figure that out," I replied. "I have to check the titles, the prices and then call the owner to see if he wants them."

The old man wandered out on to the street, stood by a scrawny young tree, and lit a cigarette. Wisps of smoke swirled above his head in the sunlight as he drifted off in his thoughts.

I began checking through the pile of books and, at the same time, took care of other customers. The old man came back in and stood beside me as I leafed through the heavy volumes of Books In Print looking for current prices.

"You know, I live in a rough part of town, near Hastings and Carrall," he said. "That's my choice. I have friends there. We often meet at the coffee shop and discuss things, but what bothers me is my friends really aren't interested in discussing the truth. One time I actually went to the library and got books on the subject we had been discussing the day before, but they weren't interested. They didn't want to know facts."

He paced up and down for a while with a graceful gait, shoulders held back. My attention was still on Books In Print.

He stopped. "You know, I used to be a pianist."

I paused in my calculations and looked up at him.

He continued: "I wanted to give a gift to my friends, so I decided to make a recording. I booked time at a studio and while I was playing I heard glitches in my performance. When we had finished the recording I asked the technician if I could take the tape home and listen to it. He refused me at first, but I was persistent so he finally gave in.

"That night I listened to that tape over and over again, and every time I listened I heard more glitches, more mistakes. The next day I returned to the studio and asked the technician to help me redo the recording but he refused and told me I would never be able to duplicate the magic in that tape.

"I accepted the technician's decision, had copies made and sent them to my friends. I got a letter back from one friend soon after he had received his tape and in just about every second line he said, 'That was a wonderful gift you gave us. It's beautiful.'"

The old man gave a deep sigh and when he noticed I still hadn't finished checking through his books he went back out onto the street to smoke another cigarette. Ten minutes later he returned, leaned over the counter and said, "Isn't that how we treat life? We spend so much time worrying about the glitches that we forget to see the magic of the whole."

We stood in silence for a moment, absorbing that thought, then I handed him his few dollars for his books. He strode proudly out of the shop onto the busy street and disappeared. I never saw him again.

Copyright © 2002- Rosemary Phillips, Quills Quotes & Notes   All rights reserved
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