The other day a lady came into the shop. She seemed to know Elizabeth quite well, even though I had never seen her before (and I’ve been bookshop dog for a long time now). They greeted each other like long lost friends.
And it turns out that that is kind of what they were! Apparently, this new woman, who we’ll call Mathilda, used to work for Elizabeth a long time ago (at least several dog generations…), before she became a poet for hire. That’s right. And now that she has become a poet for hire, she has returned to the great Northwest from Savannah, Georgia.
Mathilda set up on our national holiday, July 1st. Some holiday. Everyone around here seemed to be working! Or shopping. Or sightseeing. But I digress….
Mathilda set up a little table in front of the shop, and whenever someone came walking down the sidewalk, she would start clacking away on Walter. Walter, Elizabeth informs me, is a pre-computer writing machine. Funny to see it being used to do something as cutting edge as busking poetry!
Writing poetry on the spur of the moment for hire is so cutting edge that most people don’t seem to get what Mathilda is doing. Things were pretty slow that first day. Mathilda sat with Walter and her stack of index cards waiting for requests. I felt a bit sorry for her, roasting under the afternoon sun, waiting, waiting.
Elizabeth came over to where I was lying. “Would you like a poem from Mathilda, Stella?”
I blinked, which is my way of telling her YES.
“What would you like her to write about?”
It wasn’t a question I could give my yes or no answer to, so I waited a minute for her to think.
“What about cookies?”
I just stared at her, which is my way of saying NO.
“What about rides?”
I stared back.
She got a wicked grin on her face and asked, “What about wood ticks?”
I blinked. A dog can only stare so long, you know. And Elizabeth ran outside.
I could hear the conversation through the window.
“Stella says, ‘Wood ticks.'”
Mathilda shifted uneasily in her chair. “There are wood ticks here? Downtown?”
“No. Stella says, wood ticks.”
Well, Mathilda is pretty quick on the uptake. You need to be when you are a typewriter poet for hire. “Oh, I get it. Oookaaay. Wood ticks it is!”
Elizabeth came back inside. I walked over to my treat bag and nudged it, then looked up at Elizabeth.
“That’s okay, Stella. I’ll give her some money. I don’t think she can use those.” She pulled out a five dollar bill and put it in her pocket. I could hear Walter rushing to write exactly what Mathilda told him to. In a few minutes, he was quiet again.
I went out to pay for my poem, but it wasn’t ready yet. I watched as Mathilda and Walter went back to work. Another couple of minutes, and Mathilda pulled the index card from Walter’s mouth, and she turned to me. “Shall I read it to you, Stella?”
It was pretty good. And it made me laugh, too. Elizabeth was laughing, but she laughed at different places, which was odd, but then…
I decided I would share it with you folks, in hopes that you will drop by or send us a message asking for a poem. Mathilda is a story writer and is trying to earn some extra money writing these while she waits for her stories to go into books and then into bookshops like ours. It takes a long time for that to happen.
Elizabeth says that Walter can work on post cards, too, so if you are far away and can’t come to the shop, we can have them do up a poem on one of our post cards for you and pop it in the mail. Just add $3.00 to your donation to Mathilda to pay the postage and for the card! And Elizabeth says to be sure and email her with your address so she can send it. Watch the the Walt & Mattie Shedule on the bookshop site so you know when Mathilda and Walter are here to take your orders in person.
Hope to see/hear from you soon!