A visit from Dora
I assured her that Champ would not bite, but that if he scared her I would let him go sleep in the back room a while. And I told her about the accident; brief version, and tried to explain nerve damage.
"Does it hurt him a whole lot?" She had moved to Champ's very lovely armchair, the one a friend gave me, the elegant antique. Sara disapproves very much when I call it Champ's chair.
"I don't think so, but it might tingle a little. I keep his foot protected so he doesn't hurt it".
Dora, for that was her name, had some time on her hands. Mom was doing laundry next door, and "it is boring to watch washing machines" the child informed me, telling me her mom had said it was okay to come over to the bookstore.
"You have So Many books!!" said Dora, looking around as she patted Champ's golden head. "How did you ever get so many books?"
"Well, we've had a bookstore a long time, probably much longer than you've been alive."
"I'm 8 years old!" said Dora.
I wasn't quite certain if she meant she was the very advanced age of eight, or if she was the very young age of eight, but I told her the bookstore had been around for 25 years now, so it was older than she was. And that was a long time in which to have books come and go.
We had a long conversation that afternoon, mostly directed by queries from Dora, who was interested in every aspect of the store. She found the kitties, or they found her. She paid proper quiet attention to the aging golden lab, Buddy, whose hips were hurting him. He was in the very plush armchair that used to belong to a silent film star, with a nice blanket wrapped round him. Dora proclaimed his ears to be "just like silk!"
"Do you love any people?" asked Dora. I told her yes, I do love some people. She said "I love Austin a lot, but my daddy wanted me to meet these other boys, but I love Austin, and those boys, those boys were old!"
Turns out the boys were 9 and 10. Turned out that Austin is six. Dora wiggled in the rose chair, determined to make me understand. "I don't have a crush on Austin, but I love him. I like to play with him, I like to talk to talk with him. He has a nice rat."
And then she said "I miss my grandma so much". Fearing the answer to the question, but needing to know, I asked where grandma was. Grandma is in Reno, where Dora was born, but someday--maybe this summer, but that is so long to wait, Grandma may come visit the hill community in which Dora and her mom and dad live these days.
"At my school they call me Citygirl. And I hate that." I nodded, and the conversation turned to rabbits ("very soft and cute") to whether I had a little girl (I introduced my daughter, who was on her way to work, and who merited the "she is grown up but very pretty" assessment of my visitor). And then to poetry.
Dora told me she'd had to write a poem or run laps at school and she was very very glad that she had memorized some poems from her book of poems because she wrote one of those down and the teacher didn't know and anyway it was good she didn't have to go out running because the poem was okay.
But--what if he finds out? Then she'd be in such trouble. She gazed at me with those brown eyes and confided "I really can't rhyme very well yet". I told her poems don't always have rhymes, and she was very shocked. But she said she was going to take care to hide the book of poems so her teacher will never, never know the poem she gave him wasn't hers.
Someday you might write your own poetry, better poetry, I commented. "Well, the poem I turned in was really a stupid one, but the teacher thought it was okay. Maybe you are right. Could I write about your dogs someday? Maybe I will write about Austin. He has nice green eyes."
And she told me about looking for moonstones and agates on the beach up north, about the lights in Reno, about her new kitten, who scratches sometimes, and more about Austin, who has naturally curly hair and likes to listen to stories. She chose and bought a book of horse stories, and her father came to collect her, asking the question parents always ask: "was she good?" I told him she was charming, and welcome to visit any time she chooses.
"Good, I will!" said Dora, jumping up and down joyfully.
"Oh, wait" she said, and while her father waited, she came to say goodbye, one at a time, to the bookstore critters.
"Are you sure poems don't always rhyme?" she asked before she left. When I said "yes" she flashed a bright smile.