Back and forth. The chair rocked gently, back and forth. Years, decades even, I’ve sat here on and off, rocking calmly, the squeak a welcome friend, the worn wood of the arms soft to my caress. Even as a child I sought solace here and closing my eyes, I drifted into a restful doze….

’Williams! Stop that rocking! I swear, I can see grooves on the oak floor. Williams!’

I’d only sneaked in ten minutes earlier and made straight for the rocking chair in its usual gloomy nook beneath religion and travel, navigating my way by memory with my spectacles grasped uselessly in my hands. Those bloody glasses! Bad enough they fogged up a hundred times a day, even worse they were NHS ones.

‘Caught any fish today, Snorkel face!’  That was the kindest thing anyone ever said to me at school. Even my name was a shout and a demanding, irritated one at that.

At last, the glasses cleared and my gasp of awe puffed audibly across the room. A gentleman in the opposite corner tutted disapprovingly, glared at me before returning his eyes to the book in his hands.  ‘Perfume’ if I wasn’t mistaken and one I could recommend to him. Books galore! My usual heavenly delight. The afternoon light shimmered through the windows, the dust danced around the bookshelves, the words within a promise of new worlds, of escape.

The coins in my blazer pocket clinked against each other as I reached for them. Two pounds altogether and well worth saving my 50p weekly pocket.  Who needed sweets anyway? For me it was all about the books. With a push the chair lurched forwards, depositing me on my feet with a satisfying creak and groan. I edged left around historical fiction, turned right at thrillers then stopped by biographies. 

‘What do you want to read them for?’ Dad always asked. Not waiting for an answer he’d reach for a beer from the fridge, his head lost within the cold vault as the muffled one-way conversation continued.

‘You should be out playing football with your mates. Out do you, hear? None of this bookshop rubbish.’

Why did he never realise that the bookshop was my haven, the dark wooden shelves my sanctuary, the books my guardian?

‘Mr Williams! Thank goodness, you’re awake. There was another complaint about that chair yesterday.’ I continued to rock, groggily, trapped in time, my Ralph Lauren glasses on the wonk. I straightened them slowly. ‘It will kill someone, one day, Mr Williams. That young lad, Joe, the one you always tolerate, who’s constantly here, was thrown off the chair yesterday when its arm broke right off. Yes, that one. I fixed it but it nearly killed him. Fell onto the floor, he did and banged his head. Nearly killed him!’

The laughter within me built up gradually, begrudgingly, relentlessly. 

‘Mr Williams, as the owner you’re responsible…’

‘For keeping things just as I want them! As I’ve done for over thirty years. Don’t change a thing! Now, where’s my laptop…’ Still chuckling I nudged it awake and started to tap on the screen whilst inhaling the muggy scent of books with satisfaction.

 A chair that takes people’s fate in its own hands is a story waiting to be published! And added to my bookshelves.

©Annika Perry, 2017

This piece was written in response to a prompt issued by my creative writing group – the options were eclectic and consisted of Lemon Tree Grove, Book Shops or Graveyard. I was tempted to write a short story including all three elements but fear this would become far too long for the group!


Images courtesy of pixabay

80 thoughts on “LASTING SANCTUARY

  1. ESP xtruck

    Beautiful again, I am reading your stories in series.
    Did you ever write the longer story with the prompt options, the combination sounds interesting already.

  2. Warm! As a child I used to enjoy spending hot afternoons (in India – 44C or thereabouts) in my grandfather’s office at home, in his revolving chair. He was a lawyer and his office was lined with books on all sides. Something about that smell…

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely and interesting comment and sharing details from your grandfather’s office which sounds heavenly. You describe it with great atmosphere and I’m not surprised that it has stayed with you.There’s a wonderful aura being surrounded by books…Yikes at 44C! Blisteringly hot!!

  3. I love reading short stories, and the ones like these-minute details described in a lively way-always cheers my spirit up.
    This one, especially due to related to books, I thoroughly enjoyed while reading. 🙂

    1. So glad you enjoyed this short story…I agree anything book related is sure to have me hooked! Reckon that’s why they made their appearance here. Many thanks for your lovely comment. 😀

  4. A sanctuary full of books is truly a sanctuary. I enjoyed and connected with this on so many levels: rocking chair, library, and of course verbal bullying of school age children. I truly had a thing for rocking chairs as a child, I was always rocking in one. I could also picture this bookstore, it did seem so authentic. I really liked Mr. Williams. Great job, Annika!

    1. The rocking motion of those chairs just seems to connect with one’s soul! 😀I love how you had one as young and can just imagine having to be prised away from your reverie. I know, wouldn’t it be great to find one in a bookshop…I’m sure someone will pick up on the idea! Lana, your lovely comment has given me such a boost – I’m so happy you could connect with the story and that you like Mr Williams…he’s much stronger than I first pictured him as I started to write the story.❤️

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Andrea! 😀 I’m so glad you liked the story and all its various elements – it’s always a challenge to put as much as I’d like into a short piece. The ending is one of those that developed as I was writing and happy it worked out so well.Hope you’re having a lovely Spring Sunday. 😀

    1. Wow, thank you for your lovely comment, David! 😀 As one rocks away on such a chair, the imagination is able to flow freely – just have to make sure it’s all safe first! I’m so tempted to get a rocking chair now…just need to make some space, somehow!

    1. Thank you so much, Carol! 😀 I couldn’t be without my books and have a bookcase in every room – making my home a bookish sanctuary! 😀 Wishing you a lovely Sunday.

  5. Anonymous

    Great story Annika, with a neat twist. I was there in the bookshop watching him in the rocking chair, smelling the books and seeing the dust in the sunlight coming through the window. Very atmospheric. Also I feel a longer story is in the offing. Well done.

    1. Thank you so much, Mike and great that the story came to life for you! 😀 I really hoped to capture the atmosphere of the bookstore. As for a longer story…definitely a possibility and I’m rather attached to Williams…and then there is the new generation in Joe falling in love with books but I do have a feeling the bookshop could do with some TLC by now!

  6. Oh my gosh – I just got to your post and had to smile. You and I had rocking chairs on our mind when we wrote – I think we’re connected psychically!! 🙂 Love your bookstore rocking man.

    1. This is spooky, Pam! 😀 Rocking chairs do have certain poignancy and old world charm about them but for both of us to use one in our short fiction so close to each other is definitely on the psychic level!😀😀 I don’t seem to be able to get away from them and saw one in a shop yesterday…I have the feeling they’ll ‘haunt’ me for a while! Great you liked the bookstore rocking man – I have a feeling he never wants to leave it! Have a lovely rocking weekend! ❤️

    1. Haha! 😀 It’s always the most innocuous objects that are the most dangerous!! I saw a smallish rocking chair in an antique shop yesterday and couldn’t but think of this ‘demon’ one in the story…and that the one I saw would be safer with its sloping down arms! Wishing you a great weekend, Jo! 😀❤️

    1. Thank you so much, Tanya! 😀 I love the idea of painting with words – so much easier than using oils! So glad this spoke to you so clearly and brought his feelings and passion for books alive. Wishing you a lovely weekend! 😀

  7. The next time I come across a rocking chair, I might think twice about it for fear of the arm coming loose and my falling out, hehe 😉 As for the surroundings you describe so well in your write here, Annika, I totally get it as I love libraries and have since been this way since I was a girl.

    1. Oh no Christy, I hope this isn’t the start of a rocking chair phobia!! 😀😀 I have had this happen to me on a normal chair in a cafe, when the arm came off and I lurched sideways…then tried to pick up my dignity! I’m so happy you can relate to the story and love of books – it’s hard to imainge a life without them!

    1. My grandparents had a rocking chair which I recall with fondness. Every time we visited them I would often be found rocking away, reading, wrapped up in a blanket (I was always cold!) as the adults prattled away! So glad you liked the story, Jacqui and I’m sure it’s never too early to get that rocking chair and find a few minutes to read, dream away! 😃😀

    1. Thank you so much! 😃 The bookshop in this story is a composite of so many bookshops I’ve visited and I visualised my ‘dream’ bookshop whilst writing this…wouldn’t it be amazing to own one?!

  8. Love this, Annika! There’s nothing like being surrounded by books. Love the mischief suggested in this piece; revenge of the books?! Reminds me how much I look forward to my few hours substituting for my daughter at the library (it’s all about the books, and cheaper than working at a bookstore!) Have a great week!

    1. Thank you, Julie and great that this tickled your imagination! 😀 It’s wonderful fun to let the mind roam free and see where it takes you. I’ve also always loved being surrounded by books and some book shops felt like my home away from home I spent so much time in them. Yeah, great that you get to work in a library…sounds like heaven. Do you ever get too distracted by the books??😀My week is getting much better – started off with a wisdom tooth extraction which blindsided me a bit….pain over, sun shining so entering the last half of the week with a spring in my step and heart! Have a lovely rest of the week! 😀❤️

  9. What a wonderful story Annika. The bookstore sounds heavenly and it has a rocker. I love rocking and had one as a kid. You would always find me in that chair, back and forth. It would be interesting to read if you had used all three elements. especially a graveyard and bookstore. That sounds like New Orleans… Jeff

    1. JC, now you have to write that story, I’m so intrigued!! Graveyards and bookstores being so New Orleans…I can imagine the atmosphere would be terrific, the setting amazing. Write away!! 😀😀 Rocking chairs are so wonderfully evocative and great that you had one as a child. My grandparents had one and as young I’d often curl up in it, reading away whilst listening to the adults and their ‘boring’ conversation. For this story I imagined wouldn’t it be perfect to have that rocking chair in a bookshop and then the rest seemed to write itself…

    1. Oh wow…you really think so, Debby? 😀 I had great fun writing this short story and since reading your comment I’ve been mulling over how it could work in a longer format and maybe yes. It definitely seems to have made a connection with readers here which is fantastic. Thank you so much for your great comment and encouragement! 😃❤️

      1. Pleasure Annika. Often I’ll read a short piece from a writer that I find intriguing enough to work into a full story. Yours definitely has that ability. 🙂 ❤

  10. I love this, Annika. What a great use of time passing and the bookshop as the haven and dream come true, and now it serves as the same haven for little Joe who also likes the chair. The bookshop will continue to be that place. Great sensory details, emotion, characterization. Wonderful.

    1. Diana, thank you so much for your wonderful comment – that means so much to me! 😀 I love the timeless quality of the bookshop too…that its magic will carry on through the generations and I’m so glad you liked this element too. This was one of those pieces that wrote itself and as such I always worry if it was too ‘easy’.

      1. Not too easy, just beautiful. One of the things I liked about it is that you didn’t “tell” the reader what it was about. We are able to discover it on our own through being present for this slice of life. Great writing. 🙂

  11. PeterR

    You’ve done it again, Annika. I believe physical books are now outselling ebooks, and you story shows why. Keep it up.

    1. Thank you so much, Peter. 😃 The magic and mystique of physical books will never disappear I feel and I’d also heard that real books are steadily gaining readers again – happily physical books and ebooks seem to coexist in a settled harmony nowadays.

    1. Many thanks, Bette! 😃 That sounds like a wonderful way to spend your youth…there is a magic aura surrounding such memories and ones that give us strength throughout life, I feel. ❤️

  12. Your sanctuary is indeed heavenly Annika…there is all the world in this story – the rocking chair, the books and serenity! What else can a book lover ask for!
    I love your choice of words, the poetic prose transported me to your rocking chair and I could connect with the characters! Isn’t that enough to agree that your style is mesmerising?
    Thanks for sharing a beautiful story! You rock! 🙂

    1. Balroop, I’m floored by your wonderful comment!! Beaming away!!😀😃 Thank you ever so much, it means a lot to me. ❤️ I’ve never thought of myself as poetic so it’s a lovely surprise to read that you feel my prose is poetic, thank you and I’m so glad you can connect with the characters. I’m speechless that you think my style is mesmerising, thank you!! Your words have given me such a boost, Balroop. 😃

    1. Bernadette, now I’m smiling at your lovely comment! 😃 My attitude to books is not surprisingly very similar to Williams and I really could not imagine a life without them! I feel they’ve saved me many times over the years!😀

    1. Thank you so much, Janice! 😃 A first person perspective is a wonderful angle to take when you want to gain personal insight into a character and a lot of fun to write as well. So glad you enjoyed this piece.😃

    1. That’s great, Jill! 😀 Stories are a bit magic in that not only do you travel with the story but they can cause you to look within yourself too! Can you remember the first book you bought? Hope you’re having a good week. 😀❤️

    1. Perceptively put, Barbara…life is like that, everyone carrying so many unwritten stories in them! It was fun merging the untold story of Willaims into a story and then adding the possible fiction story to be added to the shelves!

    1. Steven, many thanks for your kind words – from such an accomplished writer as yourself this is praise indeed. Funny that you should mention the last paragraph – this is the one I was most unsure of and nearly deleted a few times. So glad you find it perfect! I was worried it might come across as soppy.

      1. Annika, I ALWAYS have doubts about my writing, which may be why I’m so slow about it. I think that’s part of a writer’s psyche, to doubt and strive to do better. Sometimes I think it’s best to trust your first instinct… it’s usually correct. Your last line certainly didn’t come across as being soppy. It really worked well. 🙂

    1. Miriam, thank you ever so much for your wonderful comment – I’m smiling now. 😀 I’ve never thought of my stories having a magic element to them but love that idea and that you feel this.

  13. delphini510

    I am enthralled Annika. Your words are like oil paints on a pallette, rich and enticing.
    The bookshop feels like it always was my favourite place, charachters wonderfully
    shown. You can’t but love them all, especially Williams.

    The ending is “wicked” as children say. Wonderful surprise that lingers. Such positive outlook
    Williams has on life. I bet that book will be a best seller.🌟💕

    1. Wow!! 😀 Mirja, your words are a mini-story in themselves and I feel humbled by such praise! To think of my words as art paintings is a wonderful image, ‘rich and enticing’. Wow! Thank you so much. I’m so glad you liked the characters too and Williams won a special place in my heart too! Despite early loneliness in life he’s become happy and confident and of course, a wannabe writer! This is one of those stories where the story within could be written to accompany it!

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