I took a detour in Part 6 of this journey, talking about an alternate reality game which we are trying to make to emulate the world of Mr Middleton. But I still haven’t told you about how I finally found the illustrator of my dreams…
In Part 5, I at last realised that the answer to my prayers had been right in front of me the whole time – I had to find the artist who had drawn the print I had bought at the Paddington markets.
My mission was this: go to the Paddington markets, and try to find the same stall. This was not as easy as it sounds. Market stall holders change all the time, and the markets themselves are a riot of colour and confusion, each laneway lined with noise and objects and distractions, to the point where you could easily spend half a day, walking up and down, never finding the place you had last been just ten minutes ago, every again.
I geared up. Saturday arrived. I donned comfortable walking shoes. I limited the amount of discretionary spending money in my wallet to $20. I checked and re-checked that I had my ten-trip bus pass. On my way out the door, I slathered a dollop of sunscreen on my permanently sun-damaged nose (a product of a childhood spent in Queensland, back in the days when the local radio station would broadcast at twenty minutes intervals a little dinging sound to remind sunbathing girls to turn over for an even tan). Then, halfway down the stairs, I ran back up again, grabbed the copy of the story from my desk, and ran back down, the door slamming shut behind me and echoing down the stairwell.
My friend D met me at the North Bondi bus stop. She was dressed in summery singlet and jeans and on her feet, carefree flipflops in place of sensible shoes. I wondered if she understood the situation. But then I remembered that it was of utmost importance to the gods of destiny that I had to act carefree and open to grace. I wished I had worn flipflops too.
We chatted on the bus, D skilfully keeping me relaxed, as if this was just a regular, girly excursion to the markets. “They have that delicious thai food, yum,” D chatted. “Maybe we can buy a stick of fishballs.” I nodded. Fishballs as a reward. That was good motivation.
Finally, the bus pulled up. I made a bee-line through the sauntering, loitering crowds, past the faces of relaxed and happy Sydney-siders doing what they love best – shopping outdoors. D’s flipflops flipflopped behind me, trying to keep up.
Down one alley, past the red handbags, the smell of incompletely treated leather…past the jewelry shop where we had considered and dismissed gifts for jLo only six weeks ago…past the shop full of mirrors, past the shiatsu, past the plants, past the hand-made lamp shades….
And there they were! Neat and clean frames of professional quality, and in them, those lovely, wistful faces…elephants, and lovers, and my solemn little man, my apple-offering pixie…
OK, now Jackie, I told myself storecialis.net. Be cool.
“Hello, I bought a print here about six weeks ago…”
“I remember. Cherry blossom, wasn’t it?”
The young Australian-Vietnamese fellow remembered me! And the girl with the beautiful long dark hair who worked with him smiled encouragingly! These people were nice! They didn’t think I was crazy!
Yet, I cautioned myself. Take-it-easy…
“Yes, that’s right,” I smiled. “I was just wondering. I have written a story, it’s a fairy-tale really, and major publisher X is interested. I would like to present it as an illustrated book. Do you think you might be interested in taking a look at the story?”
The young fellow did not shake his head dismissively, or pull away. He…nodded! “Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “My brother does the illustrations, but it’s funny, we were just thinking of branching into books. People are always asking us for them. He’s over at the Surry Hills Festival today, but I can call him and let him know you dropeed by?”
I turned to D. “Or maybe, we can go to the Fesitval? I asked her.
D agreed immediately. Turned out she wanted to go the Festival all along, couldn’t think of anything better to do than trek another forty minutes across Sydney to catch the tail end of the Festival festivities. Bless her.
“I’ll tell him you’re coming,” he said, pulling out his phone.
“Thanks!” I called, trotting back down the laneway. It was already 3.30 pm, getting close to closing time, and we had a bus to catch.
To be continued.