On our way to the train station we pop in to see the future King and Queen of the Library. They are listening to music and dancing around their living room but once they notice that we are watching they stop and open the door. The future King makes hot drinks for us all and we chat about what we are going to do today. They have library business to attend to, whilst we plan to go to the Big Town and buy ourselves a new table. They ask how we will get there and we tell them that we will go on the train. “Oh, you’re going to bring a table back on the train?” “Ye-es,” I say, uncertain.
On the train we sit and watch the country go by, and when either of us sees something we want to draw the other’s attention to, we squeeze thumbs. A little barn with a hole blasted in one side; a young family working their allotment; a copse of trees in the shape of a keyhole. I wonder what kind of key would open such a lock. I eat a sandwich and get some chutney on my sleeve. We arrive in the Big Town and get off the train. In the Big Furniture Shop we look at tables, squeezing thumbs when either of us see something we think might be worth considering.
And then there is a sudden commotion. A man has climbed up onto a large trestle table and is threatening to jump. We join the other distracted shoppers and crowd around the table to see what will happen next. Shop assistants and security guards are trying to talk the man down. He keeps shouting at them, “I’ll do it! I’ll jump!” He is about three feet off the ground. The situation is tense.
The Chief of Security is a small man who looks wizardly-wise. He pushes through the crowd and carefully approaches the table from which the man is threatening to jump. “We’ll get this sorted, no problem,” he tells himself and the crowd of shoppers. “And then you can all go back to buying furniture.” He exudes an air of authoritative calm as he reaches the table and beckons the man towards him. The man stops ranting and looking embarrassed, suddenly unsure of himself. The two men converse in whispers – reasons, doubts, wizardly-wise secrets. We squeeze thumbs as we watch.
The Chief of Security breaks the conference and turns to the crowd. “Now, this man is going to climb down from this table. Please let him remove himself quietly from the situation. Do not stand and watch as he climbs down. Let him climb down and get on with becoming an old, old man.” Instead of watching the man climb down from the table, the crowd follows the Chief of Security as he walks away. They applaud and whistle and shout his name.
After all that commotion we start looking at tables again. Not much thumb-squeezing is going on. Soon we decide that we should go home and look for a new table another day – it would have been a struggle to get it home anyway. We sit opposite each other on the train, a table between us, and we squeeze thumbs at the sight of more interesting things. An old bridge covered in old graffiti; golden crops swaying in the breeze; an ancient stone table standing on the crest of a hill.
On our way home from the train station we pop in to see the future King and Queen of the Library. The future Queen makes us hot drinks and we sit around their table and talk about how our days went. They tell us that things did not go well at the Library – things will be better when they are in charge. They ask whether we managed to find a table we liked. “No,” I say, “there were no tables we liked.” We do not elaborate and they do not ask any more questions.
It is getting dark so we thank the future King and Queen for their hospitality and make our way back to our table-less home to sit and squeeze thumbs, and to get on with becoming old.