‘I have a present for you.’ Peirene hands me a parcel. I open the package. Knitting needles, yarn and a book with retro knitting patterns fall into my lap. Surprised, I look at the Nymph. I haven’t knitted in years.
‘You should start again.’ The Nymph nods encouragingly.
‘Thank you, Peirene. That’s kind. But I just don’t have the time. I’m about to commission Peirene Now! No 2 for next year and that will take a lot of my space. Maybe when I’ll have retired from publishing in 20 or so years,’ I add.
‘Well, I was wondering if you would like to take early retirement.‘ I stare at the Nymph horrified and she corrects herself quickly. ‘I meant, sabbatical. A year of sabbatical leave would do you good.’
‘Do you think I’m losing it?’ I’ve recently felt a bit overworked. I suddenly begin to worry that I overlooked something or made a mistake?
‘No, not really. ‘ Peirene shakes her head mildly, avoiding my eyes. ‘It’s just… James and I are a great team… and you are slightly cramping our style.’
I’m utterly confused. ‘Cramping your style?’
‘Yes.’ She now leans back in her chair and swings her feet on the table. I notice a new butterfly tattoo on her ankle. She folds her arms demonstratively behind her head. Her sleeves slide up to her elbows and a tattoo of an open book appears on her lower right arm. Also new. ‘As you know, James pulled off this super cool event on Thursday in the hip Libraria bookshop in Brick Lane, with Octavia and Carrie from the trendy Literary Friction as moderators. Marie Sizun, our French author, was a star, too. The place was packed. Lots of young, arty people.’ Peirene begins to twirl her hair. Her fingernails are painted black.
‘You’re right.’ I agree. ‘James did a fantastic job on Thursday. But I’m not sure I cramped your or his style that night.’
‘No, you didn’t that evening. However, middle-aged women just aren’t “it”. Sorry,’ she says in that annoyingly teenage tone that doesn’t mean sorry at all.
I quickly lean over to her and scratch her ankle tattoo with my fingernail. It’s peeling off straight away. I laugh.
‘And you think fake tattoos and black nail varnish is “it”?’
‘It shows that, at heart, I’m a non-conformist,’ she informs me.
I pick up the needles and yarn and begin to cast on stitches. I still remember how to do it and it feels good. Maybe I should start to knit again?
‘Fair enough,’ I say. ‘If you want to run the company for a while… the monthly accounts need doing.’ I’m counting the stitches on the needle and wonder what I should aim for – a scarf or a jumper?
‘Accounts?’ I hear the Nymph swallow. She hesitates, then mutters: ‘Perhaps you should stay and do those – and then take sabbatical.‘
By Meike Ziervogel
Image by meknits, creative commons.
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 20 June 2016.