Vellichor | Ash Warren

Vellichor: n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig.


By Ash Warren

For the ‘To Pant or Not To Pant’ Award

Opening the door of her father’s old bookshop to the familiar tinkling of the bell she found herself standing in a long shaft of morning light streaming from the skylight,  dust motes dancing in its brilliant whiteness.

She had come in search of his old brown corduroy trousers that he had habitually worn and which they needed to dress his body for the funeral.  After all, they thought, it was only right to dress him the way he liked to look in life.

And there they were, draped over a chair behind the cash register.

She folded them carefully, put them in her backpack and then just stood there, listening.

This place had been his life, the life of someone who thought all the meaningless, forgotten volumes on these shelves were somehow more important than her.  She had never forgiven him for that.

A man with nothing to say, who spent all day reading the same rubbish he sold.

‘But all books say something.’  he used to like to say.  ‘They all have a life.’

But you didn’t, she thought.

She had always wondered how a man who spent all his life reading, submerged in a sea of words, could  have been so singularly inarticulate.  Unable to even say what he felt for them, his feelings and thoughts had been bricked up, mute.

She looked at the shelves, which stretched  away into the shadows like her childhood memories. She began to walk among them now, touching the spines of books like she was picking flowers in a field. And, as if guided, she began to be aware of the life that had been poured into them, the ocean of thought in each one that moved and lapped upon some faraway shore, and she felt a mystery slowly opening inside her, quietly, like a flower.


She took a book of poetry from one of the shelves and sat down on the floor to read.