The shop was still there, on Candlemaker Row. Its contents, too, crowding round him like a circle of old friends who hadn't what it took to get up and leave.
Farrago. I remember when he opened it, he sent me a picture: it must have been oh, 1971 or so. A Polaroid, with him standing in front of the door below the sign. FARRAGO, in pink letters on a purple background, with a green snake curling around the G. Him looking slightly stunned.
I remember sticking the Polaroid up on my fridge door in the house I shared in the Canyon with Tania and Sumner.
“Looks...nice,” Sumner said. There was a gap between the two words.
“He got me into my first band,” I said, and shrugged. And then Sumner opened the fridge door to get the beer he was looking for in the first place, and the moment was gone. The picture of one man and his shop stayed there, though, on the fridge door, for the rest of the time I was in that house, like some sort of hippy gargoyle, protecting me from I don't know what. Farrago Man, Sumner called him.
I lost the Polaroid when I moved from that house. Funny how things just go missing in your life, only to turn up some day.
Twenty years later, Farrago had seen better days, but then we all had. I pushed at the door but it had stuck. Wood swollen up in the damp, probably: Edinburgh was bigger than Arbroath, but the mist still crept in from the sea on late afternoons in December, like this one.
I gave the door one last shove with my shoulder and it gave at last, suddenly, so that I half-fell inside. Above me, there was a metallic ping and then the bell fell past my ear, smashing on the floor with a strangled sound. I suppose it wasn't one of my best entrances.
“It's you, then,” he said. At least he had the grace to look sort of pleased. “How long are you staying this time?”
Turned out to be three months, until I met Gerry.
I have to admit the Spanish weather was a big part in that whole thing.