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The sharpstamper

by Valentina Rizzi

He materializes at the end of school, the sharpshooter. Half a man, one span tall. He gets out of school twirling on his schoolbag and mingling with the crowd of parents rushed there to collect their children. There I am, unaware of what is about to happen, lurking as usual with my three-wheeler parked askew and well on display. It took me more than half an hour to get here, to Infernetto, driving among potholes and roots on bumpy roads. I spend the other half to arrange my favourite illustrated books, decorate Bibliolibrò with children’s books and flowerpots where stories sprout. And, as I smile at the first families that stop by to look at this bizarre velocipede – a bug amidst motorized giants such as SUVS, JEEPS, SALOONS, STATION WAGONS – I stop and listen. That voice, that sentence, that repeated sound. “LET’S STAMP IT ALL!!! ZaC zAC Zac ZAC zAc ZaC zaC.” I turn around and again ZaC zAC ZaC ZAC! Damn the stamper and his little accomplices: removed from its runner, my stamp for receipts is vortically printing my data on the dashboard, the seats, the doors, on the midnight blue car body and even in my brain! ZaC zAc zaC – I stop the gang after the first six stamps have already reached some Lionni’s books by Babalibri. Nooooo, not the books! With a cat-like jump I regain possession of the harmful INK-EMPTIER screaming at a draught: “Do you find it appropriate, kids? Books shouldn’t be stamped upon!”
Damn his freckles and his innocent smile that says: “Why?” So I start to explain why and how, and we remove the blots together. I shouldn’t have come here! Now we have made friends, while a crowd of kids is joining the cheerful gang of the sharpstamper to listen to the story of books. “Do you know how long it takes to make this book? Do you know how many people have been working at it?” “The one who writes” says the little blonde girl without teeth that stands on the pavement to look taller in front of her rangy young friend, who adds: “The one who draws!” And the one who adds the page numbers! And who puts images and texts together? The publisher! A chorus of little pests joins the game. There, bravo!, publishers are the only ones who are allowed to put their STAMP on books. There are many of them. Look at this one! And the other one here! And what is this? A chorus of voices attacks me and I see one, two, ten books shaking on many little hooked shrubs: the children’s hands that overlap each other in the search for other books, other logotypes, other brands, other STAMPS! Damn the sharpstamper, damn his contagious smile and his enthralling innocence – in half an hour they make me forget all the other stamps scattered on the seats, the car body and the dashboard. I start to say things that attract people, maybe they make them reflect, they kick up a shindy, while Bibliolibrò is happily laughing, flooded by a wood of books animated by dozens of little hands. I swim through forests of ink and float between questions and statements. I feel this tide rising and the mess vanishing little by little by itself, without control, without the need for warnings, without punishments nor threats.
All of a sudden I am alone again, the last kids disappear inside the SUVS where their unaware parents have been waiting for about three quarters of an hour. The saloons shoot off through the neighbourhood full of big villas and devoid of libraries and places where you can read for free. Me and my stamped shell, me and the avalanche of uncovered books to be put in order again, the happiness of a sunny day shared with other people. Me and the elbow grease, half an hour, two, three hours to get rid of the sharpstamper’s traces. And here it is, at last, the road: the home-coming is loaded with voices, ink, shadows that lengthen as the sun goes down, with labour and satisfaction. How was it? How much have you sold? My partner asks me while I am straining the pasta at home. Indeed… how much have I sold?