Jessica Fox's bookshop dream

Jessica Fox's bookshop dream

I poured myself some tea and returned to my notebook. My current vision, half finished, stared back at me and I closed my eyes: a girl, wrapped in a wooly jumper sat behind a long wooden desk in a secondhand bookshop somewhere by the sea in Scotland. She leaned back in her chair, her feet up on the desk, watching the world go by outside her window.

I could see the bookshop clearly before me: tall wooden shelves filled with a mismatch of beautiful old books. I could smell the shop’s damp, musty perfume. The girl behind the counter huddled deeper into her jumper – it must have been on the cusp of autumn and winter because the steam from her tea swirled in the air in front of her. She was lost in her thoughts, calm and at peace, when a brass bell, which hung above the door, rang clear and interrupted her dreaming.

I opened my eyes, surprised to see my sun-drenched LA studio still there. The feeling of calm drained quickly away. This same image had been coming back to me off and on for about a year, which was unusual, and more unusual still, the girl in the vision looked unsettlingly like me. I constantly thought about other worlds or characters, but had never had a vision with me in it.

I sketched a bit more in my notebook. As I drew, a thought flickered briefly in my mind. Perhaps this was not a vision for a screenplay at all. The hairs on my arms stood on end. Perhaps this was a vision about my life. Suddenly, it was as if doors flew open and images started flooding into my mind. I closed my eyes.

I was on a red bicycle with a basket in front, filled with my lunch.

I was cycling along a single-track road surrounded by rolling green hills and the sea crashing far below me.

I was eating my lunch, my own private picnic, with the wind whipping my hair. My eyes looked out over the endless ocean while I pondered the universe.

I was in a pub. It was night and I was warm, surrounded by fresh faces and the smell of beer. I had to excuse myself, saying it was time for me to write. A chorus of friendly voices called me back but I walked outside, apologising for leaving early.

Then… then... nothing. Blank screen. As if the reel in my mind had run out of film, the images suddenly came to an end. I opened my eyes and stared at my notebook, surprised. I quickly started scribbling away.

My phone, like a Mexican jumping bean, buzzed impa­tiently on the counter. The sound in turn made me jump. With one hand, I flipped it open. It was a text from Rose: “Where the hell are you?”

I looked at the time. I hadn’t realised it was already so late.


Minutes later, I was back in my studio. On one side of my laptop rested a pile of paperwork I still had to get through before the next morning’s meeting. Although it was now late afternoon, the LA sun poured in with such intense heat that my thighs were stuck with commitment to my leather desk chair.

My computer screen showed Google. “Used book shop Scotland” waited patiently in the search box. I closed my eyes. I could see it as clearly as if I were there already. It would be a cold, wet day and I would be sitting with my feet resting against a long wooden counter. I would be worlds away from LA, in a small Scottish town right by the sea, enjoying a solitary afternoon in a bookshop. Wrapped in a large sweater, in my hands would be a torn copy of Pride and Prejudice, a dusty tome I had pulled out from the many shelves that surrounded me. The bookshop would be quiet and empty and my eyes would drift dreamily out of the window, taking in the green hills and the sea beyond.

“This is insane.” A little voice crept into my vision, its doubting tone breaking apart my dream, particle by particle, until it evaporated and my eyes fluttered open. My heart was beating so loud that I couldn’t tell if I was excited or terrified.

Then a big voice thundered in... I could actually do this.

Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets by Jessica Fox is published by Short Books.