He said his name was James Joyce, I told him and myself a million times that a) he must be kidding as James Joyce was long dead and b) he has to leave the basement at once, or I would call the police to take him away and possibly give him restrain orders. This an in front of me claimed he was James Joyce – I wouldn’t be surprised if he kept saying so, beside his yellow-and-ancient paper of identification. He looked very much identical to the James Joyce portrait that the public normally known to, yet I found it very hard to believe him. “What was going on?” Cecil my boss came out from the office to find out what has been going on, before he was equally shocked to see this stranger who claimed himself to be James Joyce. Unlike me, he was much calmer toward such bizarre situations. He asked the man to leave the basement in the most polite manner he could possibly carried out, “Basement only allowed for staff who works here.” he said. James Joyce walked to the stairs as Cecil instructed, but strangely he kept struggling to get to the staircases to the shop-floor, the way the situation looked was like watching Charlie Chaplin doing some mime. To be precise, he seemed to be barred from leaving the basement by something Cecil and I couldn’t see. We tried the fire doors, same thing happened. Cecil and I stood behind James Joyce as he tried again and again to leave the basement and failed, more and more mutter sounds emerged from other side of the basement.
We turned and looked, couldn’t help wondering if we should pinch ourselves to make sure we were just dreaming. All we could see was loads of strange yet familiar faces looking around the place, clueless. Watching F.Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf shouting for their respective spouse frantically, as Joseph Conrad looked around the basement as if he was a kind of inspector, Mark Twain on the other hand recreated the European’s reaction when they land on America for the first time. Others who came from nowhere, looked around the basement with anxious eyes before their gaze turned to us. Some jumped to us and screamed, as if we were the evil ones who imprisoned them. I took a good look at one of the “protesters” – his hair was white (could it be silver?), his body was smelling of sweat and alcohol, I looked again and thinking “Good God, was this man really William Faulkner?” Cecil decided to gather everyone who appeared in the basement into the furthest corner of the office, that part often was used as meeting room. He then turned to me and asked me to look after the shop floor until another colleague for the afternoon shift arrives, as the one for the morning had to leave early.
Unlike the basement the shop-floor was relatively quiet like a library – there were people silently reading books in different corners of the shop. One or two people were sitting onto the sofas provided by the shop, the skin of it was made of black leather and everyone read the book on their hands as if they were in a hypnosis. The other colleague was ten minutes late when he arrived the shop, I knew I should not be harsh to him, but the way he was being late gave me an impression that he didn’t take this serious enough. Was it just me, or people generally didn’t take works in voluntary-organizations based shop serious as they ought to? I was annoyed with him not just for the seriousness, but also I was pretty hungry. I dashed down to the basement straight after I left him to work in the till.
Cecil was still talking to the people in the conference corner when I got back, a lady in some ancient clothing looked up at me without saying a word, she then moved swiftly next to me without being notice. I wasn’t sure who she was, but I was sure I came across her – or her work sometime ago. “What are you planning to do with us?” she whispered to me, “Can’t just leave us in the basement.” “I am afraid we have to work something out, as Mr James Joyce tried earlier, he couldn’t get out of the building…” I bit my lip as the woman’s face darkened a little, she looked sadly at me, “I wonder if Max knew where I am, he must be looking for me right now.” she muttered before she looked up at me again asking if I knew how they ended up here at all. Not a chance I said, I have not the slightest idea of what was going on.
As the shop drawn to a close , the strangers gathered themselves different size of flattened paper boxes to make into beds. Cecil ran to the charity shops to ask about beddings etc but with very little luck.The adies put themselves into the corner with fair distance from the gentlemen. Some of the gentlemen were complaining about the service, yet I told them sternly that they would have to live with the current conditions, well at least until the morning. As I pass the blankets which we normally use for employees to keep warm when dealing with computer-related matters such as online sales to the people, a lady muttered thank you to me. I smiled back to her words, before she asked me for some pen and papers. As I brought back paper and pen, more and more people asking for things, I felt like I was Florence Nightingale, running around caring for injured soldiers. I brought them mostly coffee and tea, as Cecil made sure everyone know the regulations and rules – in case they might move around at night. Everyone nodded like a robot, or primary school students in television programme. We took it as everyone was clear about it, Cecil and I then lock the shop door and off our own way home. “It’s a very strange day, is it not?” Cecil asked, as he smiled at me with his eyes lay softly at me. “I wonder how they would cope until we come in the morning, and how would other volunteers react to their presence.” I commented earnestly, wondering if anyone would be able to see those strangers. “Let’s just hope they will be nice and quiet until the morning.” Cecil commented, voice filled with anxiety.
We waved goodbye to each other as we reached to the path with platform to either direction situated at our left or right. We then without looking back walk to the platform as the train slowly emerged from afar, after a lingered good-bye.