Wearing shades in a paperback used book store, nothing dressed me up more than running my fingers through the light, dusty paged edges. Titles, cover illustration, colors running the lines of the first paragraph before opening the book to page one. Immediately, my mind trails off like a lost kite without a string. The why’s and who’s surely to be unmasked within this $4.00 marked down edition on this “FINAL SALE” day.
I barely noticed the plaid shirt standing behind the counter with a bent collar from years of “I don’t get to ironing, just throw it in the dryer” look. I imagined him as having been the local high school’s Science teacher who was only too happy to sub for English 101, now newly retired. Signing the lease to this store front was his latest gig and boy was he proud to announce that today was certainly the “best” day for a deal on used books, holding his chin up as to speak above and over the shelves that would deliver his message to me. After a brief utter of acknowledgement, I shuffled my feet to give up my remote location in the Arts section. A section so clearly labeled with black permanent marker beginning with an italicized “A” on a sticky note taped for good measure. He questioned, “Have we seen you in here before?” I wanted to answer you, and the books you mean?
It was here I stammered, hemmed and hawed, reluctantly replying, “No, not my first visit, it’s been awhile.” Clearly, I did not want to say it was before he became the gatekeeper with his stylish bent threads. The truth being, I was a regular Saturday stroller and at times a midweek “just stopping by” when I wanted to step in to escape from the pages of my own life. You see, Charlie had owned the skeleton key to this paper castle before bent collar guy. Charlie was also known as the town crier. He was born and raised here in these rural parts of the southeast and if he knew you, he knew your neighbors and the dog who got hit by the car down the street. Charlie was not what I would call a ladies’ man, but a sweet, caring man. You know the type, great personality with a nice face. Charlie was always asking all sorts of questions as one would try to browse in silence, but good ‘ol Charlie was chatty.
It was the chatty in Charlie that earned him his toe tag and gave bent collar guy his dream job… the key to the door that is rightfully his as the oldest brother, kin to sweet Charlie.
3 hours ago