Hooked on Books
I was about to close up shop when a man staggered through the door. He was a word-head for sure: thin, and pale from too many hours under a desk lamp. His eyes flicked back and forth spasmodically: left to right, left to right.
“What can I get you?” I asked warily. I got this kind in sometimes. They were usually content to read a brochure or scrap of newspaper for the handful of grubby coins they were able to scrape together.
He leaned forward and his voice was a sandpaper whisper. “Fiction.”
“Fiction? That’s some heady stuff. Can you afford it?”
He pulled out an envelope and started pulling out wrinkled bills: singles I thought until I saw the zeros. Each one was a grand. When he stopped, there were ten bills on the counter, which equaled my profits for several months. “First edition,” he said.
I only had one first edition in the shop. It was A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway, bound in lustrous leather. The asking price was $1200. I looked at that money on the counter. It probably wasn’t legitimately earned, but I could put it to work.
Then I thought of that beautiful book as a temporary high, misused when a cheaper version would do fine. It was like brown-bagging a Dom Perignon.
“Sorry,” I said finally. “I can’t help you.”
He left, grumbling and I watched him go, my mind a churn of polar emotions. I don’t regret it though. I guess I’m hooked on books too.