The Impudent Book Clerk  

Like most of the bookstores we had seen on this trip, it had a few picture-cover Hardy Boys and a couple of thick, brown volumes with ragged spines and no dust jackets. So, we crossed it off the list and headed for the door.

As I nodded a farewell to the clerk, my wife nudged me and pointed to a shelf behind the counter. I took that deep breath I always take when I see white and yellow. Spines, that is. On Hardy Boys. Not the faded, worn, tape-repaired spines I'm used to seeing. These were bright and smooth, with crisp edges. There were several. I read some of the titles. The House on the Cliff. The Melted Coins. The Secret of the Caves. I always read the titles before getting too excited. Haven't we all been tricked by deceptive spine art, only to be utterly disappointed when we pull the book from the shelf and see strangers on the cover? I have, so I read the titles quickly. I swallowed. My wife swears she heard an audible "Gulp," but I think she was exaggerating.

"May I look at those?" I asked the young bookseller.

"Those? Well, we just got those in and haven't marked prices in them. We have some paperback Hardy Boys over…"

"Well, maybe I can save you the trouble of marking them. Why don't you just tell me how much you want?" My wife says I definitely interrupted him while he was speaking, but I recall he did pause longer than was necessary for his sentence.

"Well, they're just not for sale yet."

"Why do you have them in the store if they are not for sale?" At this point my wife insists I raised my voice to a threatening level. I maintain that there were other customers conversing nearby. I was simply trying to be heard.

"Well, Um… the manager is the only one who can mark them for sale, and he's not here." I do admit the young lad looked a bit nervous and was edging away from me, but I deny to this day that I was advancing towards him with fists clenched. As I've said, my wife is prone to exaggeration.

"LISTEN, SPARKY, THIS IS A BOOKSTORE AND I WANT TO BUY THOSE BOOKS!" Okay, I did raise my voice at this point, and I would have apologized except my wife grabbed me firmly by the arm and dragged me out the front door. And, as I explained to my wife, I don't actually know if his name was Sparky. It just seemed right at the time.

Unfortunately, our travel plans did not allow a return trip to this store. But watch out, Sparky. I will be back.

(c) 1993, Scott D. Murdock

First published in Yellowback Library, Number 113, November, 1993
Also published in Rosemarie Skaine's AuthorsDen Newsletter No. 6, April 16, 2001