Monday, April 27, 2009

Myles of Books, Part the Fourth - With Dog Ears

The next morning the problematic window only took a bit off Topher's mood. Arthur had bought them a fine dinner and they had talked at length of books and sales and book folks of the past and present. Topher thought again how he looked forward to what lay ahead of him and what he had to learn. What lay ahead after the sign was fixed, that is.

He checked the answering machine for the shop. No messages from Tom. He went over unlocked the door, made a paper sign that noted a correction for the window was on the way, and his second day began.

Things were a bit slower. He did see the spellchecker walk by his shop with a flock of other women, who stopped briefly outside the shop to talk excitedly and peer in. Topher half waved, but they had already looked away and were clattering onward.

He had finished with psychology the day before, so he took the opportunity to review his final layout. Art, hobbies, sports, and new arrivals near the front. Mystery, Science Fiction and Early History across from his desk. Religion was right next to his desk. Arthur and his other mentor, book scout par excellence Ned Pack, had warned him that religion is where most of the book lifting was liable to occur. He wasn't worried, but he followed their advice. Pack also suggested he make an out of the way place near the door and put books he wanted to get rid of there. "If you can't sell 'em, let the thieves nab 'em." Topher was still mulling that one over.

The rest was straightforward. The shelves in the center of the shop had European and American history on one side, with the other social sciences on the other. On the wall across from the history his small section on military history and next to that ethnic cultures. There was an alcove across from the social science shelves where Topher had cookbooks, movies, and science and technology. Those subjects didn't necessarily go together, but they fit the space. The back third of the shop held the literature, drama, music, and literary criticism. Here and there he had small benches, but the only customer chair was the Dunning. Topher had made small signs for each section, and had room left over on the shelves to put a number of books cover out, which appeared to have paid off so far. "You don't buy cereal from the spine," Arthur had said. "You buy what's on the front." Topher also had a number of books in the window, including an attractive but cheap Tolstoi set and group of the more attractive Modern Library titles.

Satisfied, Topher sat down in his squeaky chair. He piled his internet orders in front of him, and began packaging them. About half way through the pile, he heard the door open.

A woman and a small boy came in. Topher greeted them.

"Do you have any children's books?" the woman asked.

"No, sorry. Have you tried The Midnight Stand Bookshop on the other side of campus"

"Oh yes. He had piles of picture books on the floor and shelves. It was a bit hard to find things."

Topher smiled. "Yeah, that is kind of how he arranges things. You can find some nice books there, but it takes some work."

The woman smiled back, and looked around. The kid was standing in the leather chair, eyeing a particularly bloody book cover.

"Do you just have rare books?" she said.

"No ma'am. Most of our books run between five and fifteen dollars. And things look this clean because we just opened yesterday."

"Oh, you do have a lovely shop."

"Mama, is this a library?" asked the kid, tearing himself away from a gory cover.

"No dear, but they don't have any books for us. Thank you sir. " she reached for junior.

"No they don't. They should get kids books so we can come back. Otherwise we won''t. " He took his mother's hand and they left the shop as Topher looked on, a bit shocked.

Topher had avoided kids books because he knew so little about them. But Arthur said folks always had something to say about running someone else's bookshop, he thought. He just didn't expect the first comment would come so soon, or from someone so short and blunt.

By the end of the second day, Topher had sold another hundred and fifty dollars worth of books. A few less people had come in than the day before, but a couple books were on his hold shelf behind the desk. Someone had wanted to buy his reference book on Mark Twain that he kept above the hold shelf, but it wasn't for sale.

"Not for sale? In a bookshop?" the man had shook his head and left. Maybe I need to make a sign, thought Topher.

Just as he was taping up the new sign on his reference-not-for-sale shelf, another woman in flopping ears and a dog related t-shirt stepped in the shop. Slightly younger than Priscilla with a forest of hair, she took off her ears almost immediately upon entering.

She raised her hand. "Hi, I'm Jen. I work for Priscilla next door."

"Ahh, Yeah, Priscilla mentioned you and Walter. Nice to meet you."

"You too. This is your bookstore? Looks good." she said, attempting to order the mass on her head. The mass won in a way that suggested it had never been defeated. "She's making us wear these this week."

"Well, it certainly makes an impression." Topher said, smiling.

"Heh, yeah. It looks ok in the pet store, but I'm not gonna look like I'm from a clown convention when I'm out and about." She stuck the ears in her belt as she glanced around. "I think this is just what we needed."

"I hope so. We do have three other used and rare shops in town."

"We do? Oh, you mean that jumble of a place and that other one that sells antiques too. And the closed one. Yours seems more like a regular bookshop, not a junk pile or museum."

Topher laughed. "Yep. Peyterson's Fine Books and Masterworks. They have some museum quality stuff, certainly. "

"It'll be a few lifetimes before I can go in there and buy anything, and only then if I get a discount. I do have a book that is kinda old, but not in great shape. We've had it in our family a long time. Heck, we go back as far as the Peytersons here. Too bad our money don't".

Topher nodded. The Peytersons made money back in the early 19th century and folks said they had been coasting on it ever since. Not very fair, but it did have a grain of truth. Honestly, Topher thought, coasting had its appeal at times. He was hoping he would have that opportunity himself in a couple decades.

The woman turned to him, her reddish tipped black hair shaking like a bush assaulted by small, furious animal. "You ever deal in old books? Or just these newer ones here?"

"We do have some older books. Not many. I'm still new at this, but I hope to have more over time." he said.

"Can you tell me what an old book is worth?"

"I can try. I have some reference books here," he said as he pointed to his new sign. "and I can use others at the University. The Gebers Foundation has references too."

"Does it cost?" she asked, looking as if she expected the worst.

"Well, it depends on what you need. If you need a formal appraisal for insurance or a donation, I can refer you to Arthur Bailey, who has a lot of experience with that. He would charge something depending on the time it took. If you just want a quick idea or if you want to sell it, I can probably help with that."

"Hell no, I'm not donating this book. It's an old furniture book, lotsa neat pictures. If it's expensive, we'll probably sell it. Walter and I have a couple girls getting ready for high school, and we're putting money in the bank for college, as much as we can. If it's not, then we'll just keep it and pass it on I figure."

Topher nodded. "Fair enough. Bring it in anytime, and I'll take a look at it. We'll go from there. Even it isn't expensive, I'm sure I'd learn something from it, and that's always worth it".

"Ok then. You're eager, I give you that," she said. "I appreciate it. I will try to bring in the book in later this week or early next." She pulled the ears from her belt and put them back on, where they sat deep enough that only half or so were showing. "Good luck....?"

"Topher," he said. "Topher Myles."

"Good meeting you Mr. Myles. Good luck with the shop."

"Thanks, and just call me Topher. That's good enough."

"Will do." she said, and through the door she went, ears, hair, and all.

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