The Tooth Hurts

The Dental Cosmos

A definition of a bookseller:

Someone who is obsessed with other people’s words.



Is it a disease? Listed in the DSM?

My friend and fellow book addict, Michael Dirda, always has great stories in The Washington Post. The print version of this recent one was brought in by someone here and hung.

It is Michael’s 29 rules for reading.

I’m a pretty seasoned book person and felt I could certainly find a few rules worthy of including. I gave some thought to what could be added to his list but have been stymied.

Any ideas?

You should always keep up with the Pulitzer Prize winner’s stories in The Washington Post as well as his books (some of which may be found at or at the three Maryland Wonder Book stores.)


I awoke to Giles retching on the bed next to me. I snapped awake and urgently called him outside.

It is dark, damp and muggy. The pavement is darkened with rain that fell overnight. I put the dog out in the pen in case he has more business to finish.

A pair of screech owls were calling to one another all the while. They were far out in the woods. When I got back inside, I tried to record it, but of course they stopped almost as soon as I had the window open.

I did catch a couple of rather tame calls. Often their calls can be much more plaintive, wailing, haunting, crying. Almost like a human child in severe distress.

The early dawn was actually more dusky than you see. The iPhone camera brightened the horizon some. Technology was just trying to help, I guess. Giving me what it thought I wanted.

Oddly, I picked up an ex-library copy of Barbara Michaels’ The Crying Child a couple of weeks ago. It is a first edition. 1971. I was going to take it to Ireland to read, as traveling couldn’t damage it further. Actually, if I took the time, I could remove the scratched, torn and scarred Brodart covering the dust jacket and put on a new one, and it might look presentable.

I don’t know why it stuck to my hand when I was winnowing through the hundreds of ex-library books a couple of weeks ago. Maybe subconsciously I knew it was the tenth anniversary of Barbara Mertz’s passing. August 2013.

I know I wrote a few weeks ago that I would stop dropping her name, but it is so good to hear her “voice” again. It is such a young voice in 1971.

I just started reading it late at night a few days ago, and now I’m hearing crying in the night in the dark lonely forest.

Creepy shivers.

Also, we have gotten a couple of nice orders for her books this week from the Collector’s Corner feature at Here’s a link to her collection, which we have on offer:

The windows were closed against the humidity last night. Warmth and rain can make the indoors musty and uncomfortable. That also kept the forest sounds out mostly. The forest cricket cacophony can rise to a roar on warm nights. When the windows are open, I may put in earplugs—plus press a pillow over my ears in order to sleep.

Now as dawn brightens, the insects rest, and the songbirds begin their concerts.

The sun is now a deep orange I can see among the trees just above the horizon.

Well, I’m awake now. I may as well try to write.

I certainly didn’t think the summer would end like this.



Part of the human condition requires us to react and adapt to changes outside our control.

Some changes we can resist. Others we simply must live with.

I’m likely going to cancel my trip to Poland, the Baltic States and Finland next week.

Too many variables.

Too many balls in the air.

Too much risk to the family circle’s current fragility.

Well, there will be another time. Unless things change in my situation…


Last Friday, the contractor came down and began building a dog pen in a spare corner of the dockyard at the warehouse.

Now all three dogs can “board” in there as needed when other people are around and need access to the rear of the building and the loading docks.

Options are good.

This weekend, all three dogs were out loose in the fenced-in space. I take breaks from my work periodically and go out with treats or to throw the balls for them to chase. They are lucky to have such freedom. I’d feel sorry if I needed to keep them in a small indoor pen all the time—except for occasional walks.

They are good friends and companions. They give much more than they take.

There are so many gifts this planet offers.









What am I forgetting?

My truck has 1200 pounds of stone in it.

Five 80-pounds bags of 3-inch Delaware River gravel. I’ll use that to shore up some spots along the driveway where the heavy rains last week started some washouts.

Ten 80-pound bags of 3/4″ Delaware to dress up the existing beds along the driveway’s upper terrace. These beds have subsided a bit over time, and they’ve lost some of their gravel to attrition.

Mostly though, the heavy work gives me the feeling of accomplishing something.

I might at least drag the bags off the truck to where the stone will be spread before I go to work this morning.

In the past month or so, I’ve brought 7 loads of these stones up the mountain. Over 4 tons.

Stone obsession.

Yesterday, Monday, morning, I forced myself out to plant the rest of the trillium I got in the mail. I haven’t had much luck with these “store bought” rhizomes. The batch I planted in the fall of 2022 didn’t seem to come up well. Same with those I bought locally in the spring. Maybe the rhizomes will come back next spring with vigor.

For this last batch, I dug a hole with the adze in the new bed. I filled the hole with composted manure mixed with topsoil. That should be loose and rich enough for them. I pushed sticks around the perimeter so I won’t accidentally over plant them when I put daffodils in during November. (I saw Costco already has fall bulbs on display—as well as Halloween yard junk.)

I also dug up some lungwort that had sprung up in the trail I drive upon to get from the driveway to the north side of the house.

I have a lot more transplanting to do. The summer has been too hot and dry. Or various distractions have kept me from coming home with enough time or energy.

I also spread some of the false arum red berries. So many stalks came up this year. Why? I dunno.

False Arum

I hope there are many seedlings next spring. This plant is a “three-fer.” Lovely deep green glossy foliage with silver veins. A striking phallic—Jack in the Pulpit—like blossom. And those seed stalks which begin green and redden into late summer.

Now I need to get up and get ready to bump down the mountain and see what the day brings.

Monday didn’t go as planned.

Ernest drove me down to the Gaithersburg Wonder Book. There were a few small Books by the Foot orders we were given to pull. But mostly I just wanted to check in to see how some of the tweaks I’d suggested were going.

The store looks great. July was its best month since I bought the shop in 2008. I think it is important to try to build on successes. Growing is far more fun than stagnation.

When I got back to the warehouse, someone had dropped off four pallets of bankers boxes. The word “SELL” was written in marker on the lid of each box. I peaked inside one box.

“Dental books?”

Another. Another. Another…

All old dental books.

Over 3000.

I put blue slips of paper with my name on them on each pallet. Most of these books would come to me anyway. I might as well eliminate the “middle man.”

I asked one of the warehouse guys to load one pallet on carts.

Dental Carts

I would spend much of my week in the Dental Cosmos.

Groan… Some dentist’s collection, I’m sure. Mostly textbooks going back to the 19th century.

There were a lot of bound journals that will end up going for decor.

Dental Journals

How many volumes of the Dental Cosmos would you like?

So my week began and ends in Dental Hell. Maybe 40 cartloads of the things.

Some are interesting and going online. But I’ve come to the “occlusion” that not many people “carie” about such “toothsome” offerings. Still, we will drill to the core for whatever audience there is and hope that these books will fill some cavities on collectors’ upper or lower shelves. We will make maxilla efforts to act as a bridge between these tomes and new owners. There is no cap to how many you may order. I hope some may crown your incisor, canine and molar collections. May some bring you tooth wisdom.


There was a small storm late at night.

The distant thunder rumble was like the deep rolling purr of a great celestial cat.

The dog on the bed next to me started. He rose and stood over me panting.

He stared down on me, his eyes casting a baleful look.

“Unhappy with the weather?”

“Hisssss” poured in the open window.

Soft rain was falling through the trees.

The cacophonous din of tree crickets abated as the showers strengthen, pattering a million leaves.

Tonight it will get down to 55 degrees. The first harbinger of fall.

This summer has been a disappointment in so many ways.

The big dog is on the bed next to me. Shedding his white hairs on the white faux fur bedspread.

His mistress is back at the home in Pennsylvania. The shattered hip is mending, but it is unlikely Giles will ever return. He is too big and given to sudden lunges if he sees something irresistible. Another fall cannot be risked.

I’ve had a new pen built in the dockyard at the warehouse.

New Dockyard Pen

I’ll get a couple of doghouses. Maybe I can pay someone to feed and walk them if I go away.

IF I go away…

I canceled the trip to Poland, the Baltics and Finland. Too much risk. The boys will be away for important weddings. If something should happen to their mother, there should be someone around.

The dogs have never been boarded. Giles especially is a risk. He can bark incessantly and can snap if he doesn’t know someone approaching. If he got kicked out of boarding and there was no one he knew to go get him, what would happen?

My younger son and I took all three to one of those walk-in vets at the Tractor Supply store in Hagerstown.

“I don’t know if you remember, but Wonder Book was next door when you were little,” I told him.

Old Wonder Book Hagerstown Location

Now it is a kiddie entertainment venue. Doesn’t look like a place I’d take my kids.

Hard to believe that spot was filled with bookcases and several hundred thousand books. The space is quite deep. It was as large as the Frederick store.

I wonder if it is haunted by book ghosts?

We called it “81” because it is very close to the exit off Interstate 81. It did pretty well. It had been a seafood restaurant that had been abandoned in a hurry. It felt like the Mary Celeste the first time I walked in. Dishes on the table. Half-burned cigarettes in ashtrays. Pots and pans with dried out food in them. I wrote about it long ago.

Joey would have been 2 years old when we opened it in 1995.

Those were exciting times. Opening a branch store from scratch in a different city.

The boys were so young.

The store did well when video rentals were strong and the internet had not started killing off 95% of the used bookstores.

Some fun people worked there. Terry P passed away 5 or 6 years ago. I still hear from Fawnia via Instagram sometimes.

We moved in 2005 to what I thought was a better location on the other side of town. After years of numerous problems and sales bumping along the bottom, it is finally getting discovered. The latest group has made it a place to be proud of.

My newest journal is filling up.

Chuck's Journal

I only started it in the end of June. There’s been a lot to write about, I guess. Not much good, I’m afraid.

Work and travel and writing. Currently just work. Not enough writing.

I reached out to an old friend last night. Maybe we could meet for a drink.

“I’m the busiest I’ve been in two years…”

More like 4 years… Like I’m NOT busy?

You make time for things you want to do.

I get it.

Time to move on. Another friend gone to COVID times.

A correspondent reached out and said these stories should become a book.

I dunno.

What do you think?

I’m pretty busy…

Maybe I should have a Revival.

Stephen King's Revival

restoration to life, consciousness, vigor, strength, etc.
1. restoration to use, acceptance, or currency

Sadly, this book is not signed by King but by four others.

Maybe he was too busy.

Poems below:


Old Wine

It was old champagne
bought from an elderly home
Age had not made it better
No. It was bitter
Fewer bubbles
Less effervescence
But it was champagne
By definition, unwasteable
I sipped and frowned
I sipped and smiled
I was very young
when this was rain sun grapes and soil
I will open a new bottle tomorrow
Tomorrow I will drink to the future
Tonight I drink to the past
Sad and joyous
Old bad slightly bitter wine
is better than none


The distant thunder rumble
was like the deep rolling purr
of a great celestial cat.
The dog on the bed next to me started.
He rose and stood over me panting.
He stared down on me,
his eyes casting a baleful look.
“Unhappy with the weather?”
“Hisssss” poured in the open window.
Soft rain was falling through the trees.
The cacophonous din of tree crickets abated
as the showers strengthen, pattering a million leaves.

18 Comments on Article

  1. Lauren Baker commented on

    I was enamelled with the dental jokes 😉.

    I also enjoyed the link to the Dirda article. Yes you should come up with a list, or perhaps some lists of must reads or great libraries to visit ….Lists are great fun to explore sometimes. Just like rabbit holes and they can lead to great rabbit holes.
    I picked up “Bucky A Guided Tour of Buckminster Fuller” at the Frederick store last week. Its full of wonderful rabbit holes. – Lauren

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Maybe I should try to be funny more often and back off the brooding?
      That collection was certainly not painless. It was a white elephant. Pearly white.

      Lists are always fun.
      I’ll add the idea to my to do list.

      Really, thank you so much for taking the time to comment.
      It is very m much appreciated.

  2. Michael Dirda commented on

    Thanks for the shout-out, Chuck. Much appreciated.
    Marian, by the way, keeps going on about how well you write. She used to say the same thing about my buddy David Streitfeld’s pieces when he was the Post’s publishing correspondent. As for her husband’s essays and reviews, meh. No man is a hero to his valet–or his spouse.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      The cobbler’s children may have no shoes but you’re permitted your books!
      Thank Marian very much.
      This blog got a lot of comments (for here anyway) and most included your list.

      Maybe a book of lists?

      Thanks so much Michael.

      Hope to see you soon.


  3. W. White commented on

    Book collectors are funny people. Michael Dirda has 29 reading rules. I found myself disagreeing with or indifferent to about half of them. I will have to make sure he never gets a chance to un-Brodart my books.

    Also, I saw the previous owner of that dental library trying to sell it on eBay. I remember seeing the location in the D.C. area and thinking, “Wonder when Wonder Book is going to end up with it?”

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      That’s what can make lists fun!
      I’d somehow heard of the hoard as well and expressed no interest in them.
      Then they appeared.
      A white elephant – Pearly white …LOL


  4. Alex Hartmann commented on

    Your blogs certainly are worth collecting as a book. I would love putting it together. [If you need an indexer, I’m available.]


    Thanks for doing what you do, in the stores, online, and with the blog.

    Alex Hartmann

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      That is so kind Alex!
      Maybe I’ll get pushed over the threshold somehow…
      I’m so glad you notice the improvements.
      It is really a labor of love for so many of us here.
      Really, thank you for writing. It means a lot.


  5. Terry commented on

    If they made that dog retching sound an alarm clock sound no one would oversleep!
    Sorry you are missing your trips. Maybe in the future they can be replanned.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Or a ring tone …LOL

  6. Ken Jacobs commented on

    Corollary. When I get a book I put a Brodart cover on it.

    I NEVER loan out books. Let them eat cake! 🙂

    I use a hair dryer to remove price tags. The heat makes the glue soft and I can easily scrape the tag off.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Those are excellent Ken!
      I’ll pass them on to Michael.
      Thanks for writing

  7. Jack Walsh commented on

    Really enjoyed (actually laughed out loud!) your paragraph on “tooth wisdom”. I could not think of another dental term that you could have used.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thank you so much Jack.
      Those books were so painful I felt then need to try some humor.

      I really appreciate your reading and commenting!

  8. Jeff H commented on

    I look forward to reading these each week. The dental puns were worthy of Beth Mole from Ars Technica.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thanks Jeff!
      Maybe I’ll try to be lighter more often – and so broody.
      I really appreciate your reading and commenting.

      1. Thomas Wixon replied on

        The cacophonous din of tree crickets abated as the showers strengthen, pattering a million leaves.
        This sentence is a MasterPiece! I occasionally find old Dental books & take them to my Dentist and she loves them. I am copying part of this post (if I may) to give her along with Your Web-site.
        Keep up the Great work,
        Your Bookplate Friend
        (Always a few post behind date!)

        1. Charles Roberts replied on

          Thanks Tommy!
          What a wonderful comment.
          Great to hear from you.

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