Round and Round—A Bookish Children’s Fable (5th & Final Part)

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If you haven’t read Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, here are the links:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

 


 

It had been a whirlwind couple of weeks since the Young Bookseller had first found the ring upon the bookshelf in front of some of Shakespeare’s work.

He had thoughts and suspicions about the mysteries he had experienced since then.

Each time he entered his office the ring and vellum letter hanging on the wall caught his eye. He touched the ring sometimes. He would take it off the wall and look at it; turn it round and round between his fingers. But he never thought about slipping it on. Even before the warning in the letter some instinct made him wary.

Things quieted a little in the shop as well. The buzz in the air was much more muted. He seldom found books on the floor in the mornings.

The next Sunday, he sat outside his house and watched the sunset. The dogs were at his side. One was on its leash so they both would not take off for the hills. They had always come back, often many hours later, but he worried that some day one or both might not return. They were very small, and the forest was very big.

He thought about the young woman at the newspaper. For some reason he thought of her often lately.

Also, he now knew the ring belonged to him—at least for “his time.” For proof, he had the letter which had mysteriously disappeared from the newspaper. If that letter was to be believed. It was even in a language he could read—usually.

There was no reason for him to contact Classifieds again. He regretted that a bit for some reason.

Then occurred to him:

“I could write up a ‘Books Wanted’ ad!” he thought.

The next morning, he finished his morning ritual early and drove the once-white pickup truck downtown. He parked in front of the Rescue Mission. He decided to go in—just for a minute—to gather his thoughts.

“And perhaps my courage.”

He went to the small wall of books in middle of the building on the east side. In the center of the very top shelf standing upright, he found a copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream illustrated by Arthur Rackham. It was alone on that shelf. He raised himself up on his toes and lifted it down. It was in beautiful condition and all the tipped-in plates appeared to be present.

It was priced at eleven dollars. He put it under his arm.

He found a few other books as well and carried them back to counter in the back. Reverend Shell was repacking some loose cans of food from a grocery bag into a box.

“The Book Man! How are ya?! Find any treasure today?”

Reverend Shell continued packing the cans.

“A sweet old woman dropped this bag of food off just a few minutes ago. Good thing too. The pantry is almost empty, and people always come in after the weekend. It’s sad how many need food. Strange woman. Dressed funny—in old time clothes. Velvet and beads and such. She had the bluest eyes I think I’ve ever seen!”

The Young Bookseller started to ask something but bit his tongue.

He set the books on the counter.

Reverend Shell tallied the books on a sheet of scrap paper with a pencil that was worn to its last few inches.

“Wait a minute!” he exclaimed when he came to the Rackham. “That wasn’t here this morning. I know cuz I pulled a lot of the old stuff that’s been here too long before we opened. Was it in with the books?”

“Yes. Top shelf. Center.”

“Eleven dollars?! We never charge that much.”

“I will not pay any less. It is a very beautiful book.”

He counted out nineteen dollars for the seven books and laid the seven bills, 3 fives and 4 ones, before Reverend Shell. Reverend Shell wrote him a receipt so he could reimburse himself when he got back to the shop.

He walked out in to the morning sun. He unlocked the passenger door and laid the books on the seat. He closed the door with a loud metal clunk. Then he opened it again and retrieved A Midsummer Night’s Dream and tucked it under his arm. He walked down the sidewalk toward the newspaper’s offices. When he got to the nine stone steps that lead up to the front door, he stopped and looked up them. He then continued walking. He walked around the newspaper building once. It was an entire city block. He walked round it a second time. Then round and round the four corners he walked a third time before stopping at the foot of the steps.

He took a deep breath, exhaled and took the first step, then the second, then…

He went to the Classifieds office and set the Shakespeare on the shelf atop the bottom half of the Dutch door. He gently pushed the button on the old-fashioned brass desk bell so it would not ring too loudly.

Soon the young woman came round from the back. She was looking down at a notepad in her hands. Her hair was piled high atop her head seemingly held together by a pair of what appeared to be chopsticks.

“The Book Man,” she spoke not using the name he had given her nor looking up at him.

“Yes…ummm… I was thinking there is probably no need to place another ad about the ring or the letter. I think…ummm…”

“Yes. You’re probably right. Running a lost letter ad would be kinda weird.”

“I thought maybe I should write a ‘Books Wanted’ ad?”

“You don’t get enough books?”

“There’s never too many…”

“What’s this?!” her voice was mixed surprise and incredulity. “Arthur Rackham! I love his work. I didn’t know you got that kind of book there.”

“Well, not often enough. That is why I thought running a…”

She looked up at him. His voice, and everything else, froze.

Her eyes…they were hazel. A stunning golden brownish green. His mother had hazel eyes but not quite like these. He thought he could fall into those eyes…and fall forever.

“Running a…what?”

“Uh…a ‘Books Wanted’ ad.”

“Ok, what do you want it to say?”

He started running off some words. She interrupted him.

“Nah. That won’t work. How ’bout this.”

She quickly sketched some words upon the pad in hand and turned the pad to face him.

Her handwriting. It looked familiar.

“That is unusual handwriting.”

Priscilla’s handwriting looked kind of like this.

“Yep. My teachers always tried to change it, but that’s how it always come out. One of them called it medieval.” She laughed and the sound was not too unlike the silver bell which hung from above the door at new old bookstore. “Do you like the ad?”

“Um, sure.”

“We can just bill you.”

“Ok.”

“How long do you want it to run?”

“What do you think?”

“Well, running it twice a week for a month is the best deal. There’s a discount.”

“Ok.”

“But you can’t change the ad for a month or there’s a charge. Are you sure you like it?”

“I am. Very sure.”

“Great! You’re all set.”

The Young Bookseller stood rooted in his spot.

“Is there anything else?” she asked.

“I…umm…would like to show you the store some time.”

He let out a big exhalation at that.

“If you have these kinds of books, I’d like it I bet!”

“I…how about Friday? I could keep the store open past 6 if you cannot get there before. I often stay open late on Fridays anyway.”

“Sure. Friday afternoons are usually slow here. They often close up early.”

“Great. You know where it is?”

“Of course, silly. I was coming there last week before I got that call about my grandma’s dog.”

The Young Bookseller turned and left. Somehow he found himself behind the sales counter at the store looking down at A Midsummer Night’s Dream atop it. How he got there he could not recall. He did remember stepping out through the newspaper building’s front door and into the late morning sun. He must have found his truck and driven to the store because…here he was.

Friday came, and he spent the day straightening the shelves. He sensed a buzz in the air. It was like thousands of tiny whispers in the next aisle over and across the bookcases all around. He looked up at the round-faced clock above the counter about every 17 minutes.

Customers that came in that day did not get the best service. He often had to ask them to repeat their questions. If it was a telephone request, he would walk out into the store and find himself standing in an aisle and wondering why he had come out there.

4:33 came and went. As did 4:43 and 4:57. 5:09, 5:21, 5:41.

At 5:57 the silver bell above the front jingled and jangled, and Priscilla walked through it. Her hair was down. It was raven black. It flowed over her right shoulder front and back. It flowed over her left shoulder front and back. It was in wondrous disarray.

“Her hair is like a hurricane,” he thought.

She stopped and stood across the counter from him. He was speechless.

Her hazel eyes seemed to look right through him.

“Her eyes like forest pools,” he thought.

“Hi,” she said.

He stood there dumbly.

“Hi?” she repeated.

“Hello. This is the bookstore,” he stammered raising his left arm at the aisles beyond.

“Is it? That’s why there’s all these books all around?” She laughed.

He looked at the silver bell above the front door just a few feet away for her laugh sounded just like that.

“Yes…umm…can I show you around?”

“Sure.”

“What are your favorite sections? I mean subjects.”

“Well, I like literature. And do you have a mythology section?”

“Yes. Mythology and Folklore. I will show you both.”

He came around the counter and headed down the History aisle. He was shocked to see three books sprawled in the middle of that aisle.

“It was not like that just a little while ago,” he assured her as he bent toward each, lifted, closed and set the book on the floor nearer the edge of the aisle.

At the first break in that aisle, he turned left and led her across the store. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw some books splayed on the floor to the right and to the left in every aisle they passed. Some aisles had two. Some three or five.

His face reddened as they continued.

Somewhere from the farthest corners of the store, he thought he vaguely heard intimations of tittering. It was like the sound of hundreds of books having their pages lightly riffled in unison.

He turned left at the literature aisle and was horrified. Seventeen books lay sprawled in the second half of the alphabet alone. As they passed the N’s and P’s and R’s, he bent and set the fallen books to the side. When they got to the S’s, there were three fallen Shakespeares to pick up.

“I…ummm… It is never…”

She giggled, “Hehe,” and it was as if the silver bell far to the front was jingling behind him.

At the aisle’s end—the Z’s—he turned left again. This cross aisle was littered with nineteen books. He gave up and just stepped over and around them. The riffling of thousands of pages teased him—but not in a taunting way.

“Here is the Myth and Folklore section,” he said pushing some few books aside with his left toe. “I will let you browse. I will be up front if you need any help.”

He turned and strode away. As soon as he turned from that aisle, he put both hands on the pine uprights of a row’s end. The wood’s color was called “Special Walnut.” He knew this because he had stained every piece of wood in every bookcase in the building. He pressed hard against the wood in frustration and embarrassment.

The buzz in the new old bookstore subsided, and the only sound was the air being pushed around though the ceiling vents by the fan in the furnace.

He made his way to the front counter and began pricing books that needed prices. He used the worn pencil with the soft rounded point that would not leave impressions on the front free endpaper’s upper right-hand corner.

When all the books he had behind the counter were priced, he turned and looked at the round-faced clock upon the wall. At that second, the long hand clicked from 6:30 to 6:31.

When he turned back to the counter, she was standing before it. She was empty handed. His shoulders sagged, and his chest deflated.

“Nothing interesting?”

“There’s too much to look at. I need to come back when I have more time.”

“How many times have I heard that?” he thought.

Her hazel eyes seemed to be looking through him. And indeed they were, for her next words were:

“Is that the book you had at the office the other day? The Rackham?”

It was shelved right behind him on the reference shelf between Mr Van Allen Bradley’s Gold in Your Attic and the Mandeville’s burgundy buckram Used Book Price Guide.

He turned round to his left and slipped it off the shelf. He turned round to his left again til he faced her. He set it atop the counter before her.

She gently lifted the front cover as she should. She carefully did not open it too far so the hinges would not be stressed. She bent, turned and tilted her head to look at the tipped-in plates as she came to each. He hair fell upon the counter and spread like…a forest pool.

“This is lovely. Is it for sale?”

He had been thinking about taking it home.

“Yes. Certainly.”

She stood looking up at him questioningly.

“Oh! Umm…it cost eleven. I can discount it to you for seven.”

“No! That would not be fair!” she stated firmly.

His face reddened not for the first or last time that evening. In a flash, he was both crestfallen and disconsolate.

“I won’t pay any less than eleven for it.”

She opened her the little bag slung over her shoulder and withdrew a small coin purse. She counted out eleven one-dollar bills atop the counter.

The Young Bookseller bent and reached into the battered green metal fishing tackle box for the receipt pad.

We he straightened, the back of his head cracked against the edge of the counter:

“Knock!”

“Hehe.”

He looked up and to the right at the door’s top because he thought the silver bell had jangled and someone might be coming in.

When he looked down, she was…still there!

He filled out the receipt with the tip of the worn pencil with its soft round tip:

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Wm Shakespeare. Illus Arthur Rackham. 11.”

He wrote the date across the top and for some reason signed his name in full at the bottom. He tore off the yellow copy below the carbon-backed original that would stay in the booklet.

He lifted the front of the book. He slipped the receipt in between pages 23 and 22. He also placed three of the shop’s bookmarks in the same spot.

He bent again and retrieved a brown kraft paper bag from a shelf behind the counter. When he straightened, he was careful to lean back a bit to avoid a repeat of the contact with the counter top.

He felt entirely frayed, and with a voice he was not sure was his own but hoped would not betray the feeling that he had nothing to lose, the words emerged:

“Would you like to get something to eat?”

Well, of course since this a fable, she said, “Yes.”

The Young Bookseller was closing the door after she had exited. He reached and pulled down the toggles of the light switches. He thought he heard the sound of thousands of books gently but firmly opening and closing. It sounded a bit like applause.

The evening flew by as did the conversation. It was close to 9:53 when the old woman who owned, operated, cooked and cleaned the dishes at the old Old Toll House came to their table and said:

“I need to be closing soon. My feet are so tired!”

The Young Bookseller went home, and his dreams were fitful and chaotic that night.

He drove down the next morning and opened. Saturdays were the busiest day by far. There looked to be rain clouds on the eastern horizon. Odd for rain showers to come from that direction, but rain was very welcome on Saturdays. He would often sell three to five times as many books on a rainy Saturday. If the weather was too nice, too many people would go to parks and such.

Not long after opening, he turned and looked up at the round-faced clock on the wall. He had been open nearly an hour, and no one had come in—not to buy or sell. That was disappointing. He saw the long hand click from 10:50 to 10:51.

The bell above the front door jingled and jangled just then. When he looked down, Priscilla was standing across the counter from him.

“I was thinking last night. You need help. This place is a mess. I think I counted 73 books on your floor. Or maybe it was 83. I don’t do anything on weekends. Are you hiring?”

Well, of course he was. He had not thought of it until that very moment but…of course he was.

Well, this story is already long and need not get much longer, so here is the long and short of it.

Priscilla came to work at the bookstore. Mostly on weekends but sometimes she came in the evening, and he kept the place open while they worked together on a project. She learned more and more about books. The Young Bookseller learned more and more about books.

A year later (or was it 367 days?) the Young Bookseller and Priscilla moved the bookstore to a larger location a little ways up and across the street from the old location.

So now there was a new bigger old bookstore.

The first shop had filled up. He had a garage full of books just waiting to be priced and stocked—so full it was a solid cube of boxes. Floor to ceiling. Front to back. Side to side.

It was an easy decision to make to move to the larger space. The price was right. The landlord was nice. Most of all it meant there were more bookcases to build and much, much more room for more and more books.

It was not an easy thing to accomplish. Because moving any bookstore—even a little old bookstore is a major project. There are certainly a lot of book stories involved in that move. There were also a lot of book stories that occurred in that first year. Maybe someday…

It took 29 days from start to finish to move the store.

When they locked up the first old bookstore up for the last time, he asked if she would like to go to the old Old Toll house for dinner. Of course she said yes.

The little old woman who…well, you know she does everything there…knew them both by name by then. They had come in quite often over the last 367 or 373 days.

“You can’t stay late tonight. My nephew is coming in, and I promised to cook him his favorite dinner. Roast turkey. It has been cooking here all day.”

“Don’t worry, Rowena,” Priscilla said. “I think we’ll be leaving early tonight. We finished moving the bookstore today!”

“Lordy!”

When they had finished dinner and each had only a few sips left in their glasses from a bottle of St Emilion, Rowena brought them a big slice of cherry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream aside it. She set the plate between them with a fork on her side and a fork on his side.

“It’s still very hot, so mind yourselfs. I’d usually let it set and cool awhile, but there you are. Congratulations on the new bookstore. I’ll have to get myself over there yet.”

“Well, thank you for the dessert.”

“It’s my nephew’s favorite. I’m taking the rest of it home for him. He’ll probably eat the whole thing in a day. He won’t be missing that piece.”

When she stepped away, the Young Bookseller looked across the vast expanse of the little table with the gingham tablecloth atop it. He engaged the hazel eyes.

“You know, I have been thinking. With this bigger store and more expenses and more books to price and stock and I hope more customers to help and I expect more and more books to buy…well, maybe I should get a partner to share the burden.”

“Well, that’s interesting,” she replied. “How would you pay this person?”

“Uh…a partner knows that time in the beginning is an investment for the future?”

“Oh. So no pay?”

“Low pay.”

“Who did you have in mind? Sallie?”

Any time he had called Sallie in to cover for him in the past year, he noticed Priscilla would be decidedly grumpy the next few days. She would not speak much, and the books she handled made thumping sounds as she not so gently put them on the shelves.

“I thought…well, maybe you might…ummm…”

Her eyes widened and brightened.

“50/50?” she asked.

“I was thinking 53/47.”

“50/50.”

“Ok.”

“You will have to take the ‘VOP,'” he added.

“Is that some kind of booksellers test?”

“It is the Vow of Poverty. Most young old booksellers take it whether they know it or not.

She laughed. He raised his head and looked around for a silver bell suspended somewhere in the old Old Toll house.

Then he extended his right arm across the table and they made a handshake deal.

 


 

Well, tempus fugit, and this story is getting long and longer.

Let’s skip ahead 503 days. It was on that day at the old Old Toll House that the Young Bookseller asked Priscilla to become another kind of partner.

Or perhaps she asked him for this is a modern old book fable.

Maybe it was a tie.

“You first.”

“No. You first.”

Anyway one or the other said, “Yes.”

Perhaps they both did simultaneously.

 


 

What about that ring upon the wall you may be asking? Wasn’t that what this story was all about? You can see now there was more than one story.

Well, 61 days later it was the penultimate day before they were to wed. Priscilla and the Young Bookseller were frantically preparing the store for their absence. They planned to take the next day off. Sallie had agreed to watch the store the whole day. Priscilla was not thrilled about this, but she supposed it was better than having Sallie at the ceremony.

She was dressing up the front of the store—straightening the shelves—pushing back the books that stuck out too far and sliding up the ones that sat too far back. He went back to the office to total the day’s receipts and prepare the bank deposit.

He had hung the ring from the wall in the new office just as he had in the old office. The vellum letter was suspended in a clear plastic bag beneath it.

In the office at the old store Priscilla had once asked:

“Is that the ring you found?”

He replied it was, and they never spoke about it again.

She did not recognize, or at least did not mention, the vellum letter as appearing like the one that had mysteriously appeared and disappeared from the newspaper office.

He set the battered green metal fishing tackle box atop the mess upon the desk.

(Yes, the mess on the desk reappeared pretty quickly after the move. Priscilla soon gave up any hope of rehabilitation on that desk. She also had a desk in the new office and most of the new old bookstore’s real accounting took place there.)

He raised the lid of the tackle box and withdrew the cash and receipt pad and the credit card receipt copies. He had ordered an electric cash register. It was progress he knew, but he would regret losing this tackle box’s connection with the bookstore’s beginning. The cash register would be delivered soon, and then everything would be faster, better and cheaper.

“Who knows,” he mused. “Maybe someday I will be selling books on a computer.”

He thought he heard a “hehe” and turned to see if Priscilla was there. She was not, and the office door was closed.

He ran the totals on the calculator and counted down the “bank” for tomorrow to $100.00 exactly. He filled out the deposit slip. He then set it all aside.

He reached behind the desk and lifted a thin brown cloth folder. He opened it, looking over his shoulder at the door first to make sure he was still alone. It was Priscilla’s gift for tomorrow. A book scout who had also become a friend had found it for him. He had asked the scout to try to find something wonderful and Shakespeare for the big event.

The scout had come through wonderfully 47 days earlier. He had come into the shop and told the Young Bookseller he had something out in his station wagon to show him.

“Can you just bring it in?”

“I think you’ll want to see it outside.”

They went out the scout’s battered old Buick station wagon. He opened the passenger door and withdrew a thin brown cloth covered folder.

The Young Bookseller opened it and his breath caught.

“Is this…”

“Yes. A page from the First Folio. 1623.”

“It is a leaf book.” *

[box type=”shadow”]
* A single sheet within a codex book is a leaf, and each side of a leaf is a page. A leaf book contains one or more pages removed from a defective copy of a rare or import book. — https://www.wonderbookblog.com/2018/04/27/breaking-and-leaves-of-gold/

This leaf book contained a single page from the First Folio.
[/box]

“Is it special and Shakespeare enough for Priscilla?”

“It is wonderful.”

“I found it in an old professor’s estate sale. I had to pay 250. Can you give me three?”

That was a great deal of money, but he agreed. He had a rainy day fund of cash in a bottom drawer of his desk. It was money he had saved up skipping lunches and other luxuries in case there was a…rainy day. He couldn’t write a check or Priscilla would wonder what he had paid so much for.

“I will go in and get some cash. This is for me personally.”

“Here. Take it with you.”

So the Young Bookseller had taken the leaf book back to his office and slipped it behind his desk.

That was what he was looking down upon now. To touch that page was to touch the early 1600s.

“She will love this.”

Then for some reason he rose, turned halfway round to his left and went to the far wall. He pulled the pushpin out and slipped the tape from it s point. He dropped the ring into the palm of his right hand and felt it thump upon his flesh. He turned halfway round to his left and returned to the desk.

He set the ring near the center of the large page.

He stared hard at it. Tomorrow would be a magical day, he thought.

He lifted the gold ring between his right thumb and finger. He rolled it there forward and back. Back and forward. Then he turned his wrist to look through it. Right. Left. Right. Left.

Then his left hand moved, and his ring finger started to slip into the ring. The first joint went though. And then the ring went over the first knuckle. He stopped there for some reason. When he let go of the ring with his right finger and thumb, there was a blinding flash.

A bit dazed, he found he was outside. It was dusk. It was very cool and drizzly. He was surrounded by unfamiliar sounds. Unfamiliar, but sounds he recognized from movies and TV shows. There were voices loud and raucous calling out to one another. He heard the creaking of wooden wheels. He heard unmistakable plopping of horses’ hooves in mud. He looked down. He was standing in mud that rose nearly to the top of his shoes. Not too far away he heard the screaming and whinnying of terrified horses. From same direction he heard the deep growling and barking of large dogs. He heard the loud roar of what could only be a bear. He looked up and a large river was flowing not too far from him. Across it was a smoky low skyline. The city’s profile was dominated by a large cathedral.

“St Paul’s! This is London.”

He turned round and found he was facing a tall round building. It was whitewashed plaster with many large exposed timbers.

“The Globe!”

He leaned his head back and three tall stories rose before him. It was crowned with a thatch roof.

“Hoya! Hoya!”

A toothless man with his mouth agape was dancing a caper to the side of the entrance. He wore a jester’s costume of green and yellow. Bells jingled from points on his soft cloth hat. A crowd bundled up against the weather was pressing and jostling past him slowly to funnel themselves through the entrance.

A woman’s voice spoke, “Take it off. ‘Tis time to go.” He had heard that voice before.

He looked down at his left hand. The ring glowed softly on the middle joint of his ring finger. With his right thumb and forefinger, he slipped it off. A soft flash of white light, and he was back seated at his desk.

He heard Priscilla calling his name. He turned round and faced the door.

“In the office!” he called back.

He closed the portfolio and set it on the floor on the far side of his desk.

In a moment, she was standing before him, looking down at the seated Young Bookseller. Her eyes were wide and frightened.

“Where were you?!”

“I have been right here.”

“I’ve looked and called for…an hour! I thought you’d run away.”

“I fell into a dream or something. Maybe I dozed off.”

“I’ve been in here twice!”

She stepped over to him, bent and threw her arms around his neck. He embraced her in return. His right hand was clasped over the ring. “You’re damp!”

Then she straightened and looked down at him.

“Your shoes are covered in mud! Where were you?”

“I think I was here. I do not recall going anywhere.”

“But you didn’t track any mud in here. How’d you do that?!” She didn’t wait for an answer. “Take your shoes off, or you’ll leave footprints all over the store. I’ll take them out to the truck and get your sneakers.”

He bent and slipped his left forefinger into the back of each shoe and pulled off one and then the other. He handed them to Priscilla. She made a show of holding them at arms length as she walked out the office door.

He opened his right hand and looked down at the ring. It glowed warmly back at him. It did not frighten him, but still he was quite wary of it. What would have happened had he pushed the ring all the way onto his ring finger, he wondered.

He rose and stepped over the two patches of mud where his feet had rested when he faced Priscilla. He walked to the far wall and withdrew the pin. He pushed the pin through the tape which was still threaded through the ring. He hung the ring to the wall.

He padded out the office door in his stockinged feet and walked toward the bathroom to get a couple rags to clean up the mess on the floor.

All about him and beyond throughout the building he thought heard whispering. It was the sound of thousands of pages turning at once.

He returned to the office and got to his knees. With a damp rag, he began wiping up the mud around his chair where his feet had rested.

“Is this Elizabethan mud?” he mused.

He sensed her standing behind him and looked up and over his shoulder.

“How’d you get in here without tracking any mud except at your feet?”

“I am not sure how it happened.”

“And where’d you get damp and muddy anyway? It hasn’t rained all week.”

“I am not sure.”

“Well, lets get going. I have a lot of stuff to do at home. Tomorrow’s going to be an eventful day.”

“An eventful day,” he repeated.

He followed her out of the office. In the threshold of the office door he reached in and pulled down the toggle of the lone light switch. The room went dark. The ring glowed a bit and then dimmed. Perhaps it was just light leaking in from outside when his shadow moved. He pulled the door closed.

As they walked to the front of the store, the Young Bookseller had the clean sneakers Priscilla had brought suspended by two fingers in his left hand. In his right hand he held Priscilla’s left hand.

With every other step, they heard a book gently fall to the floor somewhere out in the darkened rows to their right and behind them.

As they reached the front door, Priscilla wondered aloud:

“Why do they do that? They’ve been pretty quiet for quite a while.”

“I dunno,” he replied.

“‘Dunno’? ‘Dunno’?! I’ve never heard you say that before.”

“Maybe I have changed.”

“Don’t change…too much, ok?”

“Ok.”

At the front door, she reached and pulled down the toggle that turned off the lights in the front end of the new old bookstore. The others had been switched off already.

Simultaneously, he quarter-turned round to his right and she quarter-turned round to her left.

They were of a height, but since he was shoeless, it was a bit of stretch so she leaned down a bit, and he raised up a bit and they kissed.

Eleven books fell to the floor out in the stacks. This time they slapped the floor in what seemed like a kind of salute. And throughout the store there seemed to be the sound of books opening and closing like hands giving soft applause. But perhaps that was just the furnace coming on.

Then many more books fell out in the stacks like the first heavy drops before a storm.

Priscilla laughed as they pushed the front door open. It was as if two silver bells jingled and jangled in unison.

He looked up, and their eyes met. Hers flashed a deep blue green for a moment and then became hazel again.

 


 

Postscript:

The next day went well. The twain were made one.

The day after, they went in and opened the store together. There was a note on the counter from Sallie.

“Hope everything went ok. Everything here went fine. The place was a mess when I opened. There were books on the floor everywhere. Maybe you guys need help?”

 


 

And what about the ring?

Well, it continued to hang on the wall…mostly…

The bookstore? It had its ups and downs, but not a day went by that the Young Bookseller and Priscilla didn’t see books they’d never seen before. And every day wrote a new and different book or bookstore story. Some were big. Some were small. But all had some magic in them.

THE END.

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