I enter the antique store to escape the stormy day. It isn’t like any store I’ve been in before, and I’m no stranger to antiques – I once had to furnish a house on little money after all. From behind a curtain, there appears an elderly man and he seems delighted to see me, as if I am his oldest, dearest friend. With a flourish he presents me with hot tea, saying nothing.
An old-style phone ring sounds out.
Me: Thank you, sir, but I only came in to escape the rain.
Him: Ah, most sensible of you, my dear. Feel free to peruse the stock.
I do so, moving immediately to the books.
Him: Those paperbacks are a dollar each; the hardcovers are three dollars. I don’t sell books for more than five dollars.
I pick out an armload of books and bring them to the little reading couch, carefully rifling through to check for missing pages or too many scribbles in the margins.
Me: I think I’ll take these, thanks.
Him: Very good. You can never have too many books, is what I always think. Say, you look familiar.
Me: I’ve never been in here before, so…
Him: Oh yes? Perhaps you should come in more frequently, then.
He smiles as if at some private joke and I am tempted to leave the books where they are. The rain has mostly eased off now. He writes down each purchase and closes the leather-bound book.
Him: Ah, now I recognize you. My daughter has a tenant who has piles of books at home. Always complains that people don’t read enough. Praises you though, says you keep your nose in a book.
Me: Erm, not really. No more so than anyone else.
Him: Oh, nonsense.
He steps out from the counter and brings me several other slim novels, adding them to the pile.
Him: Here, take these free. My daughter will be very pleased that you’re reading so much.
Me: May I ask why she cares? She doesn’t know me.
Him: Do you not? She speaks of you – showed me a photo. Her name is Penelope; she does a marvelous carrot cake.