The shop started out as a second-hand bookshop, but beginnings are important only as a window to arrivals.
I didn’t own the bookshop back then.
I applied for a job.
The owner didn’t want to sit in the store all day, especially during the quiet hours.
I arrived at just the right time — don’t you just love how that works — arriving at the right time?
I didn’t mind being there during the quiet hours.
My world was teetering on the edge.
The edge of what, I did not know, but it scared the hell out of me.
The dusty old building was teetering on the edge also. I crawled under it once to retrieve a favourite pencil that had fallen through a crack in the floor.
The foundations were minutes away from not being foundations anymore.
I wasn’t worried, it gave the shop an extra edge — a sense of peppermint danger.
The cracks in the floorboards came in handy during the warm weather.
In the winter, not so much.
I became proficient at rolling up pages out of destroyed books and wedging them into the larger gaps. Old, obsolete encyclopaedias worked best.
I left my anxieties at the door each day. They just dropped away like an old discarded overcoat.
The shopowner, Derick, could not get out of the place fast enough, which was fine by me. He was an ex-teacher and a real pain in the arse who would fire me ten days before a particular Christmas because I missed a shift. I ended up in the Emergency Ward with stomach pains and couldn’t make it into work.
“Don’t bother coming back,” was all he had to say.
I’d never missed a day of work in more than a year, but he didn’t care.
I didn’t know it, but people kept asking him where I had gone.
He closed the business about two years after firing me.
Towards the end of my time working for Derick the Dick, I noticed an uptick in customers — the uptick ate into my ‘quiet hours’.
I guess it started with an old man who lived about half a mile up the road.
I saw him every Thursday afternoon.
We would talk, and he would tell me stories from his days as a Real Estate agent.
“If I had a buyer who couldn’t make up their mind, I would ‘accidentally’ book another potential buyer to turn up at the same time. Worked like a charm. They would panic that someone else wanted ‘their house’. Signed on the spot.”
Henry was at least eighty-eight years old, and even though I would have disliked him if he was my age, I cut him some slack — he told great stories.
Henry told his friends about me.
Most of Henry’s friends were dead, but the ones who were hanging in there came to see me.
“Henry said you are a good listener.”
I’d never thought of myself as such, but there you go. Other people don’t always see us the way we see ourselves.
I found that I could easily remember the stories they told me, and over time I would retell one or two in response to a problem that was posed.
“What an excellent idea,” they would say, “I would never have thought of that.”
For a while, I thought I was hot stuff.
I got all puffed up.
There is a real rush that comes with helping people.
Of course, I came crashing back down to Earth when I got fired.
Fast forward a couple of years, and here I am sitting in my own bookshop, the same building I used to work in, doing my thing.
The shop had sat vacant for a while. It’s off the beaten track, and only dedicated book buyers will find it.
I named the store Twice Sold Tales.
People come to my store because I’m a good listener.
Occasionally, I tell them a story I’ve been told, and it changes their perspective. They are grateful for the direction I head them in, and in return, they buy a second-hand book — sometimes more than one.
I’m never going to get rich, but I do get to enjoy the stories I hear, and there is always the quiet hours.