Sunday, August 21, 2016

Small, little things that make up a day at The Bottom Shelf

“These big things, these terrible things, are not the important ones. If they were, how could one go on living? No, it is the small, little things that make up a day, that bring fullness and happiness to a life.” 
― Benedict FreedmanMrs. Mike
"I, like*, read this one book and it was, like, good, but then, it like, ended!"

I heard the young man talking to Debbie who had asked him what kind of book he was looking for. The older woman with the boy turned out to be his grandmother, proudly showing off the Bottom Shelf and our community library.

Debbie asks, "Ah—you want a story that goes on and on. Well then, have you read the Harry Potter books?"
"No," replies the young man who pauses for a moment and then adds "but, like, Marlee has!" He said this as if he should get some kind of credit because his friend read the book. 

I couldn't like follow the rest of the conversation as more customers came in but Debbie had the young fellow, like, fully engaged in stories of stories. She gave him short versions of various boy's books as she ran her hand over the young reader's section. He was hanging on her every word. I think he'll be back—if not to our library, then to the one in his own neighborhood. 

Enter a woman with five children in tow. They dive into the kid's books with gusto, shouting with happiness about this book or that book. They are fun to watch although the squeals are a bit high up the decibel scale for the small space. The littlest one, a blue-eyed blonde, with skin as soft and smooth as a china doll, brings her book over, looks up at me with shining eyes and tells me "I'm going to learn to COOK!" She's about three. She shows me the quarter clenched in her fist. 

Her brother, perhaps five, selects a child's book on astronomy and asks me if we have a bible he won't have to SHARE. I show him a kid's bible and he asks again if he'll have to SHARE it, as if the bible itself determines who reads it and how. In a family with a lot of kids, I guess sharing is a bad word. I can hear Debbie laughing from the back room and she comments to the mother that perhaps after he reads the bible, he'll recognize the irony of his reluctance to share the book. When the family finally gets everything together on the check-out counter and they all crowd around piling their quarters and pennies and rolled up bills to pay, one of them accidentally drops a bill into a slot/crack in the front of the desk. I ask how much it was and the kid, dismayed, tells me it was a five dollar bill. It has disappeared into the dark crack. I ask Debbie what to do and she tells me to just give the kid a five dollar bill, which I do, and the family all files out of the store into the library, the little girl with the shiny eyes clutching her treasured cookbook to her chest. I've fallen half in love with the child and the whole rambunctious family. 

Debbie gets the flashlight and peers into the crack. "There's a couple of thin books in there and a quarter and ah...there's the bill. But it looks like a one!" We open the drawers and peer behind them to see if there's access through there, but no...the crack is perfectly sealed off from the rest of the desk. What was the crack's purpose we wonder? Melinda gets the fly swatter (just the right length) and pulls a few items out. We cheer. We all suggest a stick with gum on the end for the remaining items. Debbie, on her knees poking at the artifacts, tired of hearing the same thing over and over asks,"Who even chews gum anymore?" The girls manage to get the one dollar bill out patiently using various ingenious fishing devices crafted out of objects we have in the work room - I see a clothes hanger, a ruler, double-sided tape. Now everyone is depressed. Were we had by this really charming family? Did they scam us, claiming they'd lost a five dollar bill, when it was only a one?** Then, someone wielding a stronger flashlight, spots another bill and exclaims—"It's a five!" Debbie and Melinda proceed to drag it up and out. A collective sigh of relief runs through us as we have our faith in human nature jacked back up to normal. 

The photo below has nothing to do with the day at the library. It's here to break up all the text. It was submitted to an Instagram challenge regarding literary cats. I can't determine who to credit. 

Literary cats on pinterest

A woman brings me a book called "Double Yuck Magic" by Kathleen Duey and tells me she's a local author. A prolific writer, I checked her out online—she's written over 80 books for the young adult market.

A man buys a huge book of medical illustrations for a dime. They weren't great illustrations—once you've seen DaVinci's, nothing compares. He's giving the book to his grand-nephew who is in medical school. The man goes on to tell me about his father, born in 1894, who was his town's dentist. After military service in WW1, his father became a doctor and practiced both medicine and dentistry in the town. Nobody could afford double degrees in these days of expensive education. 

DaVinci medical illustration. From

Richard's dentist told us recently that tuition at USC's dental school is $87,000 per year. I was aghast and looked it up when we got home. One entire year including all the indirect costs of housing etc. is estimated at $134,000 a year. A DDS at USC will cost $469,000. No wonder Richard's implant is going to be $4000.00! I also looked up the Simon Fraser School of dentistry in British Columbia as a matter of comparison and tuition is about $5200 per year—plus a little more if you're a foreign student. Could USC be that much better? This is a practical science— facts are facts, techniques are techniques, whether you learn them at USC or Simon Fraser. 

A customer came in and bought a copy of "Mrs. Mike." She and Diane discussed their love of this book when they were teenagers.The customer even named her daughter "Kathy" after the heroine. She buys copies wherever she finds them and gives them to friends and relatives. I'd never heard of the story, even though it's mostly about the Canadian wilderness. Here's a summary from Amazon: 

'Mrs. Mike' is a love story, a true story; the story of Katherine Mary O’Fallon, a sixteen year-old Irish girl from Boston, and Sergeant Mike Flannigan of the Canadian Mounted Police who meet at her uncle’s ranch in Alberta, Canada where she is sent to recover from pleurisy. They meet, they court, they marry and, following Mike’s orders, move to Hudson’s Hope far into the interior of Alberta.
But it is more than a love story between two people: it is also a love story of the land and animals, of the beavers and the ice, the northern lights and the fires, of whooping cough and whiskey running. It is a love story of the First Peoples and their struggles, the immigrants and their hopes and all the people who came and went through Mike and Kathy’s lives.

Here's a link to the obituary of one of the co-authors who himself has an interesting life story. Benedict Freedman. Below is a photo of the authors, who looked familiar to me—like typical customers of the Bottom Shelf. 

Nancy and Benedict Freedman, authorf of "Mrs. Mike.

We ended up the day with $209 in the cash register. All the revenue from the bookstore for a whole year wouldn't cover a year's tuition at USC's dental school. 

* I have no idea how to write the quotative "like" kids use as a conversation filler—the italic may or may not work.
** Too much TV news has turned us into cynics—skeptics about almost everything. Even that group of Olympic swimmers in Rio turned out to be idiots. 

No comments:

Post a Comment