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archive:stories:bookem2
                           B O O K  'E M
                     Volume 1  Number 2
    Author: Caroline Kent    e-mail: caro@freenet.fsu.edu
  Copyright (c) 1995 by Caroline Kent. All Rights Reserved.
   (It's a few minutes before 9:00 a.m.  I am vigorously wiping

the front door of the bookstore, trying to remove a stubborn spot)

   "Hi!  Welcome back to "Book 'Em."  It's so nice to see

you again. I really enjoyed talking with you last month about the bookstore and I hope you'll stay awhile so I can tell you some more `stories from the stacks'."

   (I take a deep breath and glance up at the sky)
   "Isn't it a beautiful morning?  Summer is my absolute

favorite time of the year. If only I could spend my days like those folks in the Country Time Lemonade commercials . . . just lying around in the grass sipping lemonade with nowhere to go and nothing to do and . . . "

   (Someone coughs and I rouse myself from my daydream and pull

out a set of keys from my pocket)

   "Listen to me, just standing here chatting away.  It's time

to open the store for business . . . come on in."

   (I unlock the door and change the sign to "open."  Two

children around the age of nine rush inside the door and race to the back of the store)

   "Business has really picked up since school has let out for

the summer. With the popularity of computer and video games, it's nice to see that children still appreciate books . . . "

   (I pause, as one child, after running around the store three

times, approaches me and starts to speak)

   "Goosebumps, aisle three," I say, pointing in the general

direction.

   (The child closes his mouth and takes off at full

speed down the aisle)

   "Children are the easiest customers to figure out.  They

either want the latest Goosebumps novel by R.L. Stine or . . ."

   (I pause as another child approaches me)
   "Pogs, aisle two," I say confidently.
   (The child doesn't move)
   "Milkcaps or pogs as they are called, are the hottest

collectible since baseball cards. It's actually a game that you play. You stack the caps face-up in a pile and throw a thing called a "slammer" down on the stack. Any caps that flip over, the player gets to keep. The remaining caps are restacked and the next player throws the slammer on the stack and keeps the caps that flip over. The players take turns "slamming" until all the caps are flipped over. The player who flips over the most caps wins."

   (As I finish speaking, I notice that the child still has not

moved)

   "You don't want pogs?" I ask in a stunned voice. 
   (The little boy shakes his head)  
   "I'm losing my touch," I say sadly with a shake of my head.
   "How about a Goosebumps book?" I ask hopefully.
   (Again the little boy shakes his head)
   "Well, if it's not Goosebumps or pogs, it can only be one

other thing . . . "

   (I take the little boy's hand and lead him to the back of

the store)

   "The bathroom's over here."
   (He runs inside)
   "Yes," I say, pumping my fists. "I still got it!" 
   (With my chin up and my head held high I  return to the front door and 

continue polishing the glass)

   "Sometimes adults can be a little bit more demanding then

children. After eight hours on the job you learn to use the `self-serve' method . . . "

                   A Walk On The Far Side
   In order to keep daily walking mileage to a minimum,

bookstore employees learn to answer a customer's "where is" question with a point of the finger. Some points are easier to make than others . . .

   "Where is the checkout?" asks a befuddled customer.

I point to the cash register, which is six inches in front of me.

    Kids are easy to direct.  I just point in the general

direction of the book and they scamper off at breakneck speed,. The farther away the area the better. More running room.

    If a book is located in the back of the store you learn to

be creative.

   "Gardening books?  Go two aisles over to your left, make a

right, drive three miles, first house on your right . . . "

   Recently, a man approached me with this one . . . 
   "Do you have any of Gary Larsen's "Far Side" Books?"
   "Yes, we do.  They're over in the humor section," I replied

pointing finger poised and ready. "Go over to the corner, now look on the far side . . . "

   (I give the door a final buff and stand back to admire my

handiwork. A man walks up to the door, places the palm of his hand on the glass and pushes open the door. Clutching my rag to my heart, I try not to cry)

   "Do you sell books?" he asks.
   "No," I reply with a straight face. "But you can buy one

at the pizza place up the street with the topping of your choice."

   "What I meant was . . . uh. . .do you sell OLD books?" he

stutters, backing slowly out the door.

   "No," I reply solemnly.  "All of our books were made fresh this morning."
   He thanks me and makes a bee-line for his car.
    "Actually, that isn't the dumbest question that I've been

asked. Believe it or not, I received a phone call from a woman who wanted to know if we carried helium to blow up balloons. When I told her no, she hung up on me. Maybe I shouldn't have replied in a Mickey Mouse voice?"

   (I continue polishing for a few minutes and then stop as I

realize everyone is staring at me. I nervously stick the cloth in my apron pocket)

   "You probably think I have a fetish for doors  . . . "
   (Someone coughs but I ignore them)
   ". . but actually I am staked out at the front so that I can

watch these little devils . . . er . . . I mean sweet, little, darling children, to make sure that they don't yank this door off of its hinges. I shudder at the thought of having to call a repair man. . . ."

                         Open Sesame
   After twenty years of being opened and closed a thousand

times a day, our front door decided it needed a rest. After a push by the one billionth customer, the door said, "That's it. I need a vacation." And off of its hinges it came.

   We kept it locked for three months until the repair man got

there. We hung a big six foot sign that said, "Please use the other door" and drew an arrow pointing in the appropriate direction.

   Of course, to a customer, a locked door means only one

thing . . . STORE IS CLOSED! They would come to the broken door and pull and push and yank and then stand there and scratch their heads trying to figure out why the door was locked during the middle of the day. They could see people inside. They figured that it must be THEM that we wanted to keep out. Forget the sign. Our astute customers save their reading for inside the store. If they happened to catch a glimpse of me, they waved and pointed to the door and motioned that they wanted to come in. I pointed to the other door and after a moment it occurred to them that if they walked a foot to the right they could get inside. Wow, what a cool trick . . .

(A customer has approached the cash register and I reluctantly leave my guard position at the door)

   "The repairman gave us these neat little stickers with his

phone number on them. They are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week so if, heaven forbid, our door should ever require repair again, they'll come at a moment's notice. I put one on my phone at home so that I'll have the number handy in case something happens during the middle of the night. Of course, I'd be sleeping and wouldn't know if something happened but I might have a premonition and they could check it out to see if it was a dream or not . . . "

   (I notice a white station-wagon that is pulling up into

the parking lot)

   "Nooooo!" I moan, putting a hand to my chest.  "Please, don't

let it be HIM!"

   (I vault over the front counter and race toward the front

door as a man and a little boy come into view)

   "Quick," I yell, flipping the sign to "closed."  "Turn off

all of the lights and go hide. Maybe they'll think we're closed. I'll tell them that . . . that . . . there's a wild animal loose in the store and . . . no, that's no good. HE'LL want to come inside and help catch it. Quick, think of something, anything to keep "the child" outside . . . "

                  Children Should Be Seen And Not Heard
                     
   Parents love to bring their children into a bookstore.  They can

slip away to a cozy corner with a book and relax for an hour or two while their children race up and down the aisles venting all the excess energy they've accumulated on the ride over. There's little hope that the parents will persuade them to behave. Upon entering a bookstore, parents develop amnesia and forget that the little angels they dragged kicking and screaming in the door belong to them.

   "That's not MY child screaming over there.  My children have

manners. They know how to behave in public."

   Luckily, there are plenty of things that children can find to 

amuse themselves with in a bookstore. Children's book publishers came up with the brilliant idea that if you add sound to a book it will encourage a child to read. Thus, "Play-A-Song" books were born. Each of these lovely books contains a sidebar with pictures that play a tune when pressed. When you come to one of the pictures in the story, you press the matching picture on the sidebar. Voila! Instant sound effects. Children love these books. They can press all the pictures at once and make a lot of noise. They like to do this for hours at a time to see which wears out first, the batteries or the sales clerk's patience.

   To coincide with the release of "The Flintstones" movie last

year, we received a lovely board book that played the movie's theme song. After listening to the song so much that I thought I would "bam-bam" the next child who touched the book, I moved the thing to the top shelf where no one under the age of twelve could reach it. I didn't have to worry about junior driving me insane anymore. Just his dad. . .

   (The child has infiltrated the premises and is slowly making

his way toward the children's section where he has spied "The Lion King" xylophone)

   "Well, it was great to see you again," I call over my

shoulder as I chase after the wee one. "I'd love to chat some more but it seems that it is time for my nightly runnnnnnnnn . . ."

   (I grab hold of the tiny tot's tee and he drags me along up

and down the aisles)

   "How old does a person have to be before you can. . .

BOOK 'EM???"

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