“This is a great bookstore,” she said excitedly, throwing a few more things onto the counter. “I absolutely LOVE it, to the Moon and Back.”
“We’re opening another shop on the moon before Christmas.”
“Interesting,” she muttered. “And how, exactly, will the customers get there?”
“People are already living on the Moon. The government just doesn’t want anyone to know,” he said, conspiratorially. “Don’t tell anyone I mentioned it.”
“Oh, believe me, I won’t,” she laughed, crossing her heart with her finger. “You have a lot of unusual books. Things I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s wonderful.”
“We need a lot more independents. So many closed, but perhaps they’ll start opening again.”
“I wouldn’t hold my breath,” he said. “It’s a tough business with on-line shopping, offering lower prices.”
She nodded. “Makes it difficult for everyone.”
“It does. You get price cuts from publishers, according to the number of books you order. Who can compete with Big Box stores and Amazon? No one, that’s who.”
“It’s not fair,” she said.
“No. It’s not.”
‘How are you going to deal with radiation poisoning on the moon?”
She burst out laughing. “Great idea.”
“We think so,” he said, smiling.
“Have you read any of the books in my stack?”
He looked at the books and nodded. “I’ve read all of them, but you won’t like this one,” he said, pulling it out of the pile. “The blurb is great but the book is terrible. Bad writing and weak plot. The characters are so dull I don’t think the pages would catch if you put them into a roaring fireplace.”
She stared at him. “Thank you.”
“This one is great, and I’d recommend buying the second book. They may be going out of print. Once that happens, the price will skyrocket and people will be selling their copies on line.”
“I’ll do it.”
“On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst, this book is a five, if you like reading about the misery of others. I don’t, but you might.”
“No,” she said, putting the book aside. I don’t.”
“This one is fantastic. Great writing and characters you’ll never forget. You might even want to be one of them.”
“Perfect,” she said, smiling. “Have you been to the moon?”
“The moon. Have you ever been there. Did you go looking for a proper bookstore site?”
“I’m not supposed to talk about that.”
“Because no one is allowed to know about trips to the moon.”
“Are the people there aliens or humans.”
“Those are the same two things,” he said.
“Hmmm. I guess they are, when you think about it.”
“We’re aliens on earth. All of us,” he said.
“You can’t be an alien, if you’re born here.”
“I think you should look at these two books,” he said, reaching for a couple of hardcovers on the shelf behind him.
“Don’t you want to know what they’re about?”
“No. I trust you. If you think they’re great, I’m willing to read them, but only if you read two that I pick out for you.”
“Really?” he said, grinning.
“I’ll be right back,” she said, disappearing into the shop.
When she came back, she had two books in her hands. “Read these. No questions asked.”
“Promise,” he said, taking them from her.
“I’ll come back in two weeks and we’ll discuss the books, okay?”
“Yes. That will be fun,” he said, putting her books into a cloth bag.
“Is the moon beautiful?”
“Not really. It’s a man-made orb, metal and hollow inside. It’s cold on the dark side and nothing really grows on the outside. The government has people working inside the orb, making weapons, lots of things. It’s a dead place and living inside is horrible, like living in a house with no windows. Artificial light, is artificial. Drives you crazy in no time at all and you long to be outside on earth.”
“What if I told you I was CIA and you could be disappeared for what you just said?”
“I’d ask you to kiss me, before you shot me.”
She grabbed his shirt, pulled him forward, and kissed him. “You need to be more carful, Timmothy Larken,” she whispered. “Please don’t make me erase you.”
“People should know,” he said softly.
“They can’t know,” she said, picking up her bag. “I’ll see you in two weeks. Hope you like the books I chose for you.”
Photo: Dalal Nizam