A longish short story…about bookstores, James Joyce, authors and other things

“You can’t possibly be serious,” he said, his eyes wide.  “Opening a bookstore in the city is insane.  All the bookstores have closed.  Well, most of them anyway.  You’ll be an independent and you know what that means.  No one is going to give you MONEY.”

“I didn’t say it would be easy,” she said.

“Tell me why you want to do this,” he asked.

“Because so many books are written about bookstores in small towns and I don’t like to read books about small towns and how intertwined everyone’s life is and how they all know everyone’s business and then some guy walks in and it’s true love on the spot and then, after I throw up from the same old same old, I swear I’ll never read a book about a bookstore again.”

“Oh.  You should have just said that in the beginning.  I get that.  Still.  Maybe you should just write a book about a city bookstore, where no one knows anything about anyone else and no one finds true love when a plumber or lumberman walks in with his pig.”

“Pig? And why would a lumberman be in the city with a pig, even if he had one?”

“I was thinking farmer.”

“Ah.  There’s probably a book about that one too.  Oh, and don’t forget, most of the bookstores are left to the woman after she worked there with some relative while she was growing up.  The store is broke, and she is supposed to save it with no money or experience.  But she does it, after finding hidden letters, or pictures, that tell her secrets about her mother and grandmother.   Then she finds out that her father wasn’t her real father but the man who sold christmas trees at thanksgiving next to the hardware store.”


“I want to read books about bookstores, just not those books.”

“Well,” he said.  “You know the old saying…write the book you want to read.”

“It’s probably a lot easier than opening a shop,” she agreed.


“There’s usually a divorce in there too, that’s why the woman can travel to wherever the bookstore she inherited is located.  She’s running from a broken heart.  They’re all the same book with different titles and covers.  Although, there were a few good ones and they all took place in a city.”

“You’re just not used to people who live in towns and know what what everyone is doing, or not doing.”

“I wouldn’t last a day.  That’s called nosey and none of your business, where I come from.”

“You’re a hard-core city chick.”

“Excuse me?”

“Woman, I meant WOMAN,” he said, backing up.

She glared at him.  “Sometimes there’s a dog or cat in the book and that’s the most interesting part.  Although I stopped reading them a long time ago.  I don’t understand how people like that live.  If I was born in a place where people looked in your windows,  I would crawl away as soon as I could hold up my own head.  Grab a few bottles out of the fridge, my stuffed animal and blanket and hit the road.”

“You’d get lost the minute you were out in front.”

“There is that,” she laughed.

“You have no sense of direction at all.”

“Another reason to be in the city.  Someone can say turn right by the sky scraper with the red thing out in front.  Not the same as turn by the old oak tree and the cow.  What if the cow is in the barn?”

“You’re just being silly and you have GPS.”

“I guess.  But I’m serious about those books. They are all interchangeable.  And another thing I don’t like is when they say that a book is like Harry Potter, or Janet Evanovitch, or Jim Butcher.  THEY AREN’T EVER LIKE ANY OF THOSE BOOKS.  That’s false advertising and a con.”

“Wow you’re really in a mood.  What’s up?”

“I hate James Joyce.”

“No kidding.  Why?”

“He screwed Sylvia Beach out of everything.  All that woman did for that moron…she went bankrupt and he never gave her a cent, or even a proper thank you.  They had a contract and he went behind her back and sold the rights to the book SHE PUBLISHED, for $45,000 and never gave her a penny.  Ungrateful jerk.  I wouldn’t sell his books in my shop.”

“You don’t have a shop.”

“Well, he won’t be in the shop I write about in my book.”


“I think I’m finished.  Thanks for listening.”

“You’re welcome.  When are you going to start your book?”


“What are you going to call it?”


“I’d go with the second one.”

“That’s probably best.”

“I love you.”

“I know.”

“Don’t you love me too?”

“Of course, but that’s just like those books, you already know what the person’s going to say, so I was saving it until later when you didn’t expect it.”

“Why does that make sense to me?”

“You’re just used to me, that’s all.”

“I don’t think that will ever happen,” he snickered.  “You’re one surprise after another.”

“If there are any books by Joyce or Hemingway on our shelves we need to recycle them.”

“You hate Hem too?”

“He hit women and was another moron.  Lied about what he did and he was mean and ungrateful to Scott Fitzgerald and lots of other stuff.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t read about authors, or you won’t like any of them.  They’re all human and humans aren’t nice.”

“Maybe I’ll just read about women authors and artists.”

“Good idea.”

“And no small towns.  Sometimes they cry in those books too.  Blah.”

“You have a very limited emotional range.”

“Thank the Goddess for THAT!” she said.

“Not everyone would agree.”

“Like I care.”

He laughed.  “See what I mean?”


“You’re hard and often unyielding.”


“Not with cats, or other animals.”


“Why?” he asked.

“You have to be tough to survive. Life will eat you up and spit you out, unless you beat it to a pulp and kick it to the curb.”

“You believe that?”

“I do, since it’s true for me.”

“Okay.  Can’t argue with that.”

“No, you really can’t.  I’m really mad at Sylvia for letting Joyce take advantage of her but I like her so very, very much and she was kind.  Those lessons are things I remember.  Kindness gets you walked on.”

“Not always.”

“Pretty much.  So, since I refuse to be mad at Ms. Beach, because she’s a favorite of mine, I despise that conceited and moronic Joyce, because he knew what he was doing and he took everything from her and gave nothing back.”

“Well, he did make her famous.”


“Never mind.”

“She lived through hardship and poverty because of him.”

“I know.”

“She had to borrow money because of him.  Her relationship with her friend was strained, because of him, she lost customers, because she spent so much time TAKING CARE OF HIM.”

“No one made her do it.”


“It was her choice.”

“You need to be really careful now.  About what you say.”


“So I don’t…do something you’ll be sorry for.”

“What will you do?”

“I’m thinking,” she said.  “There’s a lot on the list of what I can do.”


She nodded and concentrated.  Then she went to him, hopped up, he caught her, and she wound her legs around his waist and kissed him again and again.

He groaned and she jumped down and walked away.

“HEY!” he said.  “Where are you going?  You can’t just walk away.”

She turned and said, “THAT’S WHAT HE DID TO HER!  That’s exactly what he did to her.”







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2 Responses to A longish short story…about bookstores, James Joyce, authors and other things

  1. I tried reading Hemingway once, maybe twice. Couldn’t get into it. Cool story here, though.

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