“Young lady,” hissed the woman. “Do you work here?”
“I do,” said the bookseller. “As a matter of fact, this is my shop. How can I help you?”
“I have been trying to get a copy of Pride and Prejudice off the shelf for the last ten minutes. It seems to be stuck. It simply will not budge, no matter what I do.”
“Oh, that,” she said, knowingly. “The book doesn’t want to go home with you, that’s all.”
The woman stared at her. “The BOOK gets to choose who it leaves with?”
“Of course. I mean it would be cruel to send a book where it doesn’t want to go. Don’t you agree? Why don’t you look for a different book?”
“I don’t want a different book. I want Pride and Prejudice.”
“Then I’m afraid you’ll have to try another bookstore.”
“Not really. No one ever takes a book’s feelings into account. I do. I told them they don’t have to go with anyone if they don’t want to, so they don’t.”
The woman turned and walked toward the door.
“Excuse me,” said a man, holding five books. “Can I put these on the counter until I’m finished?”
“Let me take them for you,” she said.
“There’s one I really wanted, but it’s stuck to the shelf.”
“Pride and Prejudice. It’s a gift for my neighbor’s little girl. Her birthday is tomorrow.”
“I’ll get it for you and add it to the pile, while you finish looking around.”
“I’m not going,” said the book.
“You’re not for him, you’re for a little girl who is having a birthday tomorrow. You could open up a whole world of wonderful books for her.”
“I won’t go,” said the book, flatly.
The book shifted a bit to the left. “I just won’t.”
“Tell me what’s wrong.”
“She doesn’t want to leave me,” said the book next to Pride and Prejudice.
“She worries about me,” said the book. “She’s afraid I’ll go home with anyone who wants me.”
“Well, she might,” snapped Pride.”
“How about if you go together?”
The books stared at her.
“Together?” they said.
“Sure. The little girl will love both of you.”
The books fell into her arms and she brought them to the front desk.
“This is a weird place,” said the man. “These two books seemed to jump off the shelf into my arms. I mean I was walking by and they just fell on me.”
“Books do that sometimes.”
“I don’t think they do.”
“Since you’re going to give Pride and Prejudice to a girl as birthday gift, I added Emma, to your pile. I hope you don’t mind. They go so well together, I just thought…”
“That’s fine. I’m sure she’ll love them. She’s a real bookworm. Now, about the books that fell on me, or jumped TO me, do you know anything about them?”
She took the books and said, “Oh, you are in for a very good time. I hope you like Urban fantasy.”
“You like Urban fantasy but you haven’t read Simon Green’s DARKSIDE series? I almost cried when the final book came out. Admittedly, it wasn’t the best one, very bloody, but I still miss that world. And this one by Jim Butcher, THE DRESDEN FILES, well, you’ll love it. It takes place right here in Chicago.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” she said, wrapping Pride and Emma in birthday paper.”
“It’s going to sound silly.”
“I have a bookshop, you can’t even imagine the things I’ve heard.”
“Has anyone ever told you that some of your books…talk?”
She stared at him. “They all talk. But usually only to me.”
He looked down. “There’s a book on my foot.”
She sighed, walked around the counter and picked it up. Sorry about that. Sometimes the books just want to go home with a certain person and they kind of follow them around. Don’t worry, they can’t leave the shop. If they could, the shelves would be empty.”
“And you don’t find that a little strange?”
“I find it very strange, but that’s just the way it is.”
“MOM,” shouted a five year old, “This book keeps jumping at me.”
“Excuse me a moment,” she said, walking toward the boy. “Oh that’s such a good book, IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE, is one of my very favorites. You have excellent taste in reading materials.”
“We’ll take it,” said his mother, moving toward a sales clerk.
“About the books,” he said. “Where do you get them?”
“Mmmmm,” she said. “I don’t get them. They just appear on the shelves. The books are happy to be here because they never have to leave, unless they want to. They consider this their home. They know they won’t be forced to go with someone they don’t like. It’s funny, but some of the children’s books refuse to go with kids that look as if they would have sticky fingers. They simply will NOT come off the shelf. Some of the other books don’t mind sticky fingers at all.”
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, holding out her hand. “I’m Anderson Smith.”
He stared at her. “I don’t think you are.”
“That will be one hundred and seventy-two dollars and forty nine cents.”
He handed her his credit card and watched her run it through the slot.
“Will there be anything else?” she asked.
“Not right now.”
“Well then, thank you so much for your business and I am sure your birthday gift will be greatly appreciated.” She smiled at him and walked over to help another customer.
He was still there when she returned to the desk.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, frowning. “Did I forget something?”
“I know,” was all he said. “I won’t tell anyone, so don’t worry.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, “What do you know?”
He leaned across the counter and whispered, “I’m an expert, when it comes to solving puzzles. You are a story book and right now, I’m part of the story.”
She pushed away from the counter and every book in the shop, gasped.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “Thank you. I’ll never forget this experience.”
She nodded, and watched him leave. As soon as he went through the door, she moved the shop to a new location, changed its name, and went on with her story.