“Excuse me,” he said, leaning over the counter.
“Are you ready to check out?” she asked, reaching for the stack of books she was holding for him.
“No,” he said, looking over his shoulder. “No. I just wanted to let you know that I saw a…mouse,” he whispered, “in the Science Fiction Section.”
“Was he wearing glasses?”
The man stared at her. “Glasses?”
“Yes. Spectacles, eye glasses. Wire rimmed.”
“I see,” he said. “Well, as a matter of fact, he was wearing glasses. I thought I imagined it.”
“You didn’t,” she laughed. “That was Henry and he’s quiet near-sided.”
He stared at her again.
“Look,” she said. “Henry and his wife, Whiskers, were living in the alley, searching for food in the bins. I invited them inside, so they would have a place to live and care for their family. They never touch the books in the shop. I give them old books to tear up for their nest, and we are all quite happy with the arrangement. You can go and talk to him, if you like. He loves Star Trek. You probably won’t understand him, but he’ll certainly understand you.”
“I see,” he said, softly. “Anything else unusual in your shop?”
“Mice aren’t unusual, they’re everywhere. I’d like to have a unicorn, but…well, why would a unicorn want to live here, right?”
He nodded. “There’s a cat sleeping on the New Releases table.”
“Buttercup. He gets along well with the mice. Sometimes they nap together.”
“Do you speak to the cat as well?”
“What a strange question,” she said. “Of course I speak to the cat.”
“And the cat answers you and knows what you’re saying?”
“How can you not know these things?” she asked, frowning.
“It seems that you have a bit of what you might call angel in you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said dismissively. “Angels aren’t real.”
“That’s true,” he said, nodding. “Not the way you picture them, but there are other beings in the universe and sometimes they come to earth and mingle with humans. Sometimes, their genetic…”
“Okay, that’s enough,” she chuckled. “Write a book and I’ll try and read it.”
“You can understand what animals are saying.”
“You can understand what I”M saying.”
“Why wouldn’t I be able to understand what you’re saying?”
“Because I’m not speaking in a language that exists on this planet.”
“Sure you are. English is alive and well and spoken on this planet.”
“It’s not English, it just sounds that way to you.”
“Whatever. Go back to browsing, or check out. Just don’t bother the mice.”
“Excuse me sir,” he said, to a man walking by. “Could you please tell me what color shirt I’m wearing?”
The man looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak your language..”
“See?” he said, smiling at her.
“What color shirt am I wearing? That’s the best question you could come up with?”
Henry appeared on the counter and sat up, his front paws folded across his soft chest. “This guy is weird.”
“I agree,” she said.
“There’s something different about him. Like he doesn’t belong here.”
“You are quite right, Henry.”
“You speak Mouse?”
“I speak all languages, so yes, I speak Mouse.”
Henry looked him up and down. “What’s your deal?” he asked.
“I’m just passing through and came in to buy some books. Then I saw you, and met…her, and now we are talking about…things.”
“Her name is Rosie,” said Henry. “And if you try anything funny, I’ll make you wish you hadn’t.”
“I am pure of heart Henry,” he said, holding up his hands.
“Yeah, and pigs fly at night in an apple blossom storm.”
“Good one, Henry,” said Rosie, running her finger down his back.
The man grinned. “I like this place. I like it very much. You know it doesn’t exactly exist on the same plane as everything else, don’t you?”
“Excuse me?” said Rosie and Henry at the same time.
“You’re just a littttttle bit on the edges of somewhere else,” he said, holding his fingers up, so she could see how close they were to wherever he was talking about. “This is a magical place. Look,” he said, pointing to the Gardening Section, where vines were spreading across the books. Magic. How old are you Henry?”
“I’m five, why?”
“Mice don’t live that long.”
“Sure they do. You can see me, can’t you?”
“You’re alive because Rosie’s belief in your aliveness, is keeping you alive.”
“I told you he was weird,” said Henry, out of the side of his mouth.
“I just seem weird to you because you’re not used to all the other things that exist. You’re weird to all those who aren’t from…here. Everything is weird if you’re not used to it.”
“I guess that’s true,” said Henry.
“Rosie,” he said. “I’ll take those book, now.”
“Do you want to take them with you, or would you like to have them delivered? I mean they’re pretty heavy.”
He burst out laughing. “You couldn’t possibly deliver them to where I’m going, but thank you.”
“Whatever you say,” she sighed, watching Mr. Bean walk in.
“Rosie,” he said, nodding at her. “Henry. Any new books in the Sci-Fi section?”
Henry ran up Mr. Bean’s arm to his shoulder, and together they walked deeper into the shop.
“You do know he’s a fairy, don’t you?”
“Mr. Bean, isn’t human. He’s Fae. Summer Court, from the looks of his white hair and pale complexion. He’s very…beautiful, don’t you think?”
“I guess so. I mean, he’s handsome and…”
“Is your money real, or will is disappear when you do.”
“It’s very real,” he said, seriously.
“Great,” she sighed, counting out his change.
“The woman standing by the Cookbooks is a merperson. If you look carefully, you’ll see a slight green tinge to her skin.”
“Why are you telling me these things?” she asked. “You’re playing with my reality.”
“I’m telling you, so that you can order things that would appeal to the Magical community, since that seems to be the sort of clientele you cater to. I mean there’s a werewolf in the Pet Section. Can’t you pick up his odor?”
“Go away,” she said.
“You’re awake now. You’ll never be able to NOT see them. This is a safe place for everyone. You should be happy about that. And by the way, there’s a Hell Hound coming this way.”
“That’s Peanut, and he’s not a Hell anything,” she said, handing the dog a gigantic bone. “You’re such a good boy,” she said, kissing him on the forehead. The dog’s tail wagged so hard he almost fell over.
“You don’t care what anyone is, do you,” he said, studying her.
“Just you,” she said. “What are you?”
“I’m one of the old Gods.”
“Maybe another time,” he said, kindly. “You have enough to think about.”
“Are you coming back?”
“Well, I guess I’ll see you then.”
“My best to Henry,” he said, picking up the three bags of books.
“Ah, Ms. Colton, how are you today?” asked Rosie, staring into the face of a vampire. She looked out the front window and saw that the sun had gone down.
“I’m fine, Rosie. Thank you for asking, Love. “I’ll take these, thank you, and I wonder if you might like to hang some of my paintings on the wall between Mystery and Romance.”
“I’d love to do that,” said Rosie, happily. “Why don’t you come over on Monday, after we close, and we can talk about a show.”
“That would be wonderful,” she said, excitedly. “Thank you.”
“My pleasure,” she said, watching her head for the door.
“I think that guy was right,” said Henry. “Since he’s been here, I’ve noticed a lot of strange things.”
“Well,” said Rosie. “everyone knows that life can change in a minute, and I guess it has.”