“Have you seen the room?” asked Chicago excitedly.
“No, I haven’t been able to leave the counter since yesterday,” said Edith. “The Convention of Unusual Things is this weekend and I’m swamped with requests for, well, unusual things.”
“I know Jerry didn’t want anyone to see it until he was finished but I just happened to be walking by when Tilly came out to get something. Edith, it’s absolutely amazing.”
“What did you see?” asked Edith.
“It’s all blue and black night sky, from the floor to as high up as I could see, with stars, billowing clouds and different size dragons coming out from the walls. Some of them are huge. It’s incredible and shockingly beautiful. It’s a masterpiece.”
“It certainly sounds like it,” said Edith, running her finger down the page of a telephone book. “Where do you suppose I could get three Dodo birds and a Griffin for Saturday night?”
“No idea,” said Chicago. “But Edith, the room is more than we could have ever hoped for.”
“The shop always knows how to get what it wants.”
“Do you think Jerry will go home when he’s finished?”
“I have no…”
“WHAT THE…” shouted the man in the tan raincoat as he smashed through the front door and rolled across the floor. “Oh great,” he said, slowly sitting up, rubbing his hand over his shirt. “I just bought this.”
“Your shirt seems to be covered in ink,” said Chicago helpfully.
“YES, IT DOES,” said the man, picking the empty India Ink bottle off the floor. “My shirt is ruined and the ink is gone.”
“Not true,” said Edith pointedly. “While your shirt may be beyond help, your INK is not gone, it’s busy staining my wooden floor.”
“Oh, right,” said the man. “Sorry about that.”
“Edith will fix it,” said Chicago. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Thank you so very much for that vote of confidence,” said Edith, glaring at Chicago.
“Well you can fix it,” said Chicago stubbornly.
“Okay sir, who are you and what do you do?” ask Edith.
“What a warm welcome,” said the man, looking around.
“Are you in need of a book?”
“Yes, a book. A stack of papers, bound on one side, with printed words on each sheet. A sheet is called a page. You read what’s on one page then turn it and read what’s on the next one.”
“Is she always this mean?” asked the man, staring at Chicago.
Edith closed her eyes, counted to ten and said, “Forgive me. I’m sincerely sorry. Is there anything I can get for you?”
“Besides that? This is a bookstore after all.”
“Do you have any books on dragons?” asked the man.
Tilly chose that moment to run into the room and knock the man to the floor once again. “Oh, sorry,” she said, offering him her hand. “Didn’t see you.”
“I’m over six feet tall and weigh two hundred and sixty five pounds, I’m covered in ink and you didn’t see me?”
“How about if I say that I wasn’t paying attention, so I didn’t see you?”
“Okay,” said the man, straightening his trench coat.
“Who’s he?” asked Tilly, reaching for a donut from a plate that wasn’t there a second before.
“I don’t know yet,” said Edith, offering the man a donut.
“Where did that plate of donuts come from? It wasn’t there a minute ago,” said the man, edging toward the door.”
“Sure it was,” said Tilly. “I saw it when I walked in here and just grabbed one. Hey, do you know anything about dragons?”
The man looked at her, his eyes suddenly sparkling with tears. “I do,” he said softly. “Quite a lot, actually.”
“Great,” said Tilly brightly. “Come with me.”
“Your neckless is beautiful,” he whispered. “It reminds me of a Green Dragoness, I used to know. May I touch it?”
“Not a chance but hurry up, we have a lot to discuss,” said Tilly, pulling him by the sleeve.
Chicago and Edith watched them walk down an aisle, Tilly chattering and walking backward, the man following silently with his head down and his arms at his side.
“Did he tell you his name?”
“No, he didn’t,” said Edith, watching books pile up in a nice neat stack on the counter to her left.
“He knows about dragons,” whispered Chicago.
“That’s what he said,” agreed Edith. “I wonder when he’s from?”
“I’d say the future but his clothes look more like the 1940s.”
“You know how some of those future people are,” said Edith. “They pick a look and go with it.”
“That’s true,” muttered Chicago. “They make the silliest mistakes. Remember the girl who was supposed to be from the eighteen hundreds but wore a T-shirt with John Lennon’s face on it?”
“It’s all in good fun,” smiled Edith. “They’re like big kids at a costume party.”
“He smelled like dragons,” said the gray cat.
“Have you ever actually smelled a dragon?” asked Edith expectantly.
“A couple of them,” he said, scratching at his neck with his back foot.
“Well, then,” said Chicago, eyes sparkling. “He must be in the right place.”
“HAH!” shouted Edith. “Dodo birds for rent,” she said, happily. “Oh wait, they need a three month advance notice so they have time to catch them.”
“I know a guy,” hissed the white cat.
“I’m sure you do,” said Edith, her back suddenly straight. “But I’ll only use him if it’s necessary, thank you.”
“Have it your way,” said the cat, jumping off the counter. “I’m going to find a lap to sleep on, you coming Gray?”
“Not now,” said Gray.
“I’ll be in the Writer’s Room, if you want to chase string later,” said the white cat.
“I’ll find you.”
“White has a rather seedy bunch of friends,” said Edith.
“Snowball’s okay,” said the gray cat. “He had a rough kittenhood. He was raised in an alley, the only white cat around. It was tough. His mother was a little thing. Pretty, but small. A family finally took them in and gave them a home, but Snowball still carries the scars.”
“I didn’t know,” said Edith sadly.
“Neither did I,” said Chicago.
“Yeah, well, Snowball doesn’t like to talk about the old days.”
“How about you Gray?”
“My mom left after we were weaned. My dad, a big gray Tom, expected us to grow up fast. I had two sisters and a brother but I don’t know where they are now. He taught us how to steal fish and food from behind restaurants. But people put poison out, so we had to be careful.”
Chicago bent down, lifted the gray cat into her arms and started kissing his face.
“Normally I would scratch you and say something like, ‘yeah, yeah,’ but you smell good and you’re really soft, so….”
“Lovely moment,” said Edith. “Now, if we could all get back to work.”
The white dog came into the room, wearing a harness attached to a lovely wicker basket. He stopped in front of Edith and waited while she put the books from the counter into basket. “Take these to Jerry and Tilly please. Here’s a lovely bone for your trouble,” she added, tucking the bone in with the books.
“Hey Gray,” said the dog, looking up. “I keep asking for cash but Edith keeps giving me bones. I should get bones for doing nothing. I bet she pays you in catnip. How are we supposed to invest bones and nip?”
“I feel your pain,” said Gray.
“My client is just about here,” said Chicago, putting the cat on the counter. “Just send her in Edith. Thank you.”
“Has she read your cards?” asked the dog, watching Chicago walk away.
“Yeah,” said Gray. “She said I would never have kittens.”
“Did you tell her you were a guy?”
“She knows that,” said Gray, “I’m just not sure she knows where kittens come from.”
“Got it,” said the dog, snorting with laughter.
“Ah, what can I do for you Mr. Dali?” asked Edith warily.
“Edith, the wall in my room is melting again.”
“I’ve told you a thousand times, you can just think it back into place. Remember last time?”
“I do, I do. Thank you,” said Dali. “Did the clocks I ordered arrive?”
“They’ll be here tomorrow,” said Edith. “Now why don’t you take this lovely bottle of wine and go and fix your wall before it’s too late.”
“Until tomorrow, then.”
“Yes, yes, until then,” said Edith sweetly.
“I never go into his rooms,” said the small mouse gnawing on a donut. He scares me. I always feel as if I’m melting whenever I’m around him.”
“You’re looking well Loretta,” said Edith merrily. “How are the mouselettes?”
“They’re fine, thank you. And thank you for the lovely cheese. We all enjoyed it very much.”
Edith held out her hand and the mouse jumped into her palm. “You are a dear friend,” said Edith lovingly. “If you ever need anything just let me know.”
“Thank you,” said the mouse. “You are most generous. I must get back to the babies, I just wanted you to know that we named one of the girls Edith in your honor.”
Edith was speechless, a knot formed in her throat and she nodded gratefully. The tiny mouse wrapped her tail as far around Edith’s finger as she could, and squeezed. “I know how hard you work,” she squeaked. “You make it look so easy but I know how tired you are and how heavy the load is. I want to thank you Edith, for making all of our lives so much better.”
Edit lifted her hand to her face and kissed the mouse on her side.
“Get some rest Edith,” said the mouse. “And I love you too,” she said, scampering away.
Edith stood behind the counter and took a deep breath. “I’m the luckiest person who ever lived,” she said to herself.
“RABBITS ARE IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM,” someone yelled. “THEY’RE EVERYWHERE! RABBITS ARE IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM!”
Edith started to giggle. “I’m the luckiest person ever.”