I was mugged last week. The criminal stole all the books in my backpack and tossed a couple of dollars over his shoulder as he ran off laughing.
Ok, that might not have been exactly how it went, but that’s how it felt. Previously my used book dealer and I had a marvelous relationship; every so often I would stop by his store with a stack of new, popular, fiction books and ask for store credit in exchange. PT* would eagerly look the stack up and down, contemplating the titles and how much he could charge, then quickly spit out an unreasonably high sum of store credit while wearing a guilty expression as though he felt he was cheating me. The number he offered was always overly generous and I would cheerfully reply “Sold!” and push the stack towards PT. Then one of PT’s teeth would fall out of his mouth onto the counter because he hadn’t been able to afford dental coverage in ten years due to his habit of giving out far too much store credit in exchange for new stock.
To say PT’s store was crowded is like stating that “a couple of people live in New York”, the store was stuffed full of bookcases; they lined the walls and the aisles, there were even bookcases in tiny closets. The biography and the gardening section were stored there, the one organizational choice I understood; scandals grow in the dark and make for good biographies but plants don’t. This always puzzled me as I would pull the string to turn off the light over the jolly green flower pictures and close the door to what was likely a broom closet before the store was PT’s shop. At first glance all the bookcases looked shallow, until you realized that PT had stacked the shelves three titles deep, so any true second hand book shopper had to labouriously add to the already tall piles of books in the aisles of the store to search and find a title.
This was where the exciting, dangerous element of shopping at PT’s came in. Books are notoriously heavy and stacking them three rows deep had meant some of the shelves had begun to buckle. Instead of replacing a shelf, PT would haphazardly nail two by fours to the cracking sections of the shelves. So reaching your upper body halfway into the shelves to read the spines of the books at the very back was an exercise in faith and an adventure as you prayed for the shelf to stay up and kept your back low to prevent your clothing and skin from catching on any nails.
I loved PT’s. The bus would drop me just outside his door, after work I would browse the aisles for a couple of minutes, breathing in the heady scent of ink and aging paper while looking for literary gold. Though our relationship benefited me far more than PT, I thought it was a good one. Alas, last fall, PT wearily announced that he would be closing his doors. I was bereft. But not terribly as there was another second hand book store down the street, I had chosen PTs over the other store because it was seventy feet closer to my house. When carrying forty some odd pounds of books to be exchanged in my backpack, that short distance somehow stretched into miles and so I would gratefully drop my heavy pack at PTs doorstep and drag it in over the threshold to be exchanged.
Now of course I take my books to Tyler** my new second hand book dealer, who robs me blind and hands back pennies in exchange for mountains of literature. Though the store is always well organized, and I’ve never come close to having a near death experience in the shelves, I still miss PT’s dearly.
*Names have not been changed because PT is still selling books, and I’d like it if everyone hunted him down and bought out all his stock so he could finally go to the dentist.
**Names of new store owners have not been changed because he should be hunted down but instead of buying his books Tyler should be shaken upside down so that all the change in his pockets that he hasn’t given me for store credit can be collected.