A Chip off the Old Bookshop

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He watched them for a while as they chatted, pointing to the windows, gesturing with wide arms as though measuring the walls and imagining them different. Occasionally they would glance over conspiratorially as though their presence had somehow managed to remain undecipherable, their secret plans buried and hidden amongst the piles of unsorted books.

‘Can I help you gentlemen?’, he finally asked and put his mug down on the counter, placing a bookmark neatly into the fold of what he had been reading, closing it, and placing it next to his mug.

Startled, the two young men looked at one another and slowly and nervously scuffled towards the counter, as though they had just been summoned by the headmaster.

‘Is there a particular book you are after?’. He looked from one to the other. Both wore almost identical ill-fitting navy-blue suits and, although both lads were quite slim, they seemed to have selected shirts too tight so that their buttons strained allowing glimpses of pale flesh beneath. The jackets were so tight they’d never fasten to cover the strain. And their sleeves were too short. And so were their over-tight trousers. One wore socks with some kind of logo on them. He was facing two boys who couldn’t even dress themselves properly and one was wearing children’s socks. Was this fashion or just pure and simple stupidity? He smiled.

‘I noticed you were in the fiction section’, he leaned over the counter and nodded over to his left. ‘It’s just that the children’s books are over there. Lots of pictures.’ He added and smiled again.

The two navy suits looked a little annoyed, realising they were perhaps being insulted. ‘We’re not here to buy your books old man, we’re here to buy your shop!’, the one with logos spouted.

Unmoved, he picked up his cup and took a sip, ‘I didn’t realise I was selling it’.

Logo Man, clearly the main voice of the navy twins, grew agitated and, now their purpose for visiting the shop was out in the open, vented his invisible boss’s anger. ‘You’re going to have to close sooner or later, you can’t survive here, in this spot, it’s in a prime location and my firm will give you a really good price. You know that, we’ve been sending you proposals for the best part of a year.’

‘I’m not selling.’

‘See you?’, the non-logo man dug into his pocket and brought out a small micro-disk. ‘See this place? See all these books? I can have them all on this tiny little disk, I don’t need your shop, people don’t need your shop, nobody reads books anymore. You’re just wasting everyone’s time and you’re not doing yourself any favours trying to stay open when you know you can’t. You’ll have to close sooner or later.’

Logo Man looked disappointed in his twin. ‘Well, we’ll send some papers through for you to have a look at with our latest offer’, and with that he turned to leave, his companion fumbling with his pockets, following.

Picking up his reading material again, opening it and removing the bookmark, he looked around his shop momentarily before continuing to read from where he had been interrupted, though having time to call after the Navy Twins without looking up to see if it had any effect, ‘I have colouring-in books as well’.

It was a good read this, a really good proposal to enhance the bookshop and put in a small coffee bar at the main front window. It was a surprisingly good idea, considering where the proposal came from, and it should do really well with a bit of work, he could see that. And, it would be one way of finally being allowed to put, ‘& Son’, after the shop name at long last.

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Author: George McDermid

I scratch out poems, and the odd little tale. Mostly for my own amusement.

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