Her Name Is Kay
Thank you, thank you for your kind comments and suggestions about my condition. I've taken it all under advisement, as you'll see in my comments back.
But this is far more interesting:
Her Name Is Kay
O and his brave band of volunteers packed up about two-thirds of the store's books onto rolling carts on Sunday.
The Great Bookstore Migration is well underway.
If books were birds, what birds would they be? Perhaps some would be larks and others albatrosses. Perhaps origami cranes.
The books in used bookstores would be geese in a gypsy circus. Think of all the migrating they've done, starting out shiny and new in excited hands buying a romance, in hassled hands buying a textbook, in curious hands buying a biography. They get passed on to a brother, a daughter, a co-worker. They are refused return by the university bookstore after only a semester. Sometimes they are lifted from a friend's bookshelf with a promise to return, or just nicked away in a suitcase or purse.
They are read by a half-dozen people, or by one, or by no one – bought with noble intentions and immediately abandoned.
People need money. People need space. People die and leave behind libraries. Books of all ages, sizes, specialties, books of all languages, subjects, and sometimes perfectly blank books, all find their way to O's used bookstore. They sit side by side on the shelves, tens of thousands of titles that would never accumulate in a new bookstore. Some are beat to hell and worth pennies but hold magnificent stories. Others are pristine and worth thousands of dollars and their content is drier than mummy farts. Each has its own appeal and curiosity, like members of a circus. Each has a history. And they've all done a lot of traveling.
They draw quite a mixed crowd too, these books. A mutt crowd. The Blue-Eyed Bike Angels, the thrifty home schoolers, politicians, war vets, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, doctors, lawyers, and a couple of Indian chiefs. They come to browse leather-bound sets or to find a good deal.
O just finished running a contest and some came for that. A few weeks ago, O told me about a couple of customers who entered the contest on the same day.
The first was a woman. O knew the moment she entered the store, because of the smell. She left a full shopping cart outside on the sidewalk. Her collar was dirty with food, her hair matted.
She reeked. Of bleach.
Her hands were gloved in heavy rubber, in turn wrapped in grocery store produce bags. She drew startled looks as she browsed. When she brought a stack of books to the counter, this woman pulled out all the money she had. It wasn't enough, so she sorted through her stack, picked out a few and O put the rest of the books on hold. When he took the money it was damp, scrubbed with cleanser. One bill disintegrated.
She didn't speak. Instead, she wrote notes, surprisingly adept with a pen despite her sheathed hands. Then she signed up for the contest. Her entry looked like this:
Address: Denver Couch Tour City: Denver Zip: 802etc.
Email: Not hardly.
Outside, a group of young boys had discovered the shopping cart, and were rifling through it, making jokes. O ran them off.
Kay lingered a while. Her eyes were bright and happy as she left the store.
Later, a gentleman walked in, an older fellow, well-dressed and groomed. You could smell the money on him, too. He had been in the store a few weeks before, to purchase nineteen boxes of books for a library donation. He asked O to choose and pack them, and now he was back to collect the boxes. This man talked a long time with O. He was in no hurry. When he ran out of things to say, he shook O's hand several times. He thanked him then left the store, got into an expensive car and drove to Vail.
They were two sides of the same coin. Both lonely as a lost shoe by the side of the road.
Part two in a couple of days. Kay comes back.
*Her name is not actually Kay. I originally wrote this using her real name, because so many people never consider that a homeless person does indeed have a real name. But then I thought that I should protect her privacy, as I would any other person, so I changed it to 'Kay.' O also requested that I not use her real name.