Life Among the Never-Winged

Once upon a time I was writing a book called, "Just Another Love Letter", about angels behaving badly. Now I just quietly ask myself each day, "What the hell am I doing?"

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Location: The Rocky Mountain Empire, United States

My friends always knew I was going to hell. My only hope is that God likes good jokes and bad redheads.

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  • Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    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

    Part 1

    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:

    Name: Kay*
    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.

    7 people left me a love letter:

    Blogger Irrelephant wrote in a love letter...


    The description of books as birds, and have such a touch with words. Some people, like me, toss out an assemblage of nouns and adverbs and a few cheap metaphors, shake it violently with some humour and and it has to make do. You seem, on the obverse, to carefully pick each word, each phrase, roll it around in your mind like a wine in a connisouer's mouth, and place it in it's proper position like a piece of brie on a china plate. Utterly marvelous. I can't wait to read the rest.

    6:00 PM, October 03, 2006  
    Blogger Schmoopie wrote in a love letter...

    I think each of us has an eccentric side that could present at any time. Kay is one of the unfortunate people who are plagued with mental illness. I am so happy to see you take such care and interest in her. People too often forget that Kay is a person who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, just as you have with your kind words.

    7:03 PM, October 03, 2006  
    Anonymous clowncar wrote in a love letter...

    Yeah, that books as a flock of migrating birds is quite a wonderful simile. After reading this, I thought of them as regal cranes, all impossibly thin legs and improbably colored beaks.

    I feel blessed to have gotten a hug of sorts (a plastic wrapped hand on my hip) and an unresrained smle from Kay after we were done packing for the day. What a nice woman.

    8:06 PM, October 03, 2006  
    Blogger Stucco wrote in a love letter...

    Someone should really explain "money laundering" to Kay. Also, how would O react if I came into the store and asked to be directed to the "swallows" section, so I could go "molt"? Yeah- probably nothing. He's used to me.

    9:53 PM, October 03, 2006  
    Blogger D_Man wrote in a love letter...

    A lovely story.

    3:43 AM, October 04, 2006  
    Blogger Bud wrote in a love letter...

    I loved your description of used books and how it fit with your notion about the different kinds of loneliness: worn and beaten, newer and shiney. But lonely all the same. Nice job!

    6:13 AM, October 04, 2006  
    Blogger Nancy Dancehall wrote in a love letter...

    Ir: Wow. Thanks! *swoon*

    Schmoop: Thanks. You are absolutely right.

    Clowncar: I'd love to get more impressions from you.

    Stucco: Just wait... How's Seattle treating you?

    D-Man: Thanks. :-)

    Bud: Thank you. We're all the same.

    9:41 AM, October 05, 2006  

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