Bibliophile essay contest – Entrant #5

from Lucinda Huffine @ Main Street Books, Hillsboro OR

A Bookseller’s Tale

Once Upon a Time…there was a young woman with long hair and hippie overalls who worked for a man named Howard at the Enigma Bookstore. In those pre-computer days, there wasn’t much to do but sit in the shop and occasionally sell a book, but she loved it. The cash was kept in a cigar box. The place smelled of old books and pipe smoke. Hours were spent playing endless games of cutthroat backgammon, which Howard taught her to play. She didn’t learn much about books, but she was young and she loved the life.

Time passed. The young woman went to college and unlocked the world of literature. She went into the real world, and worked as a low-paid peon in bookstores. She went back to college for another degree and became a librarian, allowing her to revel in books without having to sell them. She toiled in the world of academia for ten years, until it dawned on her that she hardly ever had her hand on a book.

She wanted to stay in the world of books, but how? More time passed. One morning, she opened the paper and read in the business classifieds that the little used bookstore in her town was for sale. The next morning, she appeared there at opening time and met the owner, who was out front sweeping the sidewalk. They shook on a deal, and before she knew it, she was the new owner of Main Street Books.

Did she live happily ever after? So far, she’s not doing so bad. In the last nine years she has tried to single-handedly turn the place around. It is a much better store than when she bought it, and she has made many friends, some who have changed her life. She has sold books to people who didn’t know they needed them, and whose lives may perhaps be changed by them. She likes to think so.

She likes to think it’s worth all the discouragement, the hours on the computer, being stuck there all day without a break, having no source of cheap labor (i.e. family members) to help out in the shop, the rising costs of staying in business, the occasional cranky customer, the very small profit margin.

She counts her blessings, which are many. She has no idea what she’d do if she weren’t doing this. She feels that she has come full circle, from the Enigma to Main Street, and everything that’s happened in her life has brought her here.

She hopes, like everybody else, to be able to continue doing what she loves. Like everybody else, she’ll do it one day at a time, one step in front of the other, always looking forward to what will happen next on the journey. And always, with a little help from her friends.

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