May 19, 2009

An Attachment to Books

A lone strip mall in the Midwest. Over the hills, on the edge of an endless desert. There's a drive-thru Dairy Queen, a dry cleaners, a small deli. Oh, and an insurance company office - you know, the kind with vertical shutters, when open revealing two back-to-back desks inside. Giving the impression an assistant might be needed. Although you know there never is one needed. A water cooler with a full cup dispenser with lots of extra cups stacked on top in the corner, embedded in the wall-to-wall orange shag carpet. In between the deli and the insurance office, is a bookshop.

The parking lot is too big for the mall;  the three cars parked there resembling an abandoned game of checkers.

CU on ext bookshop
A faded,hand-painted sign, informs us that this is "Elizabeth´s Bookshop", the ornate letters conjuring up the Golden Age namesake I suppose its intended hommage. The sign is propped up on the sagging dust-covered awning above the store, the aluminum frame creaking as the wind flutters over it in unrythmical gusts.

"We buy and sell used&new books" is handwritten in a white flowery flowing script across the glass store front. The same script recognizable on the paper "We´re Open", scotch-taped, a bit lopsided next to the open door, a downward trajectory on all the signs.

Interior Bookshop

The shelves run along either wall of the cubish floor plan with several  racks in the middle, tittering under the weight of too many books.  Its a glaringly hot, sunny day, late July. The shop door is open to let in the arid tumble-weed pushing breeze.

Stacks of books in boxes and in piles on the floor are behind a rather large plastic  desk. The fold-away, easily stowable in your trailer kind. A staple of garage sales, giving the impression that Elizabeth has doubts about the longevity of her business.  

Behind the table, a guy is crouched down, going through one of the boxes, looking carefully at each title and dividing them into piles only he seems to know the purpose of. The guy is young, with short, tossled,light brown hair, and at least a week's worth of beard. A shadow of eternal cramming-for-exams tiredness on his face. Yet the gaze is clear as he concentrates on the books.

The Phone rings. He looks up, slightly annoyed at the interruption, nevertheless dutifully walks around the boxes to answer the phone in the windowless stuffy back office.

Jason: "Elizabeth`s Bookshop - Good afternoon"

Caller: "I don´t hear the thrill in your voice".

Jason: "Hello Elizabeth. How´s bail. I mean..Bali?"

Elizabeth: "Up till now, just fine. I´d enjoy it a lot more if I knew the business were in more enthusiastic hands. Any customers today?"

Jason: "A Mr. Pitcher brought in several boxes today."

Elizabeth: "How many books in total? Or rather how many did he bring and how many did we pay for?"

Jason: "259"

Elizabeth: "and how many did we pay for?"

Jason: "259"

Elizabeth: "But what about our policy?"

Jason: "Thats not a policy, thats a rip off. I may not be Rainman, but I can still count to 259"

Elizabeth: "Well, you better re-think that attitude of yours young man by the time I get back"

Jason: (after a longish pause, looking at the cover of a book he is still holding in his hand) "I don´t get attached to anything I am not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat, especially jobs."

and he hangs up the phone, walking back into the store. He puts the book down carefully, almost tenderly, on the desk. Now, hands on hips, he stands there, looking around at all the books. And sighs.

He finishes sorting the piles he had started. And carries them, balanced carefully up to his chin, to the respective shelves, that he had cleared previously for the new refugees.
"One day, I´ll come back and get you all. I promise"

He walks out the shop, closes the door behind him, locks it, and throws the key through the slot. Walking across the black heat of the parking lot, he gets in his car, leaving the door open as he sticks the key in the ignition.

Ext. Strip Mall
Sound of the engine starting. The door of the car is pulled shut, the window is rolled down. The car heads off to the drive thru.

OS Jason to speaker at the DQ place-your-order here spot:

Voice: Welcome to Dairy Queen. May I take your order?

Jason: Now thats a thrilling greeting

Voice: Hey dude, whats up?

Jason: A double bourbon bean vanilla soft swirl please.

Voice: Quit your job?

Jason (grinning): yep.

Voice: 'bout time. That'll be 2.95, window one. Sir."

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