More than one customer has told me that I need to get a cat for the bookstore, but I’m allergic to cats; besides, we already have a goose. I’m sure you’ve seen Rita in our front window taking in the downtown scene like a queen surveying her kingdom. You might say she’s one of an assortment of oddities you’ll find at Our Town Books.
That’s how an out-of-town visitor once put it. “You have such a wonderful assortment of oddities.” And I’m sure Rita would take no offence to being considered odd. Personally, I prize the odd. You don’t find odd in a big box, you find aisle-after-aisle of sameness.
When Jenn and I bought the store from Jim and Sally (Nurss), I was hopeful Rita would stay-on, because she has always been one of the best features of OTB. Part mascot, part abiding spirit, Rita has been in the shop throughout its short history. My favorite oddity is the one we inherited.
Beyond Rita I suspect some of the other oddities to which our customer was referring are the ubiquitous wine bottles, a bust of Apollo, The Maltese Falcon, Magritte’s surreal print in place of logs in the hearth, the storefront mannequin presently wearing a John Lennon t-shirt, a gigantic can of corned-beef hash crowning the cookbook section, and of course our reigning maxim tacked to the wall behind the desk, “Bacon is healthy”.*
It goes without saying we have books as well, many of which are odd, some of which spill out into the hallway in boxes and sacks. Another oddity of sorts is that we have customers who head straight to these not-yet-priced books. Well, perhaps it’s not so odd to prefer a good old rummage in a box to a standard perusal of the shelves. A box is more like a chest hiding secret treasure. Why settle for what’s already on display, when you can sniff out your own truffle in the wilds of the hallway?
Speaking of truffles…sometimes the oddest thing at the bookstore is the conversation. Just ask Ken Bradbury. One day he walked into the middle of an important discussion taking place, one of many important, albeit odd discussions which take place daily at the bookstore. Anna (our most senior staff member), myself, and one or two regular customers were engaged in a vigorous discourse on the similarities and differences between mushrooms and chocolates, when in walked the latter-day Mark Twain of Morgan County, Mr. Bradbury himself. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Perhaps you’ve read his article earlier in this issue. Perhaps he’ll write a future article explaining all of this trifle. Better him than me.
*(No, seriously, I’m not kidding; bacon really is healthy. I swear. At least one out of the five dietitians I asked told me so.)