August 9

National Book Lovers Day

 

You always enjoyed a visit to your local paperback bookstore.  You waited until Saturday afternoon for the best selection, after items arrived during the week, and weekend visitors brought stacks of used books for trade-in.  The owners reserved a separate bookshelf for “New Arrivals,” and you always checked that section first.   Next, you’d scour the Mystery, Thriller, and Sci-Fi sections in that order, with a cursory check of Westerns and General Fiction since some of your favorite authors dabbled in those categories as well.  And sometimes, of course, books got shelved in the wrong section — or, more often, they slipped from the casual alphabetization the store struggled to maintain — so you’d skim other shelves as well.

Your small backpack held two books you’d finished this week, to turn in for store credit.  One was third in the series about an elderly serial killer with Alzheimer’s disease.  The other was a sci-fi thriller about the end of the world, by an author you hadn’t read before:  the overall premise was too unrealistic, making the book a chore to finish.

As you walked past the other stores in the strip mall, getting closer to Nearly New Books, you realized something was wrong.  On a day like today, with a gentle breeze relieving some of the summer heat, the owners typically kept the front door open to save on air conditioning costs.

The door was closed.  A large sign hung over the top section of glass.

COMING SOON, the sign read.  A small logo appeared beneath the letters.  The image had waving lines above it, indicating heat rising off a coffee cup, or the lines of smoke off a vape cigarette.

Damn, you thought.  The last thing we need is another coffee or vape shop.

And you still had $15.27 in book credit that you’d been saving up.  Guess that’s all worthless now…

And those two books in your backpack.  You take them out, and toss them in an overflowing public trashcan.  The cover of the sci-fi book lands face up, with its cover depicting a slump-shouldered protagonist walking alone through a ruined city.

Now you are that dejected protagonist.  As far as you’re concerned, the strip mall’s parking lot is filled with rusted-out cars.  All the stores you walk past are empty and crumbling into ruins.  You begin the long, empty-handed journey toward home.