Two Second-Hand Bookshops

Even now, six days later, I get a shudder when I think about the microwavable pie on Lord Wellington’s countertop.

The pie smelled of month-old diarrhea and it was his lunch. He’d already taken a bight.

He didn’t seem to mind or notice that the pie smelled of month-old diarrhea.

We had taken advantage of some warm weather and walked into town, bringing with us a selection of paperbacks to sell to the second-hand bookshops.

We took our books first to Lord Wellington’s shop. Stinking pies aside, it’s the best second-hand bookshop in the whole city.

I’m always slightly nervous about approaching Lord Wellington because he seems to hate all books and anyone who reads them.

You never know if he’s going to grouchily buy your books or bludgeon you senseless with a remaindered copy of The Ladybird Book of Hate.

Today he said:

“Put them on the counter. I’ll take a look when I can.”

The shop was completely empty of customers and there was nothing I could see (the stinking pie?) to prevent him from sizing them up immediately.

He was just being, as they say in these parts, a dick.

Eventually, he gruffly told us that “there’s nothing I can use here” and we left with our books still in hand.

Once outside, we burst out laughing.

There were some really good books in the batch: modern classics by people like Anthony Burgess and Philip Roth, precisely the kind of books he sells for $8.

We’d been prepared to give them up for basically nothing. Lord Wellington had simply been in a spiteful frame of mind and it had cost him about $100.

That kind of dough could keep him in stinky pies for ages.

We went instead to another book dealer called Haruka. A book of baby names in his very shop tells me that his name is Japanese for “far out” or “distant”.

In the event that I’ve eavesdropped inaccurately and his name is actually Haruki, then his name means “clean” or “cleaned up”.

None of this means anything. He is both filthy and close.

This little tour of two book shops is the way it always goes when we want to offload books. We always try Lord Wellington first because on the rare occasions he buys books, he pays in cold, sexy cash. Haruka, on the other hand, takes everything indiscriminately but only offers store credit.

The problem with getting store credit from Haruka is one of diminishing returns. We’ve read almost all of his books: literally the very copies on his shelves.

For all I know, we are his only stockists and his only customers. He just sits there waiting with the door open in case we drop by.

Haruka’s shop is jammed full with books that used to be ours. It’s a solid cuboid of our paper and our fingerprints.

The effect is quite eerie. The place is like a tribute to our apartment. I’m thinking about giving him all of our furniture when we eventually leave town so that an exact replica of our apartment might live on.

We struggled to find anything we’d not already read and didn’t already have our own coffee rings on it, but we were determined to spend some of our credit.

It was not so bad, hunting for fresh books in there. Haruka doesn’t eat stinky pies and he has a green parrot who occasionally says something.

Previously, I’ve heard the bird say “gonads” and “pamphlet”.

We grudgingly settled on some books that might be tolerable.

Looks like this is going to be the summer of Nick Hornby.

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