I enjoy imagining the details of the life of the person who brings me books. There was the woman who said she had lots of Native American titles, lots of hardbacks. She said she wanted to support the local bookstore and would love to trade. She bought Peter Matthiessen's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. I thought she might be a gold mine. When she came back to the store, her bag of books contained mostly romances, an Oprah book club selection, and a few thrillers. Normally, I would have passed, but I honored her intention and gave her $22 in trade. She beamed. It was as if I'd given her a $100 bill.
Tuesday, one of my old bosses came in. He brought a bag of cucumbers, a bag of tomatoes, a jar, and three boxes of books. The cucumbers and tomatoes were from his garden. The books were from his son. He didn't expect anything in return. I had been a good employee. And what else would he do with such abundance? I gave him some respect in trade.
The story of his three boxes of books was probably more valuable than the books he brought. A few titles were expected. My boss's son was moving to Alaska...which would explain How to Speak Alaskan, a slim paperback I put in the 25 cent bin. The son's wife was a nurse...which would explain books like Bacterial Cell Structure, A Primer of Microscopic Urinalysis, and that all time classic -- Modern Urine Chemistry. I had to wonder if the boss man buried a few books in the boxes. There were books on management, books about ethics and accounting. (We worked for a large energy company in the capital asset accounting department. When a big company has an accounting disaster, it usually starts in capital asset accounting.) Then there were the books on infertility -- Inconceivable, Winning the Fertility Game and The Language of Fertility. I thought about the son and daughter-in-law. How badly had they wanted a child? Did they have a child? I made my way through the second box. No clue. A book on carpentry, some biology textbooks, a book on business writing. Then there it was near the top of box 3 -- Goodies to Go, Take-Along Treats for Kids. Beneath that there was a children's dictionary, a treasury of fairy tales, a collection of children's Christmas stories. One more layer down, there were a few of the child's own books....Holes by Louis Sachar and The Forests of Silence by Emily Rodda.
"Hmmm," I said. "Happy ending." As I finished sorting the books.