Wednesday, November 14, 2007

C'est La Vie and Miss P.

Miss Prothero's Books had three visitors today -- the postman, a crazy woman who talks to God on my telephone, and a crazy man who came in twice. I know all of them a little too well.

The mailman's skinny and wears boots that are too big for him. About one o'clock everyday, he comes clumping through the front with a postcard or a book. He makes a big deal out of handing me my mail, although it's usually only a bill, a postcard, a slick advertisement for Current Resident or Froggy Bail Bonds.

"There ya go," he says with a smile, "Bye, Bye!"

And there he goes. Clump. Clump. Clump.

The man and the lady are -- most likely -- clients of Wishing Well, an agency of Denver Mental Health. They come, visit Wishing Well, take their meds (or not), and then stand outside the shop to get on Public Transport to go.

The lady likes to sit in the pink wing back and read the white bible. One day, she asked to use my phone.

"It's not long distance," she said.

She sat down and punched in 15 or 16 numbers.

"God...I need some counseling," she said into a confused mouthpiece.

If that's not long distance, I don't know what is.

My crazy man is an omen of doom. If I'm having a slow or bad day, chances are he'll be in the door around 4 or 4:30...ready, willing and able to make it worse.

"Sell any books today?" he'll say.

And that's the last intelligible thing he will say. I catch bites if I listen, something about 500,000 dollars, something about Cadillacs, something about Wyoming, something about getting hit by a bus. Once, he tried to sell back books he took from my free bin.

Not my favorite madman.

I've been reading Isaak Babel stories. He had an eye for the everyday and the absurd. He could pile detail upon disconcerting detail upon detail. What would he have made of my store? This is the closest I could come, a passage from "The Public Library" --

Many more people of every kind come to the public library. More than one could describe. There is also the tattered reader who does nothing but write a luxuriant monograph on ballet. His face: a tragic edition of Hauptmann's. His body: insignificant.

There are of course, also bureaucrats riffling through piles of The Russian Invalid
and the Government Herald. There are young provincials, ablaze as they read.

It is evening. The reading room grows dark. The immobile figures sitting at the tables are a mix of fatigue, thirst for knowledge, ambition.

Outside the wide windows soft snow is drifting. Nearby, on the Nevsky Prospekt, life is blossoming. Far away, in the Carpathian Mountains, blood is flowing.

C'est la vie.

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