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Telling Tales and Whispering Secrets 

A bit of fantasy alongside the current human condition



A daily blog of Short Stories - Essay - Writer's Musings

*stories in draft 

College Daze | The Smell of Books

Hands occupied by my searing hot paper coffee cup, they take turns. As I walk along the sidewalk, my eyes follow the shop signs guiding me to the bookstore. I pause to see what's new in the window today. Maupassant, vintage and the new Grafton, used. I wagered the Grafton would go first and made mental note to keep tabs on Maupassant. Would the brown leather tome remain long enough to be discounted? Fingers crossed, I open the door. My still too hot coffee spills burning my hand.


While I'm inspecting my cuff for the inevitable brown stain, the classic brass doorbell summons the owner. Bob is in today. I smile as he grooves with whatever I choose to do, always happy with the projects I take on. I love a dusted old bookstore, just sayin'. Perhaps I will go with that. In one of my favorite sections of course.


I turn to see a customer is awaiting check out. Finding a safe place for what's left of my coffee, I put my satchel under the counter and assist. It's all done by pencil, add in your head (including the tax,) and then, punch the total into the register. I carefully place a bookmark inside her stack's top book. A duplicate copy of the receipt along with. Old school. No plastic bags. Canvas bag or carry your reads out. Post my expression of gratitude we exchange smiles.


As the reader chimes the door's bell, I grab the feather duster and make a beeline for the back of the store before I am hijacked by the register again. Bob changes the vinyl and I'm slowed by his selection. It's all Bob's music; I can dig it. The duster my baton, I conduct Vivaldi's Spring slowing my pace adding a bit of a skip as cadence. With my enthusiasm, a feather breaks loose and begins to fall. I'm intrigued by just how slow it descends. I pause noticing the plumage appears to have a destination in mind.


Sure enough, the landing pad is a lower bookshelf absolutely covered in dust. I look up and spy a vent that is targeting this particular bookshelf. I can only imagine how old those ducts are. Kneeling down to perform a dust accumulation assessment, that is wipe my finger and inspect the residue, my hand hovers just at the shelf space.


Someone is whispering.


I peer through the stack and spy no one. So I rise and peek around the corner, nothing.


I return for the test though I know this is the area I need to address. Leaning over, once again, the hissing of whispers continue. Coming closer, I realize I am being summoned.


"You!" a gentleman calls out. "Yes, you. Who else?"


I'm frozen at this point awaiting what is next.


"You always say it's the journey not the destination; however, you are so willy-nilly with your creative time. Develop a plan young lady."


Surprising myself, I pull on the book that appears to be the source. I'm smelling a fresh cup of coffee and cigarettes.

Carefully dusting the well-worn book I consider. "That's a sure sign of a worthy read."


The layer of dust reveals Roald Dahl's collection of short stories. The compilation that focuses on life's trials and tribulations: Man from the South and other stories. However, I am told another story. The author speaks to me clearly sharing his creative ritual: space, time, mindset.


"This enduring author's writing practice." Carefully dusting the book's cover, I respond internally to the low sounds emanating words that are a bit clearer now that I've cleaned the book.


The coffee and cigarettes fill my olfactories further gaining my attention.


I sense this information is for my highest good as the delivery alone reflects value. While considering my own writing practice, muscle memory kicks in. I barely notice my pace as I cleanse the space. Surfacing, after what seems like a moment, transforms into my entire short shift. I grab the vacuum to complete the task. Stepping back to assess my work, the area is gleaming. The smell has disappeared. Non-reflective of my efforts; I understand there's a bit of magick going on.


I sigh deeply. Yawning a couple of times to reset my brain chemistry and head for the front counter. Next to my satchel is the bin where the old wooden handled duster resides. My worn leather bag over my shoulder, I throw away the now cold cup of coffee and head for the door.


Before my hand finds the knob, Bob calls out. "Illuminated today were we?"


With one of those slow deep genuine smiles, I turn.


Bob is nowhere to be seen so I return louder than the acceptable bookstore whisper. "Yes. Telling tales and whispering secrets."


"I know you are." Bob's muffled voice answers.


The brass doorbell chimes as I open the door. Vivaldi's Spring dancing in my head as I integrate my writing process sensing I've accomplished so much today in that little bookstore.


As I stroll down the sidewalk, my eyes follow the eclectic store signs along the way.


"Now to address the issue of those freaking hot paper cups of coffee." I say to myself.

Is life a journey, a destination or somewhere in between?




* I have so many fond memories of the bookstore. So many nooks and crannies, short staircases, and dark rooms filled with shelved books. I so loved working for Bob and Faye's in Scottsdale while earning my fine art degree at ASU. One of the best college jobs ever.


* I am inspired by an interview where Roald Dahl shares his process and dedication to his craft. He truly embodies his work.



For more fiction: Chere is creating fiction on Patreon

Dahl's interview: Roald Dahl's memorable interview

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