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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Chapter Nineteen, in which The Beggar goes on the Bookstore Trail -- Part the Second

We set out in a morning haze north toward our store of the day. The store had come recommended by several people. It stood on the corner of a town known for antiques and had a reputation for taking anything in trade.

The bookmark we had from the store advertised opening time to be 9:30am, every day except Sunday. We arrived about thirty minutes early and, free of any fasting restrictions, enjoyed the treat of a fresh doughnut. Several nearby owners began opening their shops, and the church bells rang the half hour.

We waited on another tardy seller. After fifteen minutes, I set off across the street and tracks for a closer inspection. To my chagrin, the sign on the door announced the store was open only Wednesday through Saturday. I had the misfortune of possessing an out-of-date bookmark.

Since we were already on the road, and didn't like the thought of the day ending so dismally, we set out for the town we had visited on Monday, to visit the bookstore that had been closed. Once again we arrived about thrity minutes before opening, and so proceeded to the far end of town to spend the time browsing another antique emporium.

A sign directly inside the door directed people in search of books to the basement, and that's where we headed. There we found seven or eight bookcases with a hodge-podge of books from several different dealers. A few volumes caught my eye, and I selected them based on the good condition of their vintage dust jackets, all on speculation. There were more to be had, of course, on a good hunch, but our hunch budget was severely limited. Up to the main floor we went with a handful of books to continue our hunt.

Every few stalls there was a smattering of books. The main floor offered nothing special. The second floor is where we found, tucked into a corner in the shadows, a volume of Christopher Morley. In the same section we also turned up a survey of colonial American publications representative of the difference in the colonies just before the Revolution. This, too, made a nice addition to my private collection.

The pain of payment was great, but the thrill of desire greater. If any of you would help me, do not let me go out hunting again. And yet resistance is futile. This is what we do; this is who we are.

So to Books n' Bits. What looked promising from without, within was somewhat a letdown. Here was two large rooms, the first arranged with shelves merely half full of paperbacks, the second arranged mostly with tables upon which hardcovers and trades stood up in boxes, like filecards. Such a display was not browser-friendly. I looked around in vain for something appealing, something of promise to lure me into fingering through these books one by one.

For the second day, our best catches had come, not from book stores, but from antique stores. But this will not deter us from following our plans for another day.

One thing we have learned, and would suggest to any other book hunter who would roam far afield: call for hours of operation before heading to any book store. We should have known better, as even our own hours have recently changed. And yet, if the first store had been open today, would events ever have led us to the antique store where we found our biggest prize?

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