“Sell any books lately?” the man in his early 40’s asked me.
“Well, we are a bookstore,” I retorted.
“After a fashion.”
“What do you mean?”
“I suppose you tick off a few boxes for what a bookstore should be. You have four walls and they contain some books.”
“What else do you want?”
“Maybe some books published in the last six months. How many current bestsellers have you got?”
“It’s a used bookstore. We don’t have any.”
“You got something against new books being published?”
“Nothing at all. There are always good books being published.”
“Precisely. If you ask me, this looks like some sort of front.” he stated, his voice going up an octave.
“A front for what?”
He ignored my question.
“Look at the place. There are books everywhere.”
“Your point being?”
“I’ve seen better organization during a tsunami. How do you find anything?”
“People who come into bookstores like to browse.”
“What are they looking for? Missing relatives?”
I could feel a rant coming.
“Move a couple of stacks and I’ll bet you find Jimmy Hoffa.”
“I have a few books on that subject. Check ‘True Crime’.”
He tried a new tact.
“I mean, look at the place. The building looks like a toy store gone wrong.”
“That’s a new one. I usually get candy store.”
Since he was no longer listening, I thought I’d let him run with it.
“I mean, it reminds me of a short-term hospitality spot I used to frequent when I lived in Amsterdam. Is that what you were going for?”
Now was my last chance to change the direction of this conversation.
“May I ask what it is that you think this place is a front for?”
The gentleman leaned forward triumphantly and glared at me with squinting eyes.
“The streaming services.” he spat out.
“The streaming services,” I repeated.
“Precisely. Ten minutes in this hole would send anyone home to ‘The Squid Game’. And they’re paying you to stay open to build their audience.”
“That doesn’t make much sense to me.”
“Of course not. You’re the beneficiary.”
“I’m just a bookstore.”
“I’ve been watching you. You haven’t had a single customer.”
“It’s a slow day.”
“I’ll say. There are lingerie shops in Kabul that are busier.”
I had had enough.
“Look, no one from any streaming services is paying me to stay open.”
“I don’t have any proof, but someday I’ll be back with it. You’ll soon learn that Malibu Morrison is like a dog with a bone.”
“You were named after a city in California?”
“Actually, it was the car I was conceived in. Let this be your warning.”
With that, he turned tail and left the store. After a moment, he came back in and slammed the door, having forgotten to do so. I meant to rehash the events of the last hour, but I wanted to close and get home. There was a new episode of “The Umbrella Academy” dropping.