For the next hour after Richard left, I tried to recall the individual who purchased “The Street of Crocodiles”. I had nothing to go on, it could have been Jimmy Hoffa for all I knew. I usually remember a book leaving the premises, but only occasionally the person who escorted it. I had a vague impression that it was a male, which I guess was a start. Having eliminated over half of the world’s population was a great accomplishment, but it left me hungry, especially since I had skipped lunch. I walked over to the pizza place across the street, ordered a slice, and went outside to eat it.
Not much goes on in Flesherton, as one would expect in a rural Ontario village. Even less goes on in a used bookstore, which depends heavily on a driver heading north corralled at the stoplight deciding to park and go inside. For this to happen, a whole series of correct choices on a flow chart must be made. The first is that they must be readers. Not many people go into a bookstore looking for ice cream or candy, although readers of my previous posts will know that this can happen. They must also decide on the likelihood of finding a great book inside a yellow, blue, and white building that is reminiscent of a Dutch brothel. Perhaps the driver might also reflect on previous trips past the store. Isn’t that the place that is closed most of the time? Don’t the hours for Tuesday or Wednesday on the door read “Sometimes”? What if it was a specialty bookstore that only sold publications by authors who last name begins with a “Q”? There are many reasons not to go into a bookstore, and of course, there are many reasons to go into a bookstore, but they only get in the way of those for not going into a bookstore and won’t be considered by someone who doesn’t want to. The driver must therefore not only be a reader but also one who is unaffected by the garishness of the storefront because of colour-blindness and also willing to give up his or her rightful place in the centipede of cars escaping the city only to potentially be swallowed up by an alternate universe of someone else’s making, where the Unities of Time and Place might not be observed and would then leave the poor driver in a barren place like a red-shirted crew member on “Star Trek”? I didn’t want to speculate further, as I was waxing philosophical when I was supposed to be trying to recall who bought “The Street of Crocodiles”, not trying to experience an acid flashback from a drug I had never tried. I knew my only option was to channel my inner Carlos Castaneda.
As I sat on the bench, chewing slowly with my eyes closed, I saw the bookstore’s front door open suddenly and a multitude of people begin to rush out. They scattered in all directions on foot, some looking back timidly over their shoulder. A few moments later, books began to fly out through the doorway and disperse rapidly, like bats at dusk. The covers were spread, the pages flapping frantically, and they headed after the fleeing customers. A few books would single one out, circling around, and then dive-bomb the terrified fugitive, like a scene that was cut out of a Hitchcock film. Eventually, a book seemed to select a particular individual, and then enter their body. One by one, reader after reader was overcome by the books which had departed the store. I watched the process in amazement for a few moments, until I realized that it was in fact proving something that I had suspected for a long time. People don’t choose their books, their books choose them. While I was rolling this notion around in my head, a slim volume with a green cover flew out of the doorway. As it flapped its pages, I thought I could make out the occasional trace of yellow highlight on them. It seemed to ascend higher than its peers, offering it a clearer bird’s-eye view of potential readers. The book then descended rapidly and entered the body of a reader who was about to turn down Spring St. to escape just such an encounter. Once under the influence of the book, he glanced around nervously to see if anyone might have witnessed the attack. Gradually, his eyes locked with mine, and he shook his head slightly as if to negate what I had just seen.
None of it mattered now. I knew who had bought “The Street of Crocodiles”. And I knew how to get hold of him