In this fast paced electronic age it is nice to see that some things have not changed at all. My sister owns a bookstore which caters to a wide range of customers. The store is close to an urban college campus so she gets professors and students looking for some arcane book that you couldn’t find elsewhere. She also sells books on religious matters and books that deal with myths and lore. Some of the later deal with herbal remedies so she also gets ministers, priests, rabbis and the occasional witch as part of her clientele. In the front window of the store sits a big black cat with white paws. She likes to sit there and watch people walking up and down the street. She also eyes everyone who enters the store.
The thing about this cat is that while it provides a flair of ambiance it also is a form of an early warning device for my sister. Not all of her customers are human (she calls these creatures her “Special Ones”), and whenever any of these creatures enter the store the cat makes a beeline for the back room. She will stay there till the creature leaves, and then she will resume her spot by the front window. Now the thing about my sister is that she is not fazed in dealing with her “Special Ones.” My sisters, brothers and I were raised in a small mountain town. We witnessed some really weird things happening while growing up there, but the one thing you have to remember is that when you put a flashlight on a pair of red eyes hiding under a bush or made a sudden move towards the creature it always fled.
The thing about the city is when you walk down a street late at night and spot a pair of eyes peering at you from an alleyway, that person peering at you wants your money, or even worse, your life. My dear old dad always told us not to be afraid of things that go bump in the night. They go bump in the night to let you know they’re there. No, my dear old dad always said to be afraid of your fellow man. They are the real danger. Anyway, my sister was alone in the store one winter day when the door chime ringed signaling that a customer had entered the store. Within two seconds the cat scooted past her leg and ran into the back room. She looked up and noticed a well dressed middle aged man standing there. He told her he had noticed her store months ago and always meant to stop in. She told him to take his time and look around.
She went back to going through the mail and forgot about him for some minutes. She finished reading her mail and then remembered the man. Before I go on I must tell you that she has framed prints of famous works of art hanging on the walls. These are also for sale but there are no price tags. They sell by how much the patron is willing to pay. She noticed the man (she wasn’t sure it was one of her “Special Ones”) staring at one of the prints. She looked and noticed it was one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s works.
The painting was set in a Parisian cabaret. The man was transfixed, but all of a sudden he collected himself and quickly left the store. I occasionally help my sister in the shop. The next day I was there, and she told me about the man staring at the print hanging on the wall and suddenly leaving in a big hurry. She also said the cat bolted to the back room as soon as the man entered, but she wasn’t sure as to his true nature. The door chimed and we both looked to see who had entered. The cat ran to the back, and my sister nudged me in the side, and I noticed a well dressed middle aged man along with a well dressed middle aged woman. The man said hello and joined his companion in front of the print.
They both gazed upon it as if in a trance. I knew for sure it was the man from the previous day. The couple continued to stare. In the end they decided to buy it. A price was arranged and my sister took it down from the wall. She was in the process of wrapping it when she gently stepped on my foot. I glanced at the painting. Before I go on I must impart another piece of information about our dad. He taught us all how to play poker. He taught us to play with a straight face and not show our emotions. This lesson paid off.
When I glanced at the painting and back at the couple I noticed that the duo standing in front of me were the same couple as in the painting. I knew the artist died over a hundred years ago, and I couldn’t explain how these two standing in front of us managed to be in this piece of art. My sister said nothing and showed no emotion as she handed over the package. When the couple left the cat resumed her regular spot. My sister and I started to talk about our last transaction when the door chimed, and once again the cat bolted by us and ran to the back room. Back to business. I always thought that working in a bookstore would be boring, but I was never more wrong in my life.
©2013 Henry Peter Gribbin