Reflections on my Time as a Bookseller
Chapter 5 - All Skate
|photo: Laura Vona|
“Not only do these treats have the ability to transform an individual into a maker of fresh, they can, with a little Transformium Sodaruptus, Sharkbait Brew Ha Ha and Bippity, Boppity, Boo… show us the magic all around us!”
With a wave of my cape I dropped in the Mentos into the bottle and a geyser of soda reached for the ceiling of our store. Fans go wild! The true magic was that the words of an unemployed woman written in a coffee shop could create such fervor over books.
We have sold much of our bookstores magic to the walls. Fixtures have disappeared as if invisibility cloaks had been draped all over. Still between the empty stacks and the shelves devoid of titles, a little magic remains hidden amongst the dust bunnies.
Our café was a Mecca for the literate and disenfranchised. It was there we had a slew of coffee house events, musicians, poetry slams, author signings; whatever we could dream up to have us stand apart from the run-of-the-mill. It has been reduced to a way station for the last lonely fixtures up for grabs, no magic here save for what the entrepreneurial minds will re-purpose these remnants into.
One of our stellar events that bonded the employees to one another and to our community were poetry/prose reading events we called Borders Bards. While I coined the phrase, all of the credit goes to one employee, Laura Vona. I have refrained from tagging any specific person during these chronicles but here I need to make an exception. Laura was not just an exemplary employee. For as long as I have known her, she has been a force of nature, a Gaelic storm of boundless energy. Her passion for the arts is infectious, her positivity makes my Pollyanna pale in comparison, and she possesses such a selfless dedication to all that is right and good that I wonder at times how we can even see her at all.
The Bards was her baby. I exploited the event, just as I have admittedly all my employees, to bring my novel to fruition, think a writer’s group with an audience needing to be entertained. Laura gathered everyone in the community, from teens to seniors, to read from their hearts. Despite the quality of their craft, the emotional sincerity and courage each brought to the events was nothing short of magic.
They are but memories now, mostly unpublished, moments lost in this building’s past. Still, the walls resonate those words spoken as well has the words read, purchased and dreamed. I had been too busy in the day to day minutia of closing a store to feel that power.
That was until I saw it, magic, captured on video like a lumbering ghost, a trick of light and imagination captured in the green incandescence of a ghost hunter’s night vision goggles. Where it came from I know not where. It starts with a static shot of the gutted carcass that is our store just days before the doors would close forever. I was familiar with that backdrop; it brought a lump in my throat, which I swallowed only to have it gnaw at my gut. The camera moved through the empty space, floating on air, providing an ethereal tour through the facility.
Then I heard the sound, breaking the vacated silence. It was familiar, childhood recollections of cavernous halls, sawdust strewn floors and an amplified voice from above announcing, “All skate!” The chatter of roller skate wheels whispered as they sped up. The sound was as whimsical as the whirr of a hamster wheel. I smiled and continued watching. The visual passes shelf after empty shelf in a giddy stampede.
Then the caution tape that was wrapped around closed sections of the store came into view. It kept the public from danger and kept thieving hands from giving purchased fixtures a five-fingered discount. ‘Danger, Do Not Pass.’ repeats across its side. The image rushes towards the tape at the far end of the building, full throttle. The message is not heeded and an instant before the screen is enveloped in yellow, the skater ducks beneath and ‘Ta-da!’ we are on the other side. The wheels dance on the floor reclaiming balance, almost applauding the feat and continue to ride in graceful sweeps through the emptiness where our bookselling selves once lived; a jubilant celebration of being in the moment.
After one more euphoric run around the circumference of the store the video ends facing the door as if challenging the viewer to walk through them. The doubt about the future, the fear of loss, and the challenges on the other side of those doors are stripped of their strength.
I will look back on my memories of this store and the unbridled whimsy of that video as I move forward with my life. The wheels of inspiration will propel me forward as I stand on one leg, wheels a chatter, my other leg stretched out horizontal behind me, my arms outstretched on both sides as they cut the rush of the air, my face forward and raised high with a smile, always a smile.