So I was chatting with my Mom t’other day, and learned that they do not have the complete Narnia chronicles for my brother. They have The Lion, The Witch and the Ugly,* but not the rest of the series. Lacking any used bookstores in the particular ass-end of nowhere area they reside, they had no opportunity to pick ’em up, and hadn’t got around to ordering them used on Amazon (where the shipping would vastly exceed the cost of the books anyway.)
I vowed that this could not stand. No child should be deprived of the opportunity to be furiously disillusioned by the hidden agenda of C.S. Lewis! And that aside, c’mon, they were fabulous books, they had Talking Beasts, they influenced me heavily (and indeed, I wouldn’t have been nearly so pissed at Lewis if I hadn’t felt that Narnia and fantasy and Talking Beasts were so incredibly IMPORTANT, and that he had cheapened this wonderful thing by trying to pull a fast one on me. But we’ve been over that already, god knows. Regardless, nobody should grow up without Narnia, for good and ill.) I own a few of them–every now and then I get the urge to re-read ’em–but when I was out at the used bookstore, selling some books to buy books for the trip, I thought “Hmm, should look for the others.”
I strolled into the back, to the children’s section, spotted the familiar white bindings and bold font, and was actually lifting my hand as I approached when a portly gentleman swept in front of me and grabbed the lot of ’em off the shelf. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt–I was approaching from the side, and he came straight on down the perpendicular aisle, so perhaps he didn’t see me. I cursed silently. Damn! WHY did I stop to read the back of the Chanur Saga omnibus? I already knew what it was about! The series had been out for what, decades? What was I thinking?
However, I had been fairly beaten, and so I was checking idily for any stray books in the series, when the gentlemen began to throw a fit.
Seems that the series was incomplete. It was missing TLTWTW, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Magician’s Nephew. He stomped through the children’s section, looking for the strays, then accosted the nice young man at the front, with whom I’d been commiserating about House of Leaves a few minutes prior, demanding the whereabouts of the missing volumes. He was told that obviously, it was a used bookstore, they had fairly limited control over the inventory, and if it wasn’t on the shelf, they weren’t hiding it, it probably just wasn’t there. He fumed. He stomped back and continued scouring. He muttered furiously to himself–“Where are they? These are four! Four! One, two…” He kept counting them, as if expecting the missing books to materialize, like that trick where you count your fingers backwards and they add up to eleven. More muttering. Fuming. Muttering. I slunk out towards the front, and was calculating my total vs. store credit when he swept past me, still in a rage, and out the door, carrying no books.
Like an owl on a mouse carcass flung off the deck at 2 AM, like Blackadder upon the hapless Baldrick, I descended. He’d shoved them back in completely the wrong place (yet another sin!) but I found them and bore them to the front, where for a mere six dollars, they became mine. I took them home, where they joined, ironically enough, a copy of TLTWTW, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Magician’s Nephew that some artist I may know in passing had an itch to read some months ago and had picked up at a local used bookstore of her acquaintence.
“If he comes back, you didn’t see me,” I told the nice young man at the counter, as I paid for the books.
“You were never here,” he assured me. “I don’t know where these books could have gone to.”
Funny how these things work out…
*A rich, sweeping novel which culminates in a gruesome scene where a poncho-clad Lion with No Name makes Eustace balance on a stone faun with a noose around his neck, then rides off, centaur-back, with the loot, pausing only to shoot the rope at the last minute. Also, there is an excellent musical score.