Sunday, April 7, 2013

Prompt: Meeting the Book Dealer

Jessie sat in the passenger seat with her hands tucked under her legs. She only did that when she was really nervous or uncomfortable. She did it around her mother a lot, but she never noticed. She had tucked her iPad and earphones out of sight under her seat when they pulled off the road and bounced down the grassy hill to the underpass. Now they sat in the dark, waiting. Her mom kept looking around and drumming her fingers against the steering wheel, full of restless energy.

They both jumped when a hand knocked on her mom’s closed window. She peered up, then rolled it down halfway. “Jeez, man, you’re late. We don’t have much time—”

“What’s she doing here?” A 20-something Asian man in a grey hoodie leaned in the window, looking askance at Jessie.

Her mom looked at Jessie, then smiled nervously up to him. “She’s cool. She knows, and she wants to try it for herself.”

“Aww, no way, you’re dragging your kid into this?”

Her mom stiffened indignantly. “She’s 13. She found my stash. What can I do? Its better if she tries it with me than on her own, don’t you think?”

He shook his head and stepped back. “Whatever. Come on, let’s get you ladies taken care of and back home for supper.” He sketched a bow as Jessie and her mom got out of their car, and they followed him back to his car, parked facing the other way about 100 yards behind them. Jessie wondered that they hadn’t seen or heard him drive under the bridge. She took her mom’s hand, trying not to show her jittery nerves.

They walked around to the back of his car, and he must have used a remote to pop the trunk, as the lid majestically lifted and the light glowed inside before they even reached the car. Jessie peered in and her eyes widened. She’d never seen so many books at one time. She reached forward, and her mom tugged her hand back, looking at the man.

“I don’t have much on me. Will you cut us a deal this time?”

He narrowed his eyes, then shrugged and barked a harsh laugh. “Sure, why not. Seeing as it’s her first time and all. I’ll give her one on the house. You have to pay for yours. Five minutes.”

Jessie’s heart raced and she thought she might humiliate herself by crying. She only got to see all those beautiful books for five minutes? Her mom protested. “Five minutes? We can’t even read all the titles by then!”

He looked down his nose at her. “Seriously? You’re going to be choosy now? Fine. What you want? They’re organized, more or less. Top row, mysteries and true crime. 2nd row, your classic literature, like they used to teach in school. 3rd row, science fiction, fantasy, horror, anime. 4th row, romance, including the really hot stuff.”

Jessie looked from him to her mother in disbelief. “They used to use books in school? No way!”

Her mom nodded with a quick smile, then looked sad. “They did, in your grandma’s time. Books were outlawed before I was born, but both of my parents were active in the underground reading resistance.”

The guy rolled his eyes, then looked out the far side of the bridge. “Come on, ladies, as fascinating as this history lesson is, I ain’t got all night here. Customers are waiting. You know how it is. Now, what are you going to take?”

Jessie stared again. “Take? You mean…I get to have one? Of my very own?”

He looked at her for a moment, then smiled and turned to her mom. “Oh, she’s going to be a regular, I can tell.”

He reached in and picked up a book, handing it face up to Jessie. “Here, kid. I think you’ll like this one. It’s a present from me. You come back and let me know what you think of it, okay?”

Jessie hugged it to her chest and nodded, too overcome to speak. Her mother quickly scanned the rows of books and grabbed a mystery and a romance. She pulled out a roll of bills and handed it to the dealer. He didn’t even count, just tucked the roll in his pocket and closed the trunk lid. Jessie’s eyes stayed locked on the books until they disappeared from view.

He sketched another bow as he said, “Pleasure doing business with you ladies. Until next time.” He jumped around the side of his car and slid into the driver’s seat. The car was an old-style electric, which is why they hadn’t heard his approach. He didn’t turn on any lights as he pulled out and up the bank.

Jessie and her mom walked back to their car in silence. Her mom reached behind her seat and lifted the back seat up, revealing a small space where she stowed her two books. Jessie’s eyes widened at this sign of persistent contraband. Her mom motioned for her to hand over her book, but she hugged it tighter against her chest and shook her head. Her mom eyed her for a moment, then shrugged. “Hide it if any other car comes close, and when we get to the streetlights, because they could pick it up on the cameras.”

Jessie nodded, still speechless. She lay the book in her lap and stared at the cover. She traced the letters with her finger and ran it lightly over the art. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She couldn’t wait to read it.

# # #

Dogs in house:
6 Hour of The Best Beethoven, Jabig on YouTube
Time writing:
35 minutes
April word count:

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