The unnamed narrator of this story likes to browse the small independent used bookstore near his work. He’s been there many times before, chatted with the short, gray guy at the front desk. He’s sure Bill—that’s the name of the guy at the counter—has been here for years. He’s always wearing the same faded brown sweated, winter or summer.
Today, things are different, though. Maybe he took a wrong turn. Or maybe he’s had a minor stroke. He’s stuck, lost, but he’s too ashamed to call out to Bill. He turned by the military section with its tall shelves, though he thought he’d passed it already. He turned left, toward brighter lights. He knew he was getting closer to the counter and Bill.
When he gets to the counter, the man he meets is not Bill and has never heard of Bill.
I confess a certain liking for the idea of getting lost in an old bookstore. I also am partial to old buildings with a bit of history in them. This story combines those two elements. There is also an element of the Twilight Zone here: where does the narrator go while he’s wandering along the aisles of the bookstore? What happens? It’s odd that he is concerned but never panics regardless of how weird things get. He gives off a brand of genteel trepidation, but doesn’t bother losing his cool.
While I didn’t find the ending entirely satisfactory, I did enjoy reading this little tale and vicariously getting lost in an old bookstore.
According to his blurb, author Jeremiah Minihan lives in Rochester, New Hampshire with his wife Peggy and their Boston terrier, Belle.
He has worked as a software developer and project manager in the insurance and banking industries. He taught high school English in Virginia.
He writes short stories and essays, and has previously published short stories in Pif Magazine, Dark Dossier, Yellow Mama, Blood Moon Rising, Literally Stories, and CommuterLit.
The story can be read here.
Author: Jeremiah Minihan
First published: Theme of Absence, March 21, 2020