…and where will you be reading this weekend?
We missed it on the trip north, the sign hidden behind the overgrowth in the front yard. But on the way back, I called to see if they were still open.
“Hello?” a voice sweet with years asked.
“Hello,” I said, “I was wondering if you we’re still open.”
“Oh, yes,” she said with great emphasis, “we’re still here.”
“Can you tell me exactly where you are since we missed you on the trip north and now we’re heading south?”
“Oh,” she said, “we’re right at the only light on Route 7 just across from the Moose Deli.”
“The Moose Deli?”
“Oh, yes,” she said again, “you can’t miss it.”
At the only light on Route 7 we saw the Moose Deli and she was right – on the roof overhanging the old wooden porch were life sized figures of cows and a single, black and white moose with antlers that had to be a risk in high winds. And right across the street, was the DogEars Bookstore.
We parked in the dirt lot just at the corner of that only traffic light on Route 7 and walked o the driveway that led to the barn in the back. There was an old house that fronted the property, looking somehwat lonely from it’s apparent lack of attention which is why we missed the sign in the first place. As we walked up the barely visible blacktop, we passed the large window in the back of the house where a woman sat by a low counter. We thought it might be a kitchen since you could see the tall shoulder of a refrigerator and an oven standing by. But the counters on all sides were stacked with papers and books with an older woman speaking on the phone while sitting deep in a chair.
The barn n the back was where the books were. A staircase, lined with books, led down to a basement warmed by yellow incandescents along the way. But the wooden door in the front led into the barn itself, which was more like a large one room house, with stacks of hard and softcovers neatly lined up in bookcases, and what looked like a pot bellied stove taking charge in the center of the room.
“You’re looking for a specific book I see,” a voice came at me from the side.
I turned to see an elderly gentleman, sitting casually in a deep chair, a book open on his lap, and a determined finger holding down the page in the exact spot where I walked in.
“Oh.” I said, “actually just looking for books.”
“Ah,” he let out with a long breath. “But,” he said, “maybe a specific type of book.”
“Poetry,” I said in a reflex to which he answered, “The bookcase right in front of you on both both sides.”
He smiled and nodded his head which he then slowly relaxed to his chest to continue his reading.
There they were neatly arranged in alphabetical order, from the 19th century to the 20th, from Dickens to Ginsberg, Akhmatova to Rilke, structured rhyme to free verse. My eye was caught by a single slim volume wrapped in plastic and tipping it off the shelf by its spine I saw that it was actually a poet I had just taken to reading. I took it out of the wrap to see why it was different and found the author had signed the title page in a neat hand and in black ink. But the book was out of order – she was an “R” lost in the “B”s so I rewrapped her carefully and walked around to the other side of the bookcase to put her in her proper place down towards the bottom. When I found the spot, there was another book by the poet that I hadn’t seen before and picked it out to read a few pieces.
“Ah,” the old gentleman by the counter said, “we have a kneeler”.
A bit embarrased I stood and leaned into the case, digging thru the new discovery.
An hour or so passed and so did we thru the stacks of literature, fiction, art essay. But it was time to move on and we brought our finds to the front.
“Ah,” the man stood holding his hands out to receive the books.
He flipped thru smiling, saying “why do they always find the books without the prices marked”. But nonetheless we arrived at a fair price.
As we were leaving, I turned to him and said, “You have a wonderful store,”
He bowed his head a bit, more to a deference of his height rather than service, and shook my hand.
We left by the old front doors and began walking down the broken asphalt driveway to the street. I turned to look back and almost expected the old barn to have vanished, a figment of a Bradbury imagination. But it was still there.
Oh, yes, I said to myself, they’re still there…