Written for Talent Pond's Weekly Workout, Lesson 11: Setting
|Weekly Workout, Lesson 11: Setting (Book Shop in large city) "Lesson 11: Setting"
The city book shop is my favorite place to be. Its simple, wooden front door seems out of place in amongst the glitz and glamour of the big city. The hundred-year-old building looks especially out of place since it is the only one on the strip standing less than three stories tall. Nonetheless, it stands elegantly amongst the infinitely tall department stores and corporate buildings. The peace and quiet of the bookstore is a welcome reprieve from the sound of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hustling feet thundering down the street. Most are all but glued to their cell phones and PDAs. They’re so involved in their own lives that they overlook the humble store, but I am one who notices the small things. Of course, my mother was a lover of books and when I was a child, she brought me there every chance she got.
The door’s oval shaped window has the word “Olympia” written on it in a gold-colored, pleasantly curling font. Olympia was the wife of J.P. Brennan, the founder of the store. Because of her intense love of books, J.P. wanted a lasting tribute to her after her sudden death in 1897. The fact that the building was built out of love only increases its appeal to me. Long, rectangular windows flank either side of the door. When I the bookstore, the kind of time I'm going to have depends on the person that greets me there. Mr. Brennan's two granddaughters run the bookstore. Despite looking incredibly similar, the aging Brennan sisters have exact opposite personalities. The elder sister, Gladys, always greets me with a warm, grandmotherly smile, and a pleasantly upbeat, “Good day, Cynthia! We just got in some First Editions of Anne Bishop, if you’re interested.” Conversely, the other, Enid, says nothing at all. Enid seems to be the kind of woman who came straight from work at a library, where she shushes all of the young people for being too loud. The matronly clothes she wears, the severe grey bun, and the half-moon glasses she keeps on a chain about her neck only corroborate my impression of her. Gladys, on the other hand, tries to keep up to date with the popular fashion trends, even though she can’t pull off most of them. Luckily for her, the newest fad is layers.
One particularly dull, dreary day, I decided to visit the shop. The thickly overcast skies made it the kind of day that was perfect for curling up into a ball and sleeping. If it hadn't been the weekend, I doubted I could have mustered up the strength to roll out of bed and go to work. Being a bookworm, I don't have many friends my age, and the people I know are always busy. I would otherwise spend the weekend with my parents, but they were busy also. My mother is always scolding me for not going out more, so as long as it didn't rain, I figured that day was the best day for it.
As I push open the heavy wooden door, a brass bell above the door dings brightly, announcing me. To my left, Enid sits behind the white, waist-high counter. Gladys must be getting her hair done again. Enid hunches over a mahogany desk, hurriedly writing. As always, she doesn’t look up, but continues to look extremely busy. On my right, I pass by the overstuffed blue chairs next to a side table on which the coffee machine sits. I hate coffee. If Gladys were there, she would have their extra machine out with hot chocolate in it. She knows I prefer hot chocolate. Behind the blue chairs, I can see the rest of the store. It looks like an endless sea of shelves and books awaiting discovery. A gentle light from the outside world spills in, shining on more chairs situated in front of the window.
The children’s section lies straight ahead. A pretty young woman sits on a chair, reading a book, surrounded by what appears to be her class. By the size of the kids, I surmise a kindergarten class. I imagine that having small children so close to the front gives Enid a headache. When I look to her, she eyes the group suspiciously and rubs her temple before returning to her work. Chuckling to myself, I imagine what would happen if the children were let loose on the store like a sticky herd of tiny, rampant wildebeests.
A short weave carpet lines the store from end to end. The mottled colors of its purple and blue checker squares seem to mask any stain that dared to adhere itself to the fibers of the carpet. I suppose that Enid is especially grateful for that fact, since she abhors all things dirty.
Beyond the coffee machine, I turn right and pass by shelves of nonfiction and reference books. The mix of old and new texts seems to attract the smart crowd like bees to nectar. The modern geek is much different these days. In the corner of my eye I see a tall, lanky guy in slick, black rimmed glasses and a blue dress shirt that compliments his dark slacks. He intensely searches for the most recent text about anything science related.
The bookstore seems more like a library than a bookstore. The layout is almost exactly as most of the libraries I’ve seen. As is customary, the books are separated by subject. Each subject has its own section and corner of the store. My favorite sections of the store are in the back, and I never go anywhere else. When I enter the store, I feel as if I am on a mission. My mission, that I choose to accept, is to find the next best book in the world. Of the fiction section, my absolute favorite genre is Fantasy. Of course, it happens to be Enid’s least favorite section, so she placed as far from herself as possible.
My world, the fantasy section, looks like any other to the untrained eye. The tall, brown shelves may be the same, but the sitting area in the back corner is much different from the other section’s lounge areas. It smells faintly of lavender. The bright fluorescent lights seem dimmer in this part of the store. I don’t mind because the intense white lights often give me a headache. I scope out the sitting area, to make sure my chair is free. The store looked nearly empty, so I was in luck. More overstuffed blue chairs sat at the back wall. None of those was my chair. The very best chair in the entire store, and I’m convinced, the entire world, sat hidden amongst the shelves. Against the adjoining wall, in front of the last shelf, was the most perfect brown leather chair. When I sit in that soft, overstuffed chair, the world seems to fade away. When I sit in that chair, any book I pick up immediately gets better. It’s like a pillow, or a gentle embrace, that comforts you. The seat is wide enough to where I can curl my legs underneath me, and the arms are soft enough that they don’t dig into my side, making it possible to assume the prime reading position. In my chair, I can go anywhere and be anything, which is usually better than the life I leave when I first plop down. That’s what I like best about fantasy; anything that can happen usually does, and love always conquers all.
Before I can curl up in my chair, however, I have to locate a book. I usually read the first couple chapters and skim the end before I commit to a purchase. I want to make sure that the beginning is exciting enough to pull me in and that it ends the way that I want it to. Little did I know that my biggest and greatest adventure of all would begin while I sat in that chair.