A IS FOR ALIBI
by George Cowmeadow Bauman
“It’s still here!” exclaimed a blond, curly-headed young man who comes in our bookshop once in a while.
He had entered the propped-open side door, zipped left around the front of the counter, and headed straight for our tall showcase. Standing in front of the special books behind the glass doors, he pointed to the scarce first edition of Sue Grafton’s “A Is for Alibi”, which we had priced at $1000.
He spent a few moments pacing the aisle around the showcase, his eyes never leaving the book. Finally he came to the counter and said, “I think I’d like to look at that Sue Grafton book again.” I remembered that he’d been in a couple of weeks ago looking at it. It had apparently been singing to him since then.
“Help yourself,” I replied, gesturing for him to open the unlocked case. I could have gotten it out for him, but I know the thrill of being permitted to personally open a bookseller’s treasure-box and reaching inside.
He brought the object of his affection to the counter, and lovingly turned it over and over in his hands. “It’s in amazingly good shape; even the dust jacket is pristine,” he said reverently.
Quiet Kenny G music was playing in the background, and we had no other customers in the store to distract him or me from this, his big moment.
“I’m a little nervous,” he confessed. “I didn’t think it would still be here, but I wanted it so bad.”
He took a few seconds to look up at me. “I was really obsessed with this book for about a week after seeing it here,” he sheepishly grinned. He’d already talked himself into the serious indulgence of buying the Grafton, but now he needed to state all that to me. “I asked my friend Carol if she thought the book would still be here, and she said that she had seen it again last week, so I decided that I would come in today, and if it was still here, to buy it.”
His hands were caressing the book while he talked to me. I could tell that though he was trying to convince himself that he could walk away if he chose to, that he was deeply hooked and was going home with this treasure.
He took a deep sigh. “I have some store credit on file with you,” and he paused, out of nervousness, not for effect, though it sure had that impact, and concluded, “So if the balance is approved on my credit card, I think I’ll take this today.”
With that decision made, he finally broke into a big smile.
The smile didn’t crack when I said to him, “I’ll sell you this book on one condition.”
He didn’t care; for this treasure he would have nosed a John Grisham hardback across Fifth Avenue to the Giant Eagle and back if I’d have asked him.
“All I want is for you to take a picture of me with this book before it leaves the store, for I’ll probably never see a copy of it again.”
He laughed, took my ever-present camera, and shot me standing up against the wall of mysteries.
I ran his balance amount successfully through MasterCard, and as he signed the slip, he announced, “One reason I decided it to buy it today was that it is Sue Grafton’s birthday.”
“A most appropriate way to remember the day you bought this book at Acorn,” I said. I reached out and shook his hand, saying, “Congratulations. You will get a lot of pleasure out of owning this.”
“I can’t tell you how happy I am!” he said, heading toward the door.
Today, A is for Adios to Sue Grafton’s first mystery.