At Acorn, we refer to five o’clock on Saturdays as “Midnight”, for each week at that time we play the soundtrack from the Clint Eastwood movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. Exactly one hour of wonderful Johnny Mercer music. When Tony Bennett starts singing “I Wanna Be Around to Pick up the Pieces”, we know it’s about six o’clock and time to see if anyone is left in the book-pool.
“Midnight” had just begun one day with k. d. laing warbling “Skylark” when a 70-ish woman came in carrying a small box of older books to sell. She laughed when I gave her my “Booktopia” welcome, and walked straight to the counter.
She had thin, dull, orange-ish hair, and was wearing a smooth pearl-gray sweater on her stocky frame, under a zipped-open fur-hooded parka.
“I hate to part with any of my books,” she sighed forcefully, “but my kids aren’t interested in them at all, and a friend recommended that I bring them here.”
She browsed around a bit while I researched her offered books, then came back to the counter, chuckling while she read our “House Rules”. When she got to #4, she read aloud with glee, “Parents who let their children run wild will be beheaded.”
“I love it!” she laughed.
Her books were in very good condition, well-cared for, and included two handsome, leatherbound editions of Shakespeare and Byron, both published in 1876.
“I also have books at home that I just can’t bring myself to get rid of,” she said with semi-regret. “One day maybe, but for now I need them around me.”
I thought to myself that those would be the ones I really wanted from her, and others she might have. We’re always aware that when people bring us books to sell, what’s in their boxes/bags may be only a sample of a larger collection, which might be available if we treat them well.
She agreed to my offer; then, in a by-the-way manner, asked if we would sell her a greeting card that we had posted near the Hippies-Dippies-Yippies-Beats section.
“You must not have gotten to Rule #6,” I replied, pointing back to the large sign mounted behind our sales counter. “Our store décor is not for sale. We just wouldn’t recognize the place without it.”
“Oh, that’s just too bad, because I have a friend, a doctor friend, who would just pee his pants if I sent that to him,” she said, pointing the card out to me after I walked over to the hippie-dippy books with her.
People bring me cow stuff because my middle name is Cowmeadow. My maternal grandfather emigrated as a teenager from the Forest of Dean in Gloustershire, England, in the 1890s. I always envied my cousin who grew up with the last name of Cowmeadow.
We’ve had several small stuffed cows brought to us by customers, as well as a longhorn steer with a two-foot hornspan. We have cow socks, a cow timer, cow books, cow candy, and pictures of the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers.
The cow-gift that customers get the biggest kick out of, though, is our candy dish that moos when a piece is taken. Some people jump back in surprise, some crack up, and a couple of 12-year-old boys with reflexes almost as good as they thought they were tried for five minutes to sneak out a no-moo piece. Couldn’t do it.
Our customer wanted a cow-card which showed two bulls sitting in a strip joint as a lipsticked cow pole-danced in front of them, shaking her udder at their rapt faces.
One bull says to the other, “Yeah, they’re pretty nice, but are they real?”
Orange-hair laughed again as we read it together. Seeing what delight it gave her, and knowing she had a purpose in mind greater than it being at Acorn, I told her she could have it.
She was thrilled, and as I cut the tape cleanly, she began telling me about this doctor friend of hers.
“He’s just the one to get this after I frame it, because he just bought his wife breast implants.”
Breasts don’t usually come up as a topic of conversation too often, and I know we have customers who might have gotten lemon-lipped about it. Fortunately none of the nearby browsers rubber-necked the conversation in offense.
Back at the counter as she accepted my check, she continued talking about breasts, accompanied by specific gestures with her hands.
“I authoritatively. “From puberty on, no matter how high they are” – and here she cupped her hands way up high on her chest – “a woman’s breasts slope down” – and she pressed her hands against her sweater and slowly slid them down the expanse of her chest, across the now-protruding nipples.
“If they don’t slope,” she said earnestly, “if they stick right out front” – and she held her handcups high and way out from her body, “then it’s obvious that can spot fake boobs on she’s had a boob job, because it looks so unnatural.”
She folded my check and placed it in her front pants pocket.
Smiling widely, she said, “You have no idea how much you’ve pleased me today!
“My doctor friend is going to love this, because I’ve been telling him he’s
crazy. It was his idea – not his wife’s, and he spent a lot of money to get the best implants. He’s really pleased with the results.
“I asked him why in the world he would do such a thing.”
She paused dramatically, then continued in a stage whisper, “He said, ‘Because I’m a man, Marcia. “Because I’m a man.’”
It seemed appropriate that right then Tony Bennett started singing about being around to pick up the pieces.