BOOKWORM – this is your starting point for a story…should be easy!
I have to confess I had an ulterior motive for volunteering to look after the book stall at the village fete. Not only would I have first pick of the books but it was nicely situated in a large tent so no matter what the weather conditions I would be protected.
As it happened we were lucky to have glorious sunshine on the day of the fete, it isn’t always so. Having the tent meant I had plenty of luscious shade. I’m not a sun worshiper at the best of times. After spending several hours organizing the books so that they were in categories, I sat back with a satisfying cup of tea. I surveyed the mismatched tables filling the tent and felt proud of my efforts. With a couple of large cushions to pad out my deck chair I would endure the day. I knew it will be long and I like my comfort.
Settling into my chair to take a second look at my selections I quickly become engrossed in a tale of ancient Rome. A shadow falls onto the page – my first customer of the day. Not wanting to seem too pushy, I continue to read, letting them browse unhindered. When I eventually look up I see a stick thin man dressed in a mac and hat with his nose literally inside a book. His spectacles have thick glass but obviously not thick enough. Upon closer inspection I notice he has mis-matched shoes, one black and one brown. Was he colour blind as well?
“May I help you Sir?”
“No thank you. I’m perfectly fine.”
Remaining in my seat I observe this gentleman as he fills a wicker basket with books and precariously crams even more under his arm along with his umbrella. He is definitely not a local, I know most people in the village through my various committees. My curiosity must show as he nervously glances my way.
“Have I done something wrong? Is there a limit to how many books I can purchase?”
“Not at all – take as many as you like. I was just wondering where you lived as you are not familiar to me. Sorry if I was staring.”
“Oh I see.”
That was it, no explanation, no further conversation. He just continued rummaging through the hundreds of books without further comment. What a strange fellow.
The tent is filling up with other visitors anyway so I become distracted with purchases and questions for some time. A polite cough makes me turn and I am faced with the gentleman’s thin face peering over the top of his spectacles at me.
“May I pay for these books?”
“Yes of course. My, you have a real hoard there don’t you. Do you know how many?”
“Well I didn’t count them. Was I supposed to?”
“Not to worry. Shall we count together?”
“If you feel it’s necessary.”
Our count completed and the purchase made the man turns to leave laden down with thirty books.
“I hope you enjoy all your books.”
“Well of course I shall. I wouldn’t have bought them otherwise, now would I?”
I grit my teeth and smile, thinking some people are very odd but there’s no reason to be rude. I turn to my next customer in line and exchange pleasantries with Miss Tooms. She is such a dear soul.
“Don’t take offense Muriel. Mr. Boekenworm has never been the social type even at school.”
“You know him Miss Tooms?”
“Oh yes dear. We went to school together, here in the village actually, many moons ago of course. He was always teased about his name you see and it made him very insular.”
“It’s a very novel name I must say.”
“It means bookworm and he always has been. Lived up to his name you could say.”
“That must have been very difficult as a child, I’m sure. Where does he live now?”
“Not far, just over the hill in Clutton. He has his own second hand book store. I imagine it was fate.”
“That would account for the amount of books he brought then. He really has lived up to his name. Good for him, I say.”
“Yes I suppose you are right there. Well thank you Muriel. I shall enjoy these novels, helps pass the night hours, I don’t sleep like I used to, you know.”
I watch Miss. Tooms thread her way towards the tea tent. Another polite cough makes me turn. There he stands again with his umbrella and hat clutched to his chest.
“I want to apologize for being a bit brisk with you earlier. I tend to get very tense when buying books. Always worry someone else will find that exceptional book before me. Anyway sorry again for my rudeness.”
“Well thank you. Apology accepted. Miss Tooms was just telling me you have your own book store. May I visit one day?”
“Certainly it would be a pleasure.”
Such was my introduction to Samuel Boekenworm, my future employer.