no return


There’s a second hand bookstore down the road from me that I used to frequent. It was a particular pleasure on a rainy Saturday afternoon when the streets are quiet and most people have stayed at home. A little while ago I decided to indulge my addiction and visit the store.

The old guy who owns the place has a desk facing the doorway and I usually nod to him in greeting and when I buy my books we always have a chat about them and other inane things. He knows me; I’m a regular.

He always has a classical radio station on quietly in the background, so there’s a slightly reverent feel about the place – a bit like a library but more like home. This day he was busy with a customer so he didn’t see me walk in. I wandered towards the back of the store to do my usual alphabetical hunt for a book I don’t yet own. The customer left and I was alone in the store.

I could hear the owner doing paperwork at his desk. I knew he wasn’t aware I was in the store and I wasn’t quite sure how to make my presence known. Then it occurred to me that he might fart – why that thought came into mind I’m not sure, but isn’t that what men do when they’re alone?  As I was mulling this conundrum around in my head and gearing up to cough or sneeze to alert him, he did it. He let out a loud and rather tuneful fart.

By this time, I’d actually selected five books and didn’t want more. But I was stuck! I couldn’t announce myself right after he’d farted because then he’d know I’d heard him. So I skulked around the back shelves for a while, hoping he’d finished with his gaseous expression.

I heard him coming towards my aisle, so I quickly snuck around the corner to the next one. As he was packing books into the gaps I’d left, I made my way to the front of the store. Then I fake coughed.

He emerged from my aisle and smiled pleasantly, saying he hadn’t heard me come in.

No kidding!

I paid for my books and left. But I can’t go back. What if, after I’d left, he put two and two together. What if he suddenly remembered his satisfying release and realised that the timing was strange – I hadn’t taken enough time to get to and select the five books from the fiction section at the back of the shop.

I can’t go back. He’ll know that I know. Maybe he won’t care, but how do you overcome such awkwardness when the situation doesn’t call for overcoming anything at all? I like going there because it’s quiet, there’s a good selection and it’s close to me.

Since then I’ve been spending far more than I usually do on books because I’ve been going to a new book store that’s filled with light, people and music. A fart would get lost in that place.

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