My Shop Is Calling Me To Write Another Book


For those who follow my life through this column — and you have my deepest sympathies — I will provide closure for a previous column in which I said I was writing a novel. I have written the novel, submitted the novel and, whether the publisher buys it or not, the novel is out of my hands.

It was much harder work than I thought, and I started writing it too late, which did not leave me enough time for other pursuits, such as eating and sleeping. Next time, I will know better.

But that’s not the focus of this column. The focus of this column is that, now that I’ve accomplished this Herculean task, it no longer seems so Herculean. That’s how tasks are — absolutely insurmountable until you surmount them and then you go, “Humph. That wasn’t so hard.” And you assign yourself another Herculean task, out of sheer curiosity.

So I think I’d like to write another novel, this one about my antiques store. The place gives me a chapter a day in material. If you like hanging around quirky, eccentric, unorthodox people (which I do), an antiques store is the place for you.

It’s not the shoppers, so much; it’s the people who rent space in the store, work in the store or, yes, own the store. First of all, antiquers are people who don’t have to have everything brand new. In fact, they prefer something that shows its age. They like old things, and they like old people. If an item was previously owned by somebody who died, so what? People die.

So, they’re realists. And yet, they are also simply unreal.

Because I’ve been working at the store seven days a week since March 1, I thought it might be nice to bring in a clerk and get some time off. The clerk I brought in was an exuberant people-lover. The customers liked her. She understood the cash register. She knew antiques.

I am speaking in the past tense because this clerk is no longer with me. She, in her own words, “made a mistake.” It turns out that, in her spare time, she decided to go visit a senator, make some demands and, when they were not immediately met, threaten a high public official. “I didn’t mean it,” she told me.

Doesn’t matter. Anything that might bring men wearing dark glasses and holsters under their suit jackets into my parking lot is too quirky for me.

The second example is a customer who came in, looked around, and then said, “I don’t see anything I want today, but I breathed 50 cents’ worth of your air. Ring me up.” I laughed and said, “Air is free, sir.” But, when he kept insisting, I rang him up. “That’ll be 54 cents,” I said. “Including the tax.”

He grumbled about the tax (don’t we all?), paid me, handed me the longest religious pamphlet I have ever seen, insisted that I keep my promise, “read it, then share it,” and left. That’s a lot of work for 50 cents. Plus, I had to assign an inventory number to air and log it into my computer. More work. However, chapters one and two of my new book? Check and check.