Vagrants, nutters, and other Tuesday shoppers

“Isobelle Carmody,” she hissed at the insensate spines. “Actually, Isabel Allende. Any of the Isobelles, really.”




Every bookstore owner will tell you that Tuesday is the most frightfully quiet day. No one has ever gotten to the bottom of exactly why. Perhaps people get their fill of books on the weekend, or maybe they’re busy saving money on Amazon. Either way, everyone in the industry knows that Tuesday is a dead day. On Tuesdays, only vagrants and nutters enter bookstores.


Our particular owner was reminded of this very truth as he gazed over the counter at his only customer. Vagrant or nutter, he wondered.


The woman was wearing generously cut track pants and a jumper with the faded dates of some kind of engineering conference stamped across the back like bad concert paraphernalia.


“Can I help you find anything in particular?” said the man.


The woman didn’t even turn around to see where the sound had come from. Not a good sign, he thought. Actually quite indicative of those multiple personality types.


Suddenly, and without warning, she spoke. “Penelope sounds glamorous, doesn’t it? Like somebody who has never done the dishes or fallen from a chair while trying to pull off their gumboots. I do believe that our name tends to decide our fate to a degree. I just think my life would be different if I were called Belle.”


The man let his eyes follow the well-spoken derelict from popular fiction to true crime. “Actually,” he said. “The writers Bell Hooks and Belle Bremer are named Gloria and Martina respectively.” He glanced at the young adult shelves she was now tapping with short fingernails. “Cassandra Clare is a Judith,” he offered.


“Well, as a newly minted expert in such things, Judith definitely sounds like the kind of name a husband would leave,” she said, picking up a title called Common Poisons and Other Household Hazards. In the absence of a proper non-fiction section the man had placed it under self help. Regret began to draw the edges of his smile inwards.


She leafed through the chapters as he glanced once more at the door. “I’ll take this one,” she said.


“I, uh, I feel quite obligated to refuse the sale of that particular book. I…I simply can’t enable whatever lunacy you might be—”


His words were cut short as a hardcover copy of Unf*ck Yourself flew across the counter, pages fluttering through the air in applause. The book hit his left temple with a sharp thud. The woman walked calmly to the counter, peering down at the splayed body on worn flannel carpet.


“Tell me,” she said, taking twenty dollars from her handbag and leaving it on the counter, making sure to secure one corner with a paper weight. She turned and moved towards the door. “If a woman were to kill her husband what sort of name do you think she might have?”

Posted in EWG Bookshop Competition Entries.