Bargain Bin Enlightenment: A Tale of Terror

Ah… it finally made sense.

That odd little disclaimer at the beginning, the one that had made me pause countless times over the years, the thing that I never understood but was too excited by what came next to stop and fully ponder…

It finally made complete and total sense.

And it was horrible.

At first, I was too aware of the box-cutter in my hand to really pay attention to what she was explaining. The thing, with its hunter-safety orange plastic outfit and  grimy little razor-blade  that was never actually sharp enough to cut through the tougher cardboard but still quite sufficient at slicing off a bit of flesh here and there, was always accompanied by a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was far too clumsy to handle such things with grace and ease. And it knew it.

I followed her down the aisle, stopping here and there to tidy up or to discuss the latest plot, the newest intrigue. We’d been the best of  friends for over a decade, the nuances of her speech as familiar to me as the back of my own hand. As we headed to the front of the store, nothing in her voice that day gave away the nightmare that was to come. Later, after it was all said and done, I’d look back and recognize the play there. After all, we’d been the best of friends for over a decade. She knew my predictable reaction to such things as well as the back of her hand. The sense of betrayal was overwhelming.

She handed me a folded sheet of paper, and I gladly set aside my tacky and sweat-inducing weapon in order to read through it. The contents on that paper were divided into five  main sections, the first three completely unsurprising; the final two consisting of numbered columns, one called ‘pull’ and the other ‘keep’. I wondered if I needed to go back for boxes. She gave a tight shake of her head and held out two rather ominous black bags originally  intended for lawn waste or contractor work. I’d used a similar grade once to cover up a busted window in my car. I called them lick and stick windows and reminded her of the tale as we started pulling and keeping as the list demanded. We were still giggling like school girls when she reached for her blade.

I then watched in horror as she folded back the covers of  literary greats and non-greats, classic literature and popular fiction, social science and unauthorized biographies. I watched in horror as she folded back the covers of both Shakespeare and Stephen King alike. I watched in horror as she folded back the covers of overstocked paperbacks left over from the holiday season, sliced them off, and then threw them away in one of those great big bags intended for trash.

I felt an overwhelming desire to hiss at her- to hiss at my best friend the way a mob would at a witch burning. My best friend, the butcher of books.

In shock, I turned my head away from the carnage laid out before me and looked over the bookstore that had become my second home- the place I could be found even when not scheduled to work. I grasped the title in my hand close to my chest and breathed in lungfuls of type, page, and leather- my most favorite smells in all of the world next to the sweet smell of my newborn’s  head. I thought back through all of the years, all of the books, all of the tiny disclaimers that I never understood but was too excited by what came next to stop and fully ponder…

And I hated my job.

This post was written for a {W}rite of Passage prompt: Challenge #5 – The Job.



1.©2010 by Courtney Hebert as Judith Shakespeare.
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