When I first heard about it my heart leapt and my toes twitched. I couldn’t believe that such a place actually existed. I dialed the phone to confirm. The voice on the other end told me that the event was on schedule and advance tickets for a special appearance were available at the door.
I anxiously ran down to the teller window and got my cash before they closed up. Went back to my desk to confirm that my supervisor had indeed gone for the day. I said goodbye to my coworkers and did something I had never done in my entire tenure at the bank – I swiped the time clock at straight up five o’clock.
Almost breathless, I flagged the parking attendant just as he was bringing my Explorer under the awning. He swung the door open wide and I never missed a beat – I swung my briefcase and jacket across the seat, buckled in haste, and headed to my destination.
I checked the clock to see the time, 5:05, only ten minutes to gates open, but I wasn’t worried. Fortunately for me, I was only three miles away.
Traffic was tight, which was strange to me, because I never left at five and had never seen this kind of traffic before. But today was different. Today I made an exception to my usual routine. Today was special.
As I arrived on the scene, I was greeted by a mob of people as anxious to get inside as I was; I had never seen so many people gathered together in one place so close to quitting time – I never knew there were this many people in Midland, Texas who were into this sort of thing. They were all dressed differently, from mechanics coveralls to business suits. Some brought children some did not. All were gathered for the same purpose.
The crowd began to gather in single file outside the closed steel door waiting for it to open. Seated at the entrance, dressed in a white pantsuit complemented by a black cardigan, was the keeper of the Gate. A woman in her mid-sixties with graying blonde hair sat very still on a small metal chair. Her hair had been dyed blonde so many times it had a reddish tint, but its color had only enhanced her look of distinction and prowess. She was definitely in charge.
Her look was stone cold serious. She meant business. In her lap was a medium-sized cigar box for the specific purpose of collecting offerings. In exchange for the five dollar donation fee, each patron was given the coveted red ticket that allowed entry on this special day.
At exactly 5:30 p.m., the big metal double doors unlocked from inside. The door to the right side was opened to allow controlled attendance. The gatekeeper remained seated in front of the closed door to ensure all passage was duly paid.
I was about 50 feet back from the entrance, but once the doors opened the gatekeeper made sure that the line moved quickly. Before long I was handing her my five dollar bill. She took it and looked up at me.
“I’ve never seen you before,” she stated with an all-knowing tone. “Your first time?”
“Yes ma’am,” I answered in the most respectful voice I could muster.
“Well then,” she grinned. “You are in for quite a treat.”
I told her thank you and walked through the passageway.
Once inside, I was awestruck. The auditorium was huge and there was very little floor space. All the floor space had been occupied by stacks and stacks of books! Wall to wall floor to ceiling. There were books everywhere. Neatly stacked on tables, neatly labeled, more books than I could have imagined. All gently used. All for sale at a reasonable price. I had entered into used book heaven!
I began on my right side and started to peruse the books row by row. There were books I had never heard of before. Textbooks, cookbooks, technical books. I immediately phoned my husband on my cell phone to tell him that I had even located some books on flying I thought he might like. He told me to bring them on home.
Pretty soon I had gathered up more than my two arms could carry. An elderly man with a kind face suddenly appeared with a small grocery cart for my goodies and encouraged me to “keep shopping.” I did.
About two hours into my venture, I wandered toward the back of the building and found the most prized area of all. It was labeled RARE, ANTIQUE and ONE OF A KIND. I walked toward the entrance and was advised by another gatekeeper that I must keep my basket outside. I did so and went in to see what was rare, antique, and one of a kind. Once inside I knew exactly what the sign meant. This was where they kept all of books that had been treasures to their previous owners. Most of the books were leather bound and very old. Most of the books in this section had been donated by the families of the owners. These treasures had been enjoyed by their owners in their own private libraries until the day they had died. It was a rare treat to see so many special books in one place.
I came upon a leather bound set of business books with a copyright date of 1901 and knew I had to have them. The box said $10 for the entire set, and there were about twenty volumes dressed in all leather with fine onionskin paper. I grinned and paid the gatekeeper feeling that I had made a real deal.
Just then, I looked at my watch and realized that I had been absorbed in the wonder of this place for over two hours. I decided that I should make my final selections and head for home.
I wheeled my over-flowing grocery cart toward the front and was met by a tall gray-bearded man with a balding streak etched in his forehead. As he saw me pushing my treasures toward him, he gave me a huge grin.
“Your first book sale little Lady?
“Yes, sir.” I giggled embarrassingly.
Fortunately for the library, it wouldn’t be my last.
Lana, you are awesome! You keep your stories moving along, never allowing the reader to become bored. Have you had your first book published yet?
I'll buy it!
Well, I have finished all three of your stories. Now I may get some much needed sleep. May God keep you writing. Sincerely, Dan Blankenship
This is a wonderful essay, with vivid descriptions and dabs of humor. Wouldn't this be any writer's dream! :-)
Only one suggestion: since you had such a lead-up to the book sale without mentioning the books at all, perhaps rethink the title. I love it, but it gives away your destination and defeats the purpose of the strong build up. Personally, I love an element of surprise. If I hadn't read the title, I wouldn't have known where you were going until you were inside the arena.
Just my .02. But written very well. Held my interest throughout.