It was Nearly Half-Off night at the Friendly Christian Bookstore, and the customers weren’t the ones on edge. Like orphaned puppies at the pet store, titles from fiction to education sat preened and grinning, hoping to gain the attention of shoppers. Ten rows from the storefront a flap arose in the self-help section.
“Move over! You’re hogging the whole shelf.” A fluorescent light reflected off a permanent adolescent smirk. The Before-Intervention Teen nearly rolled her eyes.
“I’ll move over if you stop being such a brat.” Tough-Love Mom’s scowl was fixed in her brow, her finger forever mid-wag.
It was a shame these two shared authors with such similar last names. A voice of reason came from across the aisle.
“Now listen, you two. Surely, for one night you can put your differences aside. Try using I-statements, or role-playing. Try to glean something from that awful prose between your covers.” Reverend Has-All-The-Answers’ fist cupped a smooth but aged chin.
“Oh, put a sock in it,” the mom said. “I’ve seen the unauthorized biography on you. No one deserves to suffer through the drivel you’re offering. And give me a break will you? I’ve been parked next to this snarky punk for a year now. At least real teenagers mature.”
“If I could uncross my arms I’d strangle you!” the teenager said.
An air conditioning vent over the Aging section blew a stiff breeze at the caricature of an elderly woman whose arm seemed to wave.
“I don’t mean to intrude,” she said, her perfectly squiggled hair in place. “If you can’t be kind, you should bite your tongues. Please remember your manners. We are in public after all.”
“SHH!” hissed the teenager. “Someone’s coming. Shut up.”
A young woman in blue jeans and a black t-shirt wandered into the bookstore. A plump baby bobbed on her hip, gumming the pendant at her neck.
“Can I help you?” The clerk called to her from the corner of the store. A tall stack of books to re-shelf teetered in the cart in front of her.
“Can you point me towards the Bibles?” Alice asked.
“You’re almost there, one more row down, past the self-help books, and then on your right. Let me know if you need anything.” The clerk remembered her sales goal, “And don’t forget, tonight is our nearly half-off sale. Buy one book and you get the other for just slightly more than half-off.”
Alice nodded as her finger began to skip from one spine to the next. She traced an invisible line, linking cover to cover. She loved a good ramble in a bookstore, but tonight she had to shop quickly. Gabby wasn’t patient enough for her to browse.
“Oh, I’ve seen this one on cable,” Alice said, her finger stopping on the Tough-Love Mom’s fingertip. “I don’t think I’d ever take parenting advice from her.” Alice whispered into Gabby’s ear. “Don’t worry; Mama won’t subject you to her wrath.”
Alice turned and spotted Reverend Has-All-The-Answer’s book. “Ha!” she flicked a finger at his smug grin. “I’ve read your biography. No thank you.”
Gabby was leaning over Alice’s shoulder, cooing and reaching for the Before-Intervention Teen.
“Oh, no you don’t.” Alice pulled Gabby’s hands back. “Her cover may be flashy but I don’t want her in my house.”
Alice rounded the corner and found the Bibles. A sigh escaped the self-help row as the air-conditioning cycled off.
“Ahh, here we go.” Alice’s fingers scooped up the thick book. Its pink cover was glossy with a few lilies in the corner. “You fed my last one to Miss Manners didn’t you? Silly girl. That dog will eat anything!”
Gabby giggled as Alice purposely bounced her towards the register. Alice sat Gabby on the counter and handed the clerk the new Bible.
“Did you find everything all right?” The clerk asked, swiping the Bible over the scanner. “We have Tough-Love Mom’s book on clearance. You sure you don’t want it for nearly half-off?”
“I’m not sure I’d take it if it was free.” Alice said.
The clerk eyed Alice and Gabby, and then scoffed.
Picking up the Bible, Alice tucked the receipt inside its cover. “I think I’ve got everything I need right here.”
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