“May I help you?” the shopkeeper called to the young man, as the door swung on it’s hinges, making a creek and a clap, and the small bell on the door handle rang for a moment, announcing his arrival.
The man looked around, uncertain as to why he even walked down that particular street, and into that particular shop. He had a lot on his mind and wore what felt like the weight of the world.
The small, brick walled shop was off the beaten path, tucked down at the end of the street. Wedged between a small delicatessen and a dry cleaner, it was a tidy, small store front, consisting of a three paneled picture window, rimmed with white wood, and a cream colored door.
Hung over the door was a red sign that simply read, “Bookends.”
A kind-hearted and calm spirited elderly couple owned the shop. No one really knew when they first opened their doors, welcoming people; it seemed as if the shop at the end of the street was always there.
On the other side of the door, the four walls were painted a dusty rust color, and covered with shelves of different depths and distances. A few old library tables sat scattered in the middle of the room. A multitude of bookends were displayed throughout the shop. Just bookends.
There were bookends in the shape of ships and sharks and cats and dogs. There were small bookends, with different letters of the alphabet, from A to Z, and there were large, monument shaped bookends.
Some of the bookends were made of wood and others carved from marble. Some were made from unusual materials, like canning jars filled with sea shells, antique farming tools, old yarn spools, and praying hands. There were soccer balls, metal figures of famous buildings and bridges and modern art masterpieces made up of mosaic tiles.
There were hundreds of bookends representing almost anything that anyone was interested in.
The shopkeeper waited patiently, not pressuring the man, but intermittently looking up to see if the man needed anything. Clearing his throat, he asked again, “Anything I can help you with, Sir?”
“Ahhh, I’m not sure. Just pokin’ round. Thought I’d stop in and see what y'all were sellin’.”
“Bookends. Just bookends,” said the wife of the shopkeeper, as she came out from behind a heavy, velvet curtain, that separated the back storage room from the shop. She looked into the eyes of the young man, who now was examining a black granite, globe shaped bookend.
“Looking for anything in particular?”
“I’m not sure,” murmured the man, as he continued to wander through the store, picking up various bookends, to get a closer look.
“Let me know if you need anything, “ she said.
The storeowners waited a few minutes, giving the man a chance to think.
The woman offered the man a cup of tea, and he accepted, settling down on a stool opposite the counter and cash register.
“May I ask you a question?” the shopkeeper spoke. “What can you tell me about yourself? Do you like to travel? Play sports? Or where did you grow up? What did you like to do as a kid? Or maybe, do you have a dream? Tell us a bit of your story.”
And the man began to talk, and tell his story. Hours passed while the man shared and the elderly couple listened. They poured tea and he poured his heart out to them.
That’s how it almost always went at the shop at the end of the street. People came in, curious, and ended up feeling cared for. The store wasn’t just a place that sold bookends; it was a place where people’s stories found rest. In the shop at the end of the street, people’s stories were valued and heard.
The man walked out of the shop that afternoon, carrying a bag with a set of bookends while carrying less of a weight on his shoulders, leaving part of his burden behind.
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