At nine o’clock this morning, the library book sale began. This was the big sale; the hardback sale; the sale around which we had planned our vacation to Maine. My husband even came along even though he was certain that he wouldn’t find a thing.
Last year, the kids and I just happened upon the sale, in one of its final days. There were a few people here and there in the community room; balancing a stack in one arm while considering another book. A man glanced at my arms.
“That’s why I bring this.” He pointed to his backpack, bursting with books. “Holds more and keeps my arms free.”
I smiled and picked up Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. I studied the back. Would I really read it?
“That’s a good one,” another man said. “I absolutely loved it.”
He watched as I added to my pile.
There was a sense of community at this book sale; a sense of camaraderie. Everyone there was a lover of books; a lover of reading; a lover of deals. We shared an appreciation of good books: history and literature; cookbooks and politics; fiction and religion. We were all there looking for a good read; all there looking to hold in our hands the inspired—or inspiring—words of others. That day, my kids and I walked out of the book sale with over seventy hardback books. I’d spent less than one hundred dollars.
This year, the parking lot was packed by 10:30. Navigating through the community room reminded me of the days when my husband and I insanely believed we could make a life in Washington, DC; the days when we commuted into the city smashed up against indifferent strangers.
Filibuster eyed a political book; she extended her hand. Too late. Someone else snatched it up.
“Excuse me,” V said to a man flipping through audio books.
Without acknowledging us, he scooted forward an eighth of an inch.
We turned and weeded through people to arrive at the opposite end of an aisle, where we encountered the same problem: “Could I just sneak past you?”
I headed for the writing section. Surely no one would be there.
But I was wrong. A woman had planted herself before the writing instruction books, an electronic device in her hand. She worked a stack of books quickly: She flipped over a book and ran the device over the ISBN number on the back of the book. The device flashed a blue light and beeped and then the woman flipped it over to study the screen. Every once in awhile, she’d toss a book into a cardboard box at her feet. I watched for a moment and then, I gave up on getting any writing books. “Could I just sneak past you?”
On the other side, in the education section, an older woman watched this woman with the scanner. “May I ask what you’re doing?”
“I sell books on Amazon,” the lady with the scanner replied without looking up. “I want to see if anyone’s looking for these books.”
“I saw someone else doing the same thing over there,” the older woman pointed.
The scanning woman laughed. “You would have seen a lot more if you’d been here at nine o’clock. All the sellers show up then.”
Despite the sellers, we managed to do well: Squints got some books on cartooning, his latest interest; Filibuster picked up six political books; V found some old Hitchcock movies and historical fiction; and once the woman left to scan historical fiction, I was able to claim a few writing books for myself. And my husband?
Seven books of history. Hardback. All neatly lined up on his bookshelf.
* * *
After the library, V and I headed to the mall: I needed to replace the USB cord that goes to my camera. We waited in line. A woman pushed her way in front of us.
“Why is everyone so competitive?” I groused, after we left the store, without the cord. “I can’t stand being around people.”
“We need to pick peaches, Mom,” V said.
The air was heavy with the scent of ripening concord grapes; a scent so sweet and thick you could almost taste them. The season’s first apples were in. But first we grabbed our buckets and got on the wagon headed for the peaches.
It’s dangerous, picking peaches in August: By this time of year, the bees have discovered the fruit. They gather at the base of the trees, feasting upon fallen fruits, or, if they’re picky, they’ll go for the fruit still on the tree, burrowing deep inside. You have to watch where you step and where you pick: More than once, I’ve grasped a peach and found a bee emerging from the other side.
“Any luck?” V asked.
“I found a perfect one,” I said. Just then a bee landed upon it.
I waved the bee away and plucked the fruit from the vine. That peach was mine.
At day’s end, when the errands are finished and the chores complete, we will sit down to peruse our new books and feast upon the juicy peaches and the first apples of the season.
And next week? We’re heading for the bag a buck day at the library’s book sale, when the sellers are gone and the true lovers of books remain.