Our fair town has its annual summer fling around this time of year. There's a week of festivities including, for adults: dances, beer tents, beer fests, afternoon tea(followed by beer), meat darts, horseshoe throwing, card playing, pub crawl, and many other activities. It's all good fun. The pub crawl presents an unique challenge because of the fact that there is only one tavern in town. Therefore, participants crawl from the tavern to places like the legion, various clubs, and certain man-caves(garages). The latter being places of such comfort and convenience many choose to stay and forgo the need or the desire to continue this delightful endeavor. Many are waylaid by these beer beacons resulting in fewer numbers arriving at the concluding venue than have started.
For the kids there are many activities presented to delight and thrill, including: clowns, balloons, lots of junk food, parades, jammy jogs, face painting, and so on. With regard to face painting: I once saw a beautiful, nude, young woman get her whole body painted by a rather strange painter at an Artist's exhibition in Montreal many, many years ago. It was quite edifying if not just fascinating. But this is different. This is kids getting their face painted in various shapes and colours, making them look even more scary than they already are.
Last week the town cordoned off a part of the main street as a sort of fair, and set up many booths consisting of games, information kiosks, food venues, and flea market paraphernalia. I decided to go.
Walking among the many display booths, I chanced on quite a large one filled with books of various shapes and colours--- and conditions, also. I never get overly excited about this sight because I know two things: 1. These are second hand books(ugh), and 2.There's usually a slim chance there's anything good here---for me anyway. But, you never know. There could be a signed, first edition of a Charles Dickens!---you never know.
I passed the two tables filled with paperbacks(pocketbooks) quickly---a mere glance (I don't buy or read pocketbooks). I stopped at the table containing hard covered books, some not in bad shape. I noticed that there were many Nora Roberts' books. What's with Nora Roberts? I picked up one of her books to check what book was under it, only to find another Nora Roberts. The proprietor of this dubious book stall quickly came over and said,"You like Nora Roberts!" I realized then that I had two Nora Roberts' books in both hands. I stammered, " ah, no...no, not really, no...ah, I was just...ah..." Oh, the embarrassment! He laughed, and told me that yes, they were for the ladies. But he said I do have some James Patterson over here, and led me over to the side table. He showed me three James Patterson books, giving me one to hold, and said that since they were listed at three dollars each, I could get them all for only six dollars. "That's a deal!", he said, and I was wondering when did flea market vendors became so pushy? It must be the poor economy. But I have to tell you, panic began to rise slowly in my spine, and I eyed the table for any possible bail-out. And I saw an old friend---Farley Mowat. The name of the book was THE REGIMENT. I've read many Mowat books and liked them, but I have never read this. This was his account of his regiment in Italy during WW11. Despite the fact that this book was not a first edition(Third, reissue), and that it was a Trade Paperback that looked like it went through the war with him, I bought it at two dollars. A deal considering the possibility of walking to the car with three Patterson's. He took the book and said he would get a bag for it.
As I waited, A little girl whose face was painted to resemble a cat---artistic talent questionable---sidled up next to me, grabbed the Nora Roberts book, and look up at me with defiance. I nodded, and gave a nervous smile. This cat-girl proceeded to flip through the book for whatever reason with sticky fingers. A little boy whose face was made up to resemble a rat, quickly came up behind her, and gave the cat-girl a big cuff on the back of her head, hollering out something unintelligible. The cat-girl screamed, wheeled around, and belted the rat-boy with Nora Roberts---the book, I mean. By this time, my bookseller had returned, and gave out a shout wherein these violent kids ran off, but not before the cat-girl threw down the book she was using as a weapon onto the table, where it landed on its pages. The book sat there splayed open with the covers reaching for the sky, and the spine just ready to break. I couldn't get my eyes off of it. The bookseller gave me my Mowat all wrapped up tight in a Sobey's plastic bag, thus sealing this shoddy transaction. He hurried off to another eager costumer who I think was taking the Patterson deal. Lucky man.
I stood there for a few seconds looking at the Nora Roberts' book begging for help. I started to wonder just how messed up I would seem if I straightened this book. I'm not a compulsive person by nature, but there's something about the condition of books that my mind cannot overtly dismiss. I picked it up, smoothed the pages, realigned it, closed it, and placed it in its proper position.
I thought then that is was time to go home. I had enough fun for the day, and besides, things were getting rough here. I caught up to a neighbour of mine, and we shared a few laughs on the way to the car. He asked me if I bought a book, and I told him no, that it was a set of steak knives.
I'll continue this on another day, for the sun is shining, and the wine is cooling, and the day is getting on....