Happy Saturday! A short story for you!
I was seven when I bought my very first book with my own pocket money. I had been eyeing it off for months and pestering my mother to please buy it. Its glossy dust jacket and strong hardcover boards sang to me over her claims that I must save up my pocket money.
I pressed it to my chest and told my mother there was no time and that another person would buy it from under my nose.
‘Well,’ she said, looking down at me with her hearty chestnut eyes, ‘you’ll have to start saving right away.’
Each week we went to the bookstore to visit my book. I cooed to it and brushed my palms across the spine, the cover and the pages. Each time I asked my mother to buy it and each time she would shake her head and help me do my sums to see how much more pocket money I needed.
‘Oh, it’s so close, Mum,’ I would say, even when it wasn’t.
‘Keep saving,’ she would say.
When I finally brought The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter to the counter, the lady there smiled down at me. Her eyes crinkled tightly in the corners and the irises were ice-blue.
‘Today’s the day,’ she said, ‘I hope I will see you again in here soon.’
‘I have it now. I don’t need another one.’
‘You might just,’ she said.
‘No. One is good.’
A couple of days later, I finished The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter. The dust jacket had become dull and I no longer wanted to clutch it as much as I did when it was under the bright lights in the shop. I wondered what stories the other books held. I never thought to look at the others each time I visited my book. What if there was another one that sang louder and with better timbre?
‘You’re back,’ the lady behind the desk said as the bells on the back of the door jangled my arrival.
I nodded, not stopping to chat.
‘I told you, you would want another one.’ She called after me.
I searched through every case to find a gleaming book—one that shadowed my other one.
I could hear my mother chatting quietly to the lady at the counter.
‘… it took her a couple of days. I have never seen her so captivated.’
What’s “captivated”? I thought as I pulled dull stories from the shelves and pushed them roughly back in. I scrunched my nose at Guinness Book of World Records. The cover gave an extravagant and exaggerated dazzle—it looked like the book I was looking for, but it couldn’t hold a note longer than a couple of seconds.
I tugged a copy of The Gruffalo out and with it came Where the Wild Things Are. They tumbled to the floor in my attempt to catch them both before they, inevitably, fell on the floor.
‘MUM!’ I bellowed across the store, ‘I FOUND THEM.’
‘Inside voice!’ she hissed from the counter, ‘What have you found?’
‘The books that I am going to buy next. Do I have enough money to buy them?’
I held out my money in my palm for her to see.
‘Let’s see,’ she said, shifting the coins around so we could count, ‘You have one dollar, two dollars, three dollars, and twenty, thirty, eighty cents. And you need,’ she turned the books over to see the price stickers, ‘$17.35 for The Gruffalo and $19.95 for Where the Wild Things Are. So you need $37.30 all together and you already have $3.80 so you need to save $33.50.’
My balloon of pride at finding my key-perfect books immediately deflated.
‘I’m never going to get that much!’
‘How about I give you $10 to get you started? Then when we get home we can make a pocket money chart like we did last time.’
‘Does that mean that I have enough money to buy one book?’
‘Not quite, but it’s closer.’
I nodded. I ran my fingertips over the covers of the books and placed them carefully back on the shelf.
‘I’ll be back soon.’ I whispered to them and followed my mother out of the store. I didn’t even say bye to the waving lady behind the counter.
It took me a couple of months to raise the money. I worked solidly doing chores around the house.
One night, elbows deep in the plastics drawer, my mother pulled me aside.
‘What are you doing, baby?’ she said, slowly prying a container from my hands.
‘I need five more dollars.’ I replied, trying to take the container back so I can put it in its appropriate pile.
‘You don’t have to do this now.’ He eyes had that look of pity in them.
‘But, I need my five dollars.’
‘What about,’ she said setting the container on the ground, and pulling me in for a hug, ‘I give you the five dollars now. You’ve earned it. You’ve been helping Dad and me around the house for so long, I think you deserve those last five dollars.’
‘Really?’ my face stretched into a wide grin, ‘Do you mean it?’
The next day, I walked into the bookstore, clutching my $33.50.
I don’t think I’ve ever looked back from that day.
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See you Tuesday!