|Fish and All|
|Location||Wee Book Inn - Greenwich Village|
|Summary||A search for the perfect book.|
| Few bookstores linger in this digital day and age, but Wee Books has fought hard to retain its scrap of real estate, and as a result, it's one of the most visited shops in the Village.
The place is a warren of shelves, a labyrinth of closely-stacked book piles. It's easy to get lost inside the shop, which has expanded with a twist of staircases and side doors to encompass two stories and several additional storefronts. The books here are new and used alike, and though sorted by genre, a good browsing is generally required to find anything in particular. Wee Books caters to just about every crowd it can; it carries a wide variety of fiction, both historical and new, as well as non fiction ranging from philosophy to hobbyists guides to cookbooks. A small, locked-off section is even devoted to rare, antique books.
Nearly every free nook or cranny holds some sort of furniture designed for reading. Here it's a cushy wingchair, there it's an aging library carrel or an overstuffed bean bag. The place is large and twisty enough that it feels possible to remain lost and undisturbed for several hours, if you choose the right spot.The presence of a small cafe near the entrance only adds to the homey atmosphere. The place smells like old books and fresh coffee, with the underlying sweetness of fresh muffins or cinnamon rolls to tie it all together. And if you're very lucky, you may gain the favor of the Inn's resident rumpled tabbycat, Milo.
A cool winter afternoon has settled over Manhattan Island, just cold enough to snow, but not yet cold enough to pile up on the ground. Jens has been inside long enough for snow to have melted off his clothing, and for hands to be suitably dry for handling the goods in this, one of the last bastions of print media in the city. He has placed a slim paperbacked volume on the front counter, idly leaning elbows on the surface and asking of the clerk, "So you can let me know if you get a lead on one, yeah?"
Poor New York is having a hell of a time this winter. The worst of the snow from the blizzard has been cleared or melted, but now it's snowing again. Inside, it's much warmer and the pile-ups are all books. In fact, it's the kind of place that looks like every last non-digital copy of a book may be in stock. Irene is loitering near the section that's clearly been carved out for kids, the section brightly painted and containing a small reading/play area that serves as a place for distracted kids to be while parents shop or where story time takes place. She doesn't look like she's shopping for anything in particular, idly browsing shelves without much of a critical eye. Some of the covers are pretty?
"Want me to put those back, or leave them here for you?" Jens inquires, with a wry note to the inquiry. To the surprise of none, the patron is invited to replace the volumes he won't be buying, and the tall man steps back deeper into the store to re-shelve a trio of books. The first, curiously, sends him back to the section Irene loiters near. The woman is noticed, habit picking out a few details of her stature and attire, as the brightly colored niche comes into full view.
Alas, a bookstore is not a library, and the employees don't get any benefit out of shelving things for you. Irene pulls a small volume off a shelf, the early chapter book sort, and peers at it. There isn't a lot about her that immediately pulls the eye. She's dressed simply and neatly in a plain t-shirt and jeans with a dark peacoat hanging open. Her bearing is a little straighter than most, feet planted firmly to evenly distribute weight, but it's not like she's in a military 'at rest' in the bookstore. After staring at the book a moment, she turns to the nearest person-Jens-and asks bluntly, "You heard anything about this?" She holds the book out, which appears to be about some boy who is related to old, Chinese gods or something. It looks like an adventure tale.
Jens makes eye contact briefly, before the blunt inquiry directs his eye to the title. As it is being held out, he instinctively reaches a free hand (holding the other three books in his other) for a closer look. "Huh. Nothing that isn't on the cover," he mutters, frowning in a moment's thought. A quick double-blink as he kicks in the Eye computer, and hands the volume back. As the search is run, he glances back up and wonders, "What were you hoping to find?"
Irene hands over the book if he wants to hold to for a second. It's not really hers, after all. Not yet, anyway. "It was part of a display." She gestures to some shelves that bear the signage 'Recommended for Young Readers!' "I guess it's popular, but that doesn't mean it's any good." There do seem to be more of those books with the title character and then some follow-up descriptor. His follow-up question is answered with another question. "Oh, do you work here?"
"Yeah, that sure means they want to sell it," Jens quips dryly once the display of books is pointed out. The last question is answered more clearly, "No," with a crooked half-grin, as he fulfills the initial reason he had for coming into this section, sliding a dark green hardcovered book into a vacant spot on a shelf. The spine read 'The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood' in dimmed gold print. "Just helps to give an answer if I know what's behind the question."
"A store trying to sell books. Hard to believe," Irene replies, just as dryly, putting any books back that were taken off their shelves by her. When he puts his own book back, she briefly reads the spine of it. "I suppose," she says, noncommittally. "I was just looking for something a nine year old might enjoy reading." After a beat, she adds, "Smart nine year old." Yes, yes, everyone thinks their kids are smart.
Jens cracks another short-lived grin at the sardonic reply. "Depends on the smart nine-year-old, I guess," he answers, with a short shrug. "Nice thing about having a hundred years worth of options built up in front of you: there's something for everybody. What's this smart nine-year-old like? When they were just a dumb four-year old and didn't know what the world was like, what did they want to grow up and be? Starship commander, Fairy princess, Knight in shining armor, a cop and/or robber?" A glance at the densely packed shelves. "Something for everybody."
It's a few moments before Irene can answer any of that, nothing rolling off her tongue immediately. "Four was..." She doesn't really finish that thought. "In the same year he told be he wanted to be a train." One corner of her mouth quirks up in some wry amusement. "A fish. And a doctor." Which is...quite the array of things, although only one of those would be considered a normal career path. "I'm definitely not going to teach my kid to be a robber. Or any other kind of criminal. Maybe something in space. Or the ocean." Space ocean.
Jens's throat stirs with a silent chuckle at the response. At the flat denial of a criminal, Jens ventures a light joke, "You got something against Robin Hood, ma'am?" There's an almost instantaneous wince, and he shifts promptly back to the space/ocean doctor/fish option. "Sci-fi sounds like a good place to start. Not old enough for the 'Once and Future King', where the kid gets turned into all kinds of animals, but maybe in a few years." A look turned over the shelves, with his newly freed hand rising to itch at his jaw in thought.
"Not in fiction, I don't." In real life, it seems, that Robin Hood is another matter. Irene tucks her hands idly in her pockets. "You must be into old stuff." /Old stuff/, she says, instead of the more accurate /medieval stuff/, given the talk of Robin Hood and Kings. Or maybe it's just in contrast to Sci-fi.
"Yeah, suppose I am," Jens concedes with a nod. "Sci-fi looks a bit too real, some days. What's his favorite subject in school?" he wonders next, still puzzling over the perfect book for this amorphous smart nine year old.
"Yeah, suppose it does," Irene says of science fiction looking a bit too real, brows drawn together slightly in a mildly pensive expression. "It depends on the day, but usually it's science. I mean...recess and PE are favorites, but that's not really helpful, here."
Jen's regard flicks over a few titles, musing at the wall of books as spines are tapped in passing. "Time travel adventure. Mystery. Lot of mystery," he adds with a raised brow. He comes back to the prominent display Irene had started off with. Picking one up, and flipping it over to scan the back, he mutters, "Gonna kick myself if you were right from the start."
"Time travel's a little...too possible. Maybe a mystery. It would be different, anyway. I think." Irene has possibly never read a mystery, or at least not in a long time. She laughs quietly, a low huff of air. "Well, then it's just a lesson in patience and humility for both us of, if so."
"Yeah, don't mind me, rambling on and on about old-fashioned this and that-" Jens grumps at himself as his eyes tick back and forth in rapid, miniature movements to direct a search on the Eye computer. "Series has been around awhile, big backlog of titles, good reviews. Most downloaded titles, blah, blah.. Apparently-" he puts the held volume down, and glances over the shelves, searching. "Apparently, the second book has the kid meet the ocean god." A wry shake of the head. "Fish, and all."
"Really old fashioned," Irene corrects slightly, and a little ironically, given they are in a bookstore that specializes in actually paper books. She blows out a sigh, not quite laughing. "A lesson in patience and humility it is, then," she says with wry humor. "I'll start with he first one and see how he does after his next test, I think. But thanks, ..."
"Jens," names himself very belatedly, a rueful twist curling his uneven smile. "Patience and humility, alright," he echoes with another shake of the head. "And don't mention it, ..."
"Not a bad lesson," Irene comments with a slight smile and a shrug, pulling her hands out of her pockets and picking up the book that she had been holding when this conversation began, again. "Atwell," she supplies automatically, without thinking about the fact that most people give their /first/ names when asked.
"Atwell," Jens repeats, mentally weighing whether to take a stab at form of address, before settling on, "Well, good to meet you. Hope your kid likes it." A polite smile is given, in parting."Yeah," Irene waves, but she doesn't stick around long, already starting to walk away as she speaks. "He will. He's pretty easy like that." She doesn't seem worried, anyway, as she heads to the cashier to actually pay for the book.