Friday, November 18, 2011
But no sooner had I turned back to the bookcase when an inner voice screeched in my ear like a siren in the dead of night. Before I even turned around to check I knew – not the birds, but the beautiful Chinese carved soapstone bookends I loved had vanished. I knew they hadn’t sold because I check daily sales online every night. Of course they could have sold earlier in the day, but I knew in my bones that they hadn’t. My subsequent request at the front desk to check the day's log corroborated it.
“Somebody could be walking around with them right now,” the young girl in charge said. “Or they might have ended up in another booth.”
Both options are plausible of course, but I knew that neither one was the case. For the seventh time in a year my booth had been shoplifted. I can’t even explain what this feels like. It’s not just anger – though anger is in there of course. It’s not even just sadness, though that’s in there too. It’s something primal, a personal violation. I know that sounds overly dramatic – they’re just bookends after all, not the Hope Diamond. Their disappearance represents a $50 loss of revenue which, though nothing to sneeze at, isn't the end of the world either. The real thing, the thing that gnaws away at me, is this -- when someone abdicates their own humanity for self-gain they not only lose a piece of their own soul, they snatch a piece of their victim’s soul too. They steal your openness and trust and leave in its place the seeds of cynicism. I don’t want to be a cynic. I really don’t, but I have to say that between the Japanese postcards, Alice Underground, and now the bookends (the three things I had a soft spot for) I’m really struggling.
It’s odd too that of all the things to be taken it was those bookends. Just last Sunday morning when we walked around the lake at Hinkley Nancy mentioned them.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw those Chinese bookends on your blog,” she said. “It reminded me of something funny."
It seems that when Nancy was little she and a gang of neighborhood kids decided it would be fun to have a rummage sale. The only pesky little snag in the grand scheme was their lack of rummage. But they hatched a plan to go door to door with a big red wagon and see if maybe the neighbors would donate some. Turns out they would and it wasn’t long before the wagon abounded with junk of every variety. Only one lone Chinese soapstone bookend, a mottled green in color with a carved vase spilling out a lush plant held any fascination. Nancy, for one, thought it was the most beautiful, exotic thing in this universe. There was a chip to one corner, but even that didn’t take away its luster. Neither did the fact that nobody bought it at the rummage sale. Treasure is treasure whether people get it or they don’t. Years passed and somehow she lost track of the bookend until a couple years ago when she went to Utah for her nephew’s graduation. There, in her niece’s bedroom sat the bookend, still being used and still beautiful in a room that seemed to have sprung up around it, down to the color of the soaring twelve-foot walls
On the way to the sale I told Eric the story and we marveled at how a damaged bookend missing its mate had managed to hang around for decades in the same family when a perfect pair left our company in two weeks. But of course their perfectness is the reason for their departure. Crazy as it sounds though, Nancy’s story ignited the tiniest flame of hope that somehow they’d still be found. As soon as we pulled into the garage after the sale I leaped out of the car and bounded up the stairs to check the daily report, knowing full well what I wouldn’t see but hoping I’d see it anyway. Believe it or not, I actually thought I had.
The second I glanced at the screen the word bookends leaped off the page and into my arms. “YESSSSS!” I shouted down the stairs to Eric. “They sold! They sold!”
But they didn’t.
The guy who’d looked at the bookends with the birds came back and bought them after all.