Friday, November 18, 2011


I was in a great mood yesterday, anxious to take new books to the mall, then head off to the little rural book sale that bans scanners. We arrived at the booth, marveling at how barren it seems with no chair, but the clock was ticking and we had a bit of a distance to travel, so we quickly got over lamenting it and began shelving books. While we were at the task a customer came in and looked around – a true rarity, as most of the time if I’m there they will pass on by. This guy examined the bird bookends I bought at the estate sale a couple weeks ago and asked if I could do any better on the price. I had to say no, as my profit margin was truly the size of a bean. I explained that to him, he responded cordially, and left without buying them .

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.


Cheryl said...

Seems the mall staff should have a bit more responsibility to control theft. Not sure what they can do but they seem quick to just slough it off

tess said...

I think it's impossible to control it -- even with all the floorwalkers. They do seem very sorry and they do conduct searches, but in every instance turned up nothing of mine. I don't know what the answers are. Who would have thought something that heavy would go missing? No I'm afraid to take over some of the stuff I had planned for Christmas.

sundamornancy said...

As the kid who received the broken bookend years ago, I feel a certain motivation to comment on this. When you find a treasure like that, it is especially cruel when someone steals it from you. Stealing a postcard is one thing, a book somewhat more nervy, but stealing a pair of heavy bookends requires a creepy, incorrigible kleptomaniac. I had so hoped that your story had a surprise,happy ending. I wouldn't put another thing there until you install a glass cabinet with a lock!

tess said...

It IS creepy. I thought I did have a surprise ending, but it was the wrong pair. I talked to a couple people today who have booths and they said that sometimes people hide things until they have the money. It happened to both of them, so we';ll see ...

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of offering to buy the bird bookends for Bill but I guess they sold. If not let me know. I do hope these beauties reappear. I was a little confused though. Are these the two Nancy owned? gin

tess said...

Yeah, they are sold. The guy who was looking at them when I was there clearly went back to get them. I'm sorry -- that would have been a great gift.

Hilda said...

I have been following your blog for a few months. This story makes me feel like a small part of my soul was stolen also.
Thank you for sharing with us.

tess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tess said...

Thank you so much, Hilda, for the kind note and your understanding. I am finally shaking it off a bit, though I did get a note from a woman who wanted to buy them which got me a bit revved up again. But it is what is and I guess if I'm supposed to have them I somehow will.

Thank you for following the blog too. I enjoy it so much and it's fun to get comments. Please chime in any time!

I deleted this the first time as I am a notoriously terrible typist!