More dispatches from the world of bookselling

The hole between Roth and Schulze

An absence…

A light-hearted and over-long look at a very mundane event

We have become the victims of a very serious crime! As anyone who has ever spent any time in charity shops can tell you, shop-lifting is more than a little common (which does not mean that it is right or tolerated). When your stock is donated and your staff are volunteers it seems inevitable that some nefarious people will take advantage and wander out of the door without paying. Thankfully in the lovely surroundings of Balham we have had not had too much cause to worry about this sort of thing so we let our guard down and started to trust in the essential goodness of people. Nothing could have been more foolish…

 Photo about to be sent to Crimewatch for use in reconstructionA few weeks ago we noticed something unsettling about the shop. Everything looked the same but it was indefinably different. An atmosphere of disorganisation had fallen about the place as though everything had lost its rightful place and was now just ‘arranged’ according to some arcane sense of chaos. We prowled the shop looking for the source of the disharmony and just then a customer came in. She glanced about her in some confusion and after a few minutes made her way to the till. “Alexander Mcall Smith?” she asked and we turned right, towards the fiction, and there it was. The books were all still there, lined up, waiting to be bought but the marker which indicates where the letter ‘S’ begins had gone!

We scoured the shelves in desperation but it could not be found. After a few days we pulled every single book out of its place and moved everything around but still we couldn’t find our ‘S’. It seemed impossible that a whole letter had just walked out of our shop and yet, it had. Our alphabet now makes a little less sense. We are, in short, bereft.

If, one day, you find yourself looking at an old hardback edition of Agatha Christie stories covered in cream card and sticky-black plastic, check that it doesn’t have ‘S’ written on the spine in black marker because if it does, it’s OURS and we’re keeping a place for it.

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