“The stimulation of seeing so many books so suddenly seemed
almost more than was good for the frail little boy.”
George R. Stewart, Earth Abides

STEPPING INTO a used book shop is sometimes like stepping into
another dimension. Where else but a used book store can one find
such an eclectic selection of minds and experiences stored in dusty
tomes, just waiting to be browsed through by anyone who happens

Occasionally a used book shop can be a painful experience,
offering up nothing more than the latest trashy paperbacks and adult
porn magazines.

But sometimes . . .

Sometimes a used book store can provide, to the avid browser, a
mystical experience. Sometimes, walking through that door, you are
overwhelmed with a sense of awe, a sense that something powerful is
being housed within the very walls.

I discovered such a wondrous shop years ago on the corner of
two streets whose names I cannot remember in one of those pseudocities
on the south western edge of the Golden Horseshoe.

Standing on the street, the sounds of traffic all around me, I
beheld the quaint corner shop with curious eyes. The dark and dusty
windows did not allow me a clear view of the interior of the shop, and
apart from the word BROWSERS painted on the window there was
no exterior sign indicating the name of the establishment.

Trying to remember if I’d been to this particular shop before, I
opened the door. The tiny bell overhead tinkled as I stepped inside. I
had to pause as the familiar feeling of awe overtook me. Perhaps you
feel it, too, when you walk into a used book shop – the feeling that all
eternity is poised, trapped in the moment, just waiting to spill forth
into the future.

Literature has always fascinated me. With writing, humankind
has developed the ability to elevate a person to a state of immortality.
And with that, anyone who reads can thus share in that immortal
bliss. None of us have ever had the pleasure of meeting Shakespeare
or Dickens personally, but they are still companions in our day to day
travels. Though long dead, they are very much with us. That is the
beauty and power of literature.

Perhaps that is why I had spent the last three decades of my life
writing, trying to capture the spirit of myself on paper. To that point,
I had been unsuccessful, forced to live vicariously through the bold
efforts of those great masters who’d come before me.

That is probably why I would take such pleasure in browsing
through a used book shop. And occasionally, when feeling daring, I
would fantasize about future generations browsing such a shop and
finding one of my works – essentially discovering my spirit and thus
keeping me alive.

The absence of a book clerk was the first thing I noticed. But
that wasn’t unusual. He or she could be shelving books or helping
another customer. Standing in the tiny entranceway I glanced at the
small podium desk, which I assumed the owner used as a work space.
My eyes then led forward to the next connected room which was
perhaps eight by twelve feet. I moved into it. This room, crammed
with the usual variety of books, led off directly to another room of
similar size.

Trying to get my bearings, I searched through the second room
to find two more doorways to a third and forth room. I took the door
on the right and found, from that room, another three choices.
The peculiarity struck me at that point. I paused and breathed in
my amazement. What looked like such a tiny corner shop was
actually a huge space divided into a multitude of rooms.

I saw myself spending a lot of time here.

(The opening section from "Browsers" a story in the book One Hand Screaming by Mark Leslie. © 2004 by Mark Leslie Lefebvre)

(You can enjoy the entire story for free in digital format via the Smashwords Edition of the chapbook Active Reader)

(You can listen to the full story online or download the mp3 here)


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