A Booking

An old man, a strange one, people said, ran the tiny bookstore that had withstood the covid test.

You may have heard. Many small ones you thought might have rolled over and died during the pandemic didn’t. Not only that, but numerous other neighborhood bookstores not only opened but thrived.

For Reggie, it wasn’t that times had become hard or tight. No, he was, had always been, trouble. From way back before covid.

Reggie knew that the small shop, while it did sell New York Times bestsellers, also specialized in rare books. In fact, he knew that their primary business, what made them money, what truly kept them up and running, was their unique collection of rare books.

And the rarest of the rare were collections of handwritten letters exchanged between Hawaiian royalty, whether locally sourced or reclaimed from missives dispersed abroad. These almost pristine primary documents, letters, in many instances, containing the most intimate thoughts shared among members of the Hawaiian monarchy, were valuable in the extreme.

And raised to be bold and to strike out for himself as he could, Reggie sauntered with unconscionable ease into the little bookstore as if he were the owner of the place. He’d researched it thoroughly. He knew the books were here. He needed only to locate them and take them.

Entering, Reggie surveyed the small store at unfettered leisure and located them easily. There they sat in a glass case near the back. Brashly, he placed his hands on the glass box and was about to lift it.

But at that moment, a voice spoke seemingly out of nowhere.

“These are the ‘aumoa,’ the cared for, the protected,” an old man appearing from the right said, pointing with a sharp stick, not at the books, but at Reggie.

“You, with your mind twisted the way it is, may never touch them, and if you did, you should fear a mighty retribution. It will come with a swift finality. You will never be able to take them or any precious object or person ever again once your initial fate befalls you. Listen to me, son. Walk away now. Save yourself now if you believe there’s any value in your life that’s worth hanging onto and putting to good purpose until you reach the time of your natural death.”

Reggie stared, open-mouthed, at the old man. As if his hands had been cut off for touching the glass cover the way he did, he withdrew them while he hoped he still had them, felt his fingers still attached with great relief. Turning, he hurried away, stumbling in his speed and distress.

But then, ‘I should go back, though,’ he thought, once he’d put a good distance between himself and what he figured was the reach of the old man. ‘Why fear him? He’s probably all talk. A kook.’

Reggie sat down, smoked a cigarette, bided his time until the sun went down. Under the cover of night, he’d go back and snatch the books.

Only fools, however, bolster their chance of success based purely on the notion that darkness will allow them the perfect cover. Some people can see everything, even in the dark, especially if they anticipate a problem.

‘I’ll get away with it, no problem.’ Reggie smiled with great glee at the feeling of his mission being already successfully accomplished before he’d even gone back to the store.

He lit a cigarette.

Reggie enjoyed it as if it were the best cigarette he’d ever smoked. As fate would have it, this would be his last cigarette in this life.

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