Submitted into Contest #176 in response to: Set your story in a magical bookshop.... view prompt


Fantasy Fiction

Winslet had tended the books for many years. Time was hard to keep track of in the bookshop. According to family lore, he had first entered the bookshop in a stroller when his mother pushed him in for a book of stories to read aloud to him. He didn’t know it then, but already the books were speaking to him. When he was six and walking past the bookshop on the way to and from school, he often felt an urge to stop and linger awhile in the bookshop. Mr. Digby, the owner and proprietor, never seemed to mind. Later in his teen years, he became an assistant to Mr. Digby. So, all in the village were not at all surprised when after Mr. Digby died and his will was read, it was revealed that Winslet was named the inheritor of the bookshop, free and clear.

Winslet himself, however, was surprised because Mr. Digby had never spoken of this legacy to him. They had spoken of things like caring for the books, respecting the books, and the wisdom and joy to be found in the books. Mr. Digby had once patiently explained that the books held secrets. He told Winslet that one day he would discover the secrets and then he would be charged with guarding those secrets. Winslet thought that very odd. However, he didn’t question Mr. Digby, but simply accepted what he said as truth. After all, Mr. Digby had never lied to him.

The first time a secret manifested happened in the first month Winslet was sole owner-proprietor of the bookshop. He remembered it all very clearly. He was wiping the dust off a shelf containing books telling long ago love stories. Suddenly, there leapt full blown in his mind a picture of two lovers laughing with their heads together sitting on a riverbank reading humorous poetry to each other. No sooner had the image appeared in his mind than a young couple holding hands walked into the bookshop. the ringing of the bell signaled their entry.

“May I help you?” Winslet asked.

“Yes, we are looking for a book with clever, funny poems for us to read aloud to each other,” replied the young lady.

Winslet looked down at the book he had been cleaning. The title on the cover was Laughter for Lovers: A Collection of Humorous Poetry.

“I believe I have just such a volume,” Winslet said as he handed the book to the young lady.

She opened the book at random to one of the poems, and exclaimed, “Oh, this is perfect! Thank you. Darling,” she addressed the young gentleman, “listen to this one.”  She read aloud:

Once there was a fat cat

                       Whose bestie was a rat

                       Together they wandered about

                       Their friendship never in doubt

                       For them, laughing was where it was at!

“What do we owe you?” asked the young gentleman seeing how the book so pleased his companion.

“What would you like to pay?” asked Winslet.

This response surprised the young gentleman, but he answered, “Would two dollars be enough?”

“Yes,” replied Winslet, ringing up the sale and accepting the money. “Would you like it wrapped?”

“Oh, no,” they replied in unison and chuckled.

The young lady explained, “We are going straight away to our favorite bench by the river and laugh together as we read these poems.”

Winslet smiled, and wished them a good day. How curious, he thought, how the image from his mind manifested and how he sold the book for $2.00.

Even more curious, when he returned to his task of cleaning the books on the shelf where he had been working, the same book he had just sold had reappeared on the shelf…dusty no more. This had not happened before.

Thus, Winslet stumbled onto the first secret. When a book leaves the bookshop in the hands of the right owner, it replicates a copy of itself to stay in the bookshop. Winslet couldn’t explain this rationally; so, he realized there was something about the bookshop that couldn’t be explained by reason. This first secret revealed that rules of magic governed the bookshop. Rule number one being that no book could be sold unless the book itself chose to go with the prospective buyer. That choice gave the book the power to replicate itself in order to stay behind and be available for a future buyer later. It wasn’t rational. It was magical.

That first secret brought about a gigantic realization to Winslet. Like most people, he had assumed that magic only existed in fairy tales, not in real Earth life. But, here and now, in the bookshop, he had witnessed magic was alive and present. He wondered what would happen next. He paid closer attention than ever before to the books. He converted the office above the bookshop into his living space. He adopted a stray black cat that wondered into the bookshop one day and stayed, which was a boon to the books, because the mice that had occasionally nibbled on the books moved elsewhere overnight. His living space above the bookshop was cozy and comfortable. It made him happy to be near the books even after he had closed up the shop for the day.

One cold star-filled December night as he sat sipping a cup of tea and gazing out his window, he thought he heard voices down below in the bookshop. He set down his teacup, pulled on his slippers, and gathering his bathrobe around him, he crept down the stairs into the bookshop.

There was no one visible. The voices, however, were louder.

“Shall we tell him?” Voice #1 asked.

“Nah, we should show him,” Voice #2 replied.

 “We mustn’t frighten him,” Voice #3 admonished gently.

“Frighten me how?” Winslet burst out.

The voices were silent.

Had he really heard them, Winslet thought. Yes, he had. He realized he hadn’t yet turned on the shop overhead light, so he switched it on. There was his beloved bookshop just as he had left it when he locked up for the night except for three books lying on the re-shelving counter top that he knew he had cleared up before locking up for the night. Staring at those books, a tingling began at his toes and swiftly spread all throughout his body rooting him to the spot where he stood. Then, the tingling was gone. The books were gone too. On a hunch, he went to the shelf where he knew he had placed them. Astonishingly, they were there!

“You didn’t imagine it,” whispered Voice #1.

“No, indeed,” confirmed Voice #2.

Winslet joined the conversation saying, “If I didn’t imagine it, then what happened?”

Without missing a beat, Voice #3 responded matter-of-factly, “Magic happened. You heard us discussing to tell or show you a bit of magic for belief’s sake.”

Winslet nodded along with each word.

“When you heard us and came down here, we knew showing you was the best way,” continued Voice #3.

Winslet sank into one of the comfy reading chairs scattered here and there about the bookshop. He kept muttering aloud to himself like a mantra, “Magic is real. Magic is real. I believe. I believe.”

And so, he did for the rest of his long, long life.

December 16, 2022 22:34

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Julia Corliss
06:20 Jan 08, 2023

Thank you for taking time to read my story and post this encouraging, appreciative comment. Books have flowed in and out of my hands all my life, and I swear sometimes, the books would "tell" me where they wanted to go..sometimes a specific person and sometimes an organization. It has varied, so I decided what if the books really were in some magical way communicating where they wanted to go after I had finished with them. Thus was born the idea that manifested in this story.


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Chad Eastwood
16:26 Jan 04, 2023

I love the idea of a book going to the correct person and then reappearing. Excellent!


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