Sometimes, Reading Requires a Strong Left Hook

Submitted into Contest #19 in response to: Write a short story about a shop that takes place over a span of years.... view prompt

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June 2nd, 1987

I walked out from the stockroom, reading off the shift schedule. “Randy, your shift is over. I’ve be closing tonight.” I glanced up. “Annnddd Randy is gone and replaced by a small dwarf.”

“I’m not a dwarf!” A little girl with stubby pigtails exclaimed.

“Oh yeah?” I teased. “Show me your hands.”

Confused, she raised them up. I squinted at them. “Oh yeah, stubby hands. That’s a dwarf for you.”

“I’m not a dwarf! I’m eight!”

“So, you’re this many huh?” I held up eight fingers.

Eagerly, the girl nodded.

“Well, do you have this many dollars to buy something?” I asked.

Now sad, she shook her head. I smiled sweetly. “Then get out. I run a bookstore, not a daycare.”

“Books?” The girl cocked her head to the side.

“Yeah, those wads of thin trees smacked in between cow skin?” I gestured around to the dozens of dusty ones that lined the shelves. “They’re full of words and stories. Some written by famous writers, others by crackheads.” I eyed The Theory of  Alien Time Travel rotting on the  back shelf. “So you plan to buy one or not?”

“Not. I don’t have any money.”

“Then put on the puppy dog eyes and beg for your parents for some,”

“I don’t think that will do anything.”

“Yes it will, parents are super weak to that kind of thing. Back in my day, I once convinced my parents to buy me three different cats.” I began to drift off in a flashback. “The 1960s’ were a wild time…”

“Come back to the present, grandma!”

“I’m twenty-seven, dwarf!”

“Doesn’t mean you’re not uuugggglllllyyyy!!!”

My nose scrunched in agitation. “Listen kid, either buy a book or get out!”

“Why would I buy a book if I can’t read!”

I paused. “You--you can’t read? But you’re eight.”

“And you’re ugly!”

“Stop it.” I ordered in a calm tone.

“Yeah, whatever.” She pivoted around. “I’m gonna leave now away. But not because you told me to.”

“Mmmhhhmmm. But hey, umm,” I scratched the back of my neck. “Why don’t you come back tomorrow, okay?”

June 3rd 1987

“It’s hot outside!!” The girl whined. “And my hand hurts!”

“Stop complaining!” I hollered back. “You’re going to make my ears bleed!”

“La la la la!” She shrieked.

“Argh!!” I exclaimed. “Do you want to learn how to read or not?”

“Kind of!”

“That’s good enough for me! Write this! It’s a ‘B’!”


June 4th 1987

“This is… my name?” She asked.

“Yup.” I answered, smirking slyly behind a casually covering hand so she couldn’t see how proud I was. “But you know, ‘Deliha’, that’s pretty weird name for a kid.”

“At least I’m not ugly like you!”

August 6th 1987

I handed Deliha a blank, bound leather notebook. “Here.”

She shifted the item between her hands. Flipping it open a few times, she skimmed the empty pages. “What is this?”

“A journal.” I lit a cigarette and breathed in its toxic fumes. “You should practice writing on your own time.”

September 9th 1987

Around mid afternoon, Deliha waltzed into my bookstore with a goofy grin on her face. “Hey, kiddo. Did school let out early?”

“I dunno.” She hopped onto the counter and snatched a caramel from the candy bowl. Gleefully, she popped it into her mouth. “Ihve neever bean.”


She swallowed the candy. “I’ve never been.”

“Yeah, I got that. Why?”

“I dunno.” She reached for another caramel. I held out my hand and blocked her. “Why would I go to school and just get picked on by the other kids?” Deliha explained.

“Who knows.” I teased. “Maybe it’ll straighten out your bratty personality.”

Deliha glared at me.

“I’m kidding. I doubt they would dare to do that.” I quickly added in a whisper. “But if they do, remember your left hook.”

She giggled. 

“When was the last time you went to school, anyway?”

“I dunno.”

“Shouldn’t your vocabulary improved past ‘I dunno’ by now?”

“Nah. It’s only been a couple of months.”

“Which is why you should go to school. It’s help you even more. Plus, you’ll be learning with kids your own age. Doesn’t that sound fun?”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“I doubt I’d ever get your sticky fingers out of my life, dwarf.” I leaned over the counter. “But seriously, you gotta go to school. Aren’t your teachers missing you?”

“They’ve never met me.” Deliha slipped through my fingers and snatched another caramel. “Im noot eveen enrulled.”

“Your parents didn’t enroll you?”

“They would if they could. It’s kind of hard to do when you’re dead though.”

“Damn, hit a soft spot, sorry.”

“I’ve forgive you if you give me the rest of the caramels.”

I slid the bowl over to her.

“Jookes on yu. I woulda foregave yu annwayz.”

I rolled my eyes. “So how we gonna fix this, huh?”

“Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout? Nothin’ broke. Don’t fix it.”

“Dwarf, you gotta go to school.”

“Don’t wanna.”

“Well, I don’t wanna work, but I still do.”

“You call sitting in this empty store all day working? Ple-ase. If I didn’t come here every day you’d die of boredom. I’m skipping school for you.”

“Uh huh. What’s the real reason, kiddo? Is it what you said earlier about them making fun of you?”

She lowered her head. “I’m just… not smart enough to go to school yet. I’m still behind. If I go now, I’ll be stuck in a room full of dum-dums. With no caramels! It’s a tragedy, honestly.”

“Alright, here’s the deal. I’m going to enroll you in school… next year, when you’re on the same level as the others. But,” I dropped a thick math textbook on the counter. “This is going to be part of that deal. If you actually want to get up to your grade level, you’re gonna have to learn it.”

Eagerly, Deliha stuck out her hand. “Deal!”

I shook it. “Deal.”

September 5th 1988

“Oi! Dwarf! Don’t forget your bag!” I chucked it across the store to her, nearly hitting her in the head.

“Oof!” Deliha exclaimed as she caught it. “You nearly hit me in the head!”

“Damn. My aim is more off than I thought it was.”

“Why is this thing so heavy?”

“I filled it with extra books. Just to keep you busy.”

She groaned.

“And caramels.” I added.

She smirked. “Nice.”

“I know. Now hurry up! You don’t want to be late!”


Just as she left, I called out. “Oh, and dwarf! Remember! Left hook!”

“Left hook!” She chanted.

October 1st 1998

“Oi! Dwarf! Don’t forget your bag!” I chucked it across the store to her, nearly hitting her in the head.

  Deliha caught it with one hand without looking and grinned at me. “Oh come on, you’ve been playing that same joke on me for the past ten years. I’m nineteen now and going to college. I can catch a backpack.”

“Well then, can you caught… this!.” I launched a book at her.

She caught it with her free hand. “The Theory of Alien Time Travel?”

“It’s the only book in this entire shop that you haven’t read.”

“Damn, I’ll get on that. Alright, I gotta get to school now. Don’t want to be late on my first day.”

“See you around, Dwarf. Oh, and--”

“Left hook?”

“Left hook.”

December 14, 2019 04:26

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1 comment

19:49 Aug 29, 2020

This was amazing!!


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