The Friends of the Library Book Sale

Deborah Hendrick on Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Dr. Pakensen arrived early, carrying a book bag. His textbook was no longer in print, but in college towns he could usually find one or two each time he went to a book sale. The fundamentals of chemistry never changed, but his Chemistry for the Non-Chemistry Major was dumped after five years. Stupid departmental politics. There’s that dratted Mrs. Pierce. Quick, turn away before she spots you!

“Professor Pakensen! Hello!” trilled Mrs. Pierce, from across the huge room. “What are you looking for? I’ll help you search!”

“Um, the Boer War,” he called out. “Anything on the Boer War, written in Afrikaans of course. You start over there and I’ll start on this side.” Next to the exit.


The elderly woman, her head crowned with a fluffy halo of silver hair, smiled pleasantly to the slim child and said, “Let’s see what you have, dear. Oh! Go, Dog. Go! Very popular. Bear in the Boat. Owl Moon. Fox in Sox. “Excellent choices. But you must have read Go, Dog. Go! a long time ago.”

“It’s for my brother,” the girl said. “He can’t read yet so I’ll have to read it to him.”

“You are a very kind sister. Oh, here’s an old Make Way for Ducklings. I read it to my children when they were young. Look! Make Way for Ducklings has a five dollar bill in it.”

The little girl stared in disbelief.

“Look sweetie,” she told girl. “See how old it is. It’s a 1953 silver certificate. I guess people have been hiding money in books ever since the first book was printed. Leave it tucked inside, and show it to your parents when you get home. It’s sure to be worth more now than it was in 1953. Enough to buy a lot of books if you want to sell it.”


Estelle stood beside the table of old books, one hand on her chest, the other hand splayed across the books. A classic pose of surprise, if anyone had been watching. Think, Estelle, think. How do you want to do this? Fetch the librarian first? No, no. Buy the books and donate them to the library? Buy the books. Decide what to do later.

She left her nearly full, canvas tote bag sitting on the floor, kicked it under the table, and carried the six precious green and gilt volumes to the table by the doors. “$10 each for OLD BOOKS,” said the sign. Thank goodness I went to the bank before coming here.

“You’re a big spender today, Estelle,” said the jovial man as he took her money. “The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion,” he read. “You always find something good, I bet.”


“Find what you were looking for?” asked the young man, standing in line behind the pretty girl.

“I wasn’t looking for anything in particular,” she said, “but look at this—” She dropped her books in a dusty thump on the check-out table and proudly handed them one by one to the clerk. “The Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas by Correll and Johnston,” she said. “I can”t imagine anyone who owned this letting it go. Maybe he died and the family didn’t want it anymore. And this, can you believe it! A first edition of Fowler’s—A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. And look how interesting this is, brand new and never opened I think: Chemistry for the Non-Chemistry Major.”

“Let me carry these to your car,” he said. “Do you go to the university?”

Topics: Short stories

2 Responses to “The Friends of the Library Book Sale”

Linda Says:
May 2nd, 2006 at 12:20 pm

I bet these ‘books’ really exsist, don,t they, you smart cookie. Great story sis, I love all you write. I really do not think I am biased.

Deborah Says:
May 2nd, 2006 at 12:55 pm

“Chemistry for the Non-Chemistry Major” is made up, but I wish someone would write it. It’s the only chemistry book I’d have a chance of understanding. All the other books mentioned are real.


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