Mandy didn’t do anything to make me feel better. Her stories about her holiday just made me even more depressed about mine. She seemed to have had the time of her life, whereas I just lost everything I ever had. I knew I was just jealous and that I should have been happy for her, but in the end it took everything inside me not to yell out to her to stop talking about how wonderful her life was. I know she did not mean it that way at all, but in the end when she finally left and promised to text me that night I was left feeling even worse than when I came to the mall. I had no idea what I was expecting her to do about the way I felt, but maybe if she had a bit more sympathy for my situation I would have felt better.
In the end I walked back down to Bookstairs even though I knew I could not afford anything inside. I just needed beyond anything to be in a place that reminded me that every story has some kind of happy ending. A place where my father once walked and tried to pick out all these life lessons and pages of hope for me to read. I needed to be there and just remind myself that in the end everything would be okay.
“Back again?” Mister Graham asked as I walked through the door, looking up from behind the purple cover of his book.
“Yeah. I just need to be around some books for a while,” I answered, not knowing what else to say. I knew it sounded stupid, but maybe he would understand and just let me be for a while.
Mister Graham didn’t reply. He just smiled as I disappeared toward the fantasy section that I knew off by heart. The section where anything and everything could happen to you and it could still be okay.
I could not help myself from stroking the spines on the shelves, here and there pulling a book from its place and reading the blurb on the back. I didn’t really fancy any of them. I knew there was no way I would find a book in here I would like as much as the books my dad gave me. They were special. Not just because of their stories, but because of the heart it was given with.
“Hmmm… Treasure Island hey?”
Mister Graham’s voice startled me. I didn’t even hear him walk closer. I didn’t even realize which book I had in my hands. I looked down at the green cover, the back of the book showing a map.
“Yeah… Seems interesting,” I answered.
“It is. It’s a classic,” Mister Graham said with a smile as he took the chair right in front of me. “You’ve always been into good books. Some new, some classics. It’s rare nowadays seeing a kid in a bookshop so much.” The smile was still there. Somehow Mister Graham made me think of a gentle grandfather. Or maybe even Santa Claus.
“I don’t really know about that. My dad used to pick most of the books I read,” I said trying to keep the sadness out of my voice as much as I could.
“You know that your dad came in here the first time when he was around your age?” Mister Graham asked.
I felt a bit startled. Somehow I had never really pictured my dad being my age. Sure I have seen pictures, but I have never imagined what he might have been doing in his free time or where he went. I knew he grew up in this town, but apart from that there wasn’t that much I actually knew about him.
“No Sir. I didn’t know. I didn’t even know the bookstore has been here for so long…”
Truly I couldn’t. It wasn’t like the mall was that old at all.
“Bookstairs was owned by my father. I started working in the store when I was around 21. That was in… 1964 if memory serves me right…”
Mister Graham sat there stroking his beard for a few minutes before he continued. “Yes, I am certain it was around 1964. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory just came out. It sold like sweet cakes. Yes. That was actually the first book I sold to your father when he walked into my store for the very first time.”
“My dad liked Roald Dahl?” I asked. I was stunned by this information. If he liked Roald Dahl, why did he never give me one of his books? I could not recall him once mentioning it to me.
“Yes, he did, but he grew out of it quite quickly. Went on to read Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings; real modern classics. Always fantasy. Never anything else. Sometimes he would browse around the store for days before deciding on which book he wanted to buy,” Mister Graham said with a chuckle. “I remember him once sitting and sobbing because he had read everything he wanted from the fantasy section and there was nothing new coming in for a while. It wasn’t always like this,” he said as he waved his hand toward the fantasy shelves. “Fantasy authors didn’t just fall from the sky. It used to be limited. Anne Rice was almost the only author writing about vampires at the time. Well, at least good-looking vampires like the once we know today. But today it’s different. You can throw a rock just about in any direction and hit someone trying to write a bit of fantasy. Some people blame Harry Potter, others blame Twilight. I blame the world. The world has become at times such a terrible place that we all want to escape from it in one way or another.”
“I know that feeling,” I muttered. I would have done anything to escape into one of the books on the shelves. I would much rather fight Voldemort, or take up a journey to Mordor than go through what I was going through the past couple of weeks.
“Yes Cory… Life can be rough, but you should always remember that we are the authors of our own stories. Sometimes outside forces come in and create subplots that we think we can’t handle, but you are writing the story line and you can usually choose to end the subplot whenever you’d like to,” Mister Graham said with a smile as he put his hand on my head. “Now follow me. I have something I would like to show you.”
I followed him to the front of the store where he closed the doors to the shop. I could see that the mall was already nearly empty. All the other shops around already had closed doors, showing that the day of trading was over. For a moment I wondered if it was a good idea to follow an elderly man to wherever he wanted to lead me, while the door was locked and the mall was so to say empty.
“Where are we going Sir?” I asked, but he only mysteriously smiled and answered, “You will see soon enough, but I promise you will love it.”
“Okay…” I muttered although I could not keep my mind from all the books that I have read where it turns out the sweet old man is actually a murderous old villain or wizard or some such. On the other hand there was the little part of me that wondered if maybe my wish was coming true. That my life would turn into a story worthy of the fantasy books on the shelves. I could almost write the blurb myself through my anxiety I was feeling.
When Cory loses his dad his entire world changes… All of a sudden there are massive debts to pay, and before he knows what is happening his family loses their house, everything they own, and are living in the front room of his evil aunt Barbara.
Luckily not everything is all it seems. Within a moldy old bookstore, Mister Graham, who Cory has known since before he can remember leads him to a secret room. When he shows him a secret book and the power it carries to transport you to other dimensions, Cory is on his way on his first adventure.
Who would have known that the old man in the bookstore could have been Merlin the Great, resurrected to lead the savior to his destiny? How could Cory have known that his Aunt Barbara is actually the witch Barbarika who killed his father in order to get closer to him?
Go on an adventure with Cory where he needs to go on the adventure of a lifetime in order to make Merlin proud, find his aunt’s weakness and keep her from taking over the mortal world!
Okay… Maybe the plotlines of the book wasn’t well thought through just yet, but to be honest there wasn’t much else I could have been able to think up in such a short space of time. Not while I was being led to some backroom in a shop in an empty mall, by a man who could or could not be either Merlin, a murderer, or just some freaky old man; the latter of what was seaming to be the most likely possibility, but silently not the option I was hoping for.
“This is my treasure room!” Mister Graham exclaimed as he opened a door which clearly read: NO UNAUTHORIZED PERSONAL BEYOND THIS POINT.
It was just a room. Part of it was saved up for packing boxes on top of each other. Stacking them high up towards the ceiling. No doubt filled with books just waiting for a shelf in the store to open up so that they could join their friends and eventually be taken home with someone who would love and care for them as they shared their stories. On the other side of the room however there was a huge book case with a few hundred books adorning the shelves.
“Those are my beauties!” the old man said gleaming, a smile adorning his face from side to side. “And here is the first book I ever bought when I started working here.”
Mister Graham walked over to the book case, but I wasn’t watching him anymore. My eyes were running over his treasures. There were books so old that I swear they have already celebrated their 1000th birthday. Then again there were books so new that I for a fact know they were not even a full year old.
“Here it is!” Mister Graham exclaimed.
The color of the white dust jacket has changed color over the years. It was no longer the white it was supposed to be, but resembled a yellowish color. The bar of chocolate adorning the top part of the cover was however unmistaken.
“Charlie and the chocolate factory,” I read out loud.
“Yes! First edition, first print. And go ahead! Look inside!” Mister Graham cried with glee.
The first page was scribbled in the biggest and ugliest handwriting I had ever seen.
People like you are why I write.
“He actually signed this book to you? Your name is Benjamin?” I asked looking up at Mister Graham. I could not believe the treasures he was hiding in his small little store. If people only knew…
“Yes! I’m little Bennie. It felt so intimidating standing in front of him while he signed that book for me. I fell in love with books from that moment on. I started collecting, and every single book you see in here is signed by the author.”
I could see how proud he was. This was his entire life’s work. This was his passion.
“This is incredible,” I said as I opened the book again and ran my hand over the signature.
How many authors has this man met? Hundreds? Thousands? Judging by all the books in front of me he has met a lot of them.
“Now come. It’s time to leave. But you are welcome to come back tomorrow,” Mister Graham said, once again the man I have always known.
“I might not be back for a while…” I said. There was no point in coming to a bookstore when you didn’t have money to buy any of them. I held his book out to him as I said; “But thanks Mister Graham. Maybe I will pop in again after a while.”
“Keep it,” he said as he looked down at the book I was handing back to him.
“Sorry?” I was truly confused.
“Keep the book. It sounds like you need it more than me,” Mister Graham said with a smile.
“I couldn’t…” I protested. This was his memory. The book that started it all for him. This was his treasure.
“I insist,” Mister Graham said as he put his hand on my back and led me out of his treasure room. “Someday that book will save you just like it saved me.”
I didn’t know what to say as he unlocked the front door of the shop and pushed me out, only to disappear back into the shop where I assumed he would maybe sit and read for a few hours longer.