I didn’t mean to go to France. And I didn’t mean to enjoy it.
At first, I had planned to go to Ireland with my partner, but he decided he wanted to stay home with our cats instead. One of them had been ill lately so I was grateful. I therefore decided to travel myself and select a place he would never want to go. My main choices were Greece and Paris. We have been to Greece before and quite enjoyed it, but he wouldn’t mind if he didn’t see Athens twice. Similarly, Paris has not held any mystery for either of us. I am not particularly romantic, nor do I find the Eiffel tower or the architecture that striking.
I do, however, love art. Are you shocked?
And though I had all but decided to go to Delphi and Meteora in Greece, a flight sale happened that took me to Paris instead. I decided to spend a low-pressure week there simply absorbing art, eating pastries, and visiting museums. Paris inspired the city of Syduire in my novel, so it was amazing to find myself in places like the Palais Garnier and realize that, quite accidentally, I had recreated it in my story. I had never seen nor heard of this opera house before, but once I was in it, I knew it was the Theater I had written about. Amazing. I will write more about France in upcoming posts, because it changed me so much, despite my original disdain for it.
But I’ve been back from France for a few weeks. I then got a tooth removed, obsessed over the World Cup, caught up on work, and here I am with free time once more..and newly inspired to improve my manuscript. I’ve been working on it, then paused at a particular scene last week when work became hectic. Today when I returned to revising, I decided to inspire myself/procrastinate by making some art.
It took no time at all for the town was quite small,
he found the Worder’s wagon behind the inn just like the shopkeeper said he would.
Long and ornate, it reminded him of a carnival wagon. The Worder clearly lived in it – one side had shuttered windows painted a garish green, and a few potted plants clustered on its sill. The door was open but cast in darkness thanks to its small awning. All of this he would have been happy to observe from a safe distance, but then he saw the books piled on the steps.
He had a weakness for books. He had only been in a handful of bookstores in his entire lifetime. Recalling the shopwoman’s nonchalance toward the Worder, Merrick crept up to the wagon and rapped on the wooden rail.
“In,” a harried voice yelled, and Merrick obeyed, ducking into the dark doorway. Books surrounded him, reaching the ceiling in teetering towers. There was just enough room for a slender man to slip between them. Shelves lined every wall, sagging from countless tomes. It smelled like paper and antiquity.
“What do you need?” Merrick heard the voice but did not see it. He weaved in and out of a few stacks until he saw a desk wedged in the corner. A man with tan, narrow features sat there, pen poised above a piece of paper. There was a clipped note to his voice, a slight severity to the vowels, as if he hated to let the words escape his mouth.
“Just looking…” He trailed off as he noticed the Worder was now staring at him. “What?”
“You look around. I’ll pull some books for you.” With that, the man slid out from his desk and disappeared behind a tower of volumes. Merrick blinked, trying to creep towards the doorway in case he needed to escape quickly. He heard the Worder whispering to himself, followed by thumps and clouds of dust.
“Here are some.” The man was at his elbow again, a large crate in his hand stacked high with texts. “Look through them.”
“I.. I can’t–” Merrick stammered as soon as the crate caught his eye. He knew he should decline and leave – he had neither the time, the space, nor the gold for this adventure – but the pile of books, all cracked leather and gold-rimmed pages, called to him.
“You insult me?”
“No, no, I just can’t–” Merrick began. “I can’t carry all those books.”
“Ah, of course. Well, come back with me to the table and take the ones you can carry.”
“No, I don’t need any–”
“They’re your books. You must take them,” the shopkeeper interrupted in irritation. “They demand it.” He retreated to the back of the store, then waved Merrick to follow him.
His mind roiled with theories. Mistaken identity. Some sort of con. Thievery. There was no good explanation for the Worder’s behavior. Yet his feet moved of their own volition, taking him deeper into the bookstore, further into the darkness of paper and ink.
Your books, the man’s voice echoed in his mind.
He only owned one book of his own. The rest belonged to the carnival. It was called The Fisherman’s Guide to the Basskills. It was completely useless, and, at four coppers, that’s also why he could afford it. Every coin spent on himself was a coin that did not help his mother.
The book was only twenty-seven pages, and it smelled of mildew, but it had been his. The thought of owning a nobler book today was more than he could resist.
The shopkeeper unpacked the books from the crate with a thump, sending up a cloud of dust from his table top. A flameless lamp cast a yellow circle on the surroundings. The Worder muttered something, and the word glow flickered into existence above the lamp, bursting with light like a firework. Merrick stared.