Request a Book
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-Franklin W. Dixon
It was an unusually hot day at the beach. The young boy, no more than ten years old, was clearly in code red. One hour more in the blazing sun and he would be completely roasted. His mother had caught it in the nick of time, but he seemed close to heat stroking. Worst of all, he did not appear to be having her decision to take him away from the paradise that is the ocean on a clear, high summer’s day.
She refused an offer of water as she and her son stepped into the store. Neither was she looking to a super hero for her child to pass the day with. The boy insisted unsuccessfully. He begged. Just one Superman comic. Just one.
I was about to give up when I spied a used copy of a Hardy Boys mystery on display. It was propped up in the barely stocked kids’ section.
“How about this one?” I belted out a recommendation for the fifth time.
Frank and Joe Hardy, brothers, solved mysteries and did their homework. Heroes in the annals of American culture.
“See these two?,” I pointed to the Fifties cover of two boys speeding away in a motorboat. Written in the boat’s wake was its title: Tale of the Missing Chums.
The boy remained unimpressed.
I handed him the book; he handed it back to me. I explained about the fun the brothers had solving crimes and missing persons cases together.
Was this above his reading level? His mother assured me it wasn’t.
He wanted the comic. Perhaps he could have both? I said nothing though, staring at him as he stared back at me. Then it came to me.
I went over to the counter and searched the Internet for a contemporary cover. What did “Two Chums” look like in the 21st century?
Completely different. The story’s cover now had a drawing of a black and white skull and cross bones (rendered in a cartoonish, rated G style).
The boy perked up a bit as he studied the new rendering; but still, no sale.
“Do you know what ‘chums’ are?” I asked. “It means ‘friends’ in British English.” This did it. He perked up.
I printed the cover out, cut it to size and taped it to the book. I did not want to sell this precious gift from a good friend and I did not know how much a book like this was worth.
Charging $7.00, the transaction between us was completed wordlessly.
I returned to my work and forgot them. Half an hour or so later, typically quiet while the rest of town was still at the beach, I looked up from my laptop again when I heard gravel that usually signaled a new visitor.
It was the Hardy Boys’ mother and son again, returning to their car. They had taken the time to sit outside on the quiet, shady patio on the south side of the store, surrounded by summer’s wildflowers, mandevilla and an occasional hummingbird.
The boy held his mother’s hand, and with his other one, his new book.