In an Old East Dallas strip mall, hiding on the back corner of Skillman Street and La Vista Drive, stands the quaint used bookstore, Paperbacks Plus. He has never been here before. He wonders how he missed this place. Why hasn’t anyone told him?
The moment he opens the door the fragrance of decomposing paper causes his olfactory bulb to bounce. His limbic system conjures vivid, nostalgic memories: images of a grandmother, a library with labyrinthine rows, a smiling librarian . . . There’s nothing like the bouquet of aging books, and nowhere else in the metroplex has got it quite like this little store. Eyes closed, synapses firing, he inhales the breath of books once more, and begins to wander the musty rows, hunting for treasure.
And treasure is everywhere. Floor-to-ceiling, packed bookshelves line the tight corridors. The subjects are motley: philosophy, gardening, true crime, romance, high literature, guilty pleasures . . . The organization: alpha-by-author: Abelard to Wittgenstein; Abbey to Zafón.
He makes his way to literature and plucks a copy of Lucky Jim from the upper shelf. This will make a good gift for his friend the pessimist; it costs a mere two dollars. He thrusts the paperback under his arm, but before he can browse past the A’s, he leaves the novels and enters the children's section: a bright copy of The Devil's Arithmetic has caught his eye. This would be perfect for his niece Kingsley, once she’s old enough to read; but at four dollars who could refuse to buy it right now? It can sit on my shelf for a while, he thinks. I’ve been meaning to reread this anyway. . . .
Upstairs he finds books of poetry, magazines, vinyl records, and a few novels that could not be jammed among the others below. A hard-bound collection of George Orwell’s essays stands out. (There aren’t many hardcovers). Flipping it open to a random page he finds a serendipitously relevant passage from the essay on junk shops, “Just Junk—But Who Could Resist It?” He reads,
"A junk shop has a fine film of dust over the window, its stock may include anything that is not perishable, and its proprietor, who is usually asleep in a small room at the back, displays no eagerness to make a sale. Also, its finest treasures are never discoverable at first glimpse; they have to be sorted out . . ."
Downstairs, he pays for his bargains with a wad of singles, and as he walks out into the fresh, crisp air he thinks, This little place has all the charm of Orwell’s junk stores; it’s just better organized. And, if first glimpses got me these two classics, who knows what a little digging might bring up the next time?
6115 La Vista Dr.
Dallas, TX 75214