Do You Have a Problem?

Hubby and I are camping in our RV in Pictou. Bored on Sunday, our last full  day, we take a drive, ending up in New Glasgow. We were going to spend time at the mall until I see signs for the flea market at the Aberdeen Centre. We have no idea where that is, and Google maps takes us to the Aberdeen Mall.

“I don’t think this is it,” I say, but just as we pull out of the parking lot, we see a whack of cars parked before a large orange-roofed building at the back of the lot, which looks promising.

Hubby parks and we approach the building. An older gentleman stands outside, belting a country tune.  We pay the two-dollar a head entry fee and begin our adventure.

“I have to go to the washroom,” I say.

Hubby says he might as well go, too, so we trek to the far end of the building. Alongside the back wall by the hall to the restrooms is a massive display of used books. “I’m heading there after,” I say.

“No, you’re not.”

I do my business, fuming that he has the nerve to tell me I can’t browse through books. Surely he was joking.

I wait in the hall for him, dying to delve into the books, and when I see him, I walk ahead and stop at the books. He keeps going. I don’t want to lose him in the crowds, so I run after him to tell him I’ll meet up with him in a few minutes.

“You don’t need more books.” He glares at me. “We’re getting rid of books not buying more.”

“I’m just going to look. Might be something I want.”

“How could you not find something you want in that mess.”

He’s pissed, but I don’t care. I’m not giving up this treasure trove.

The books are unreal. Piles and piles. Hard covers. Paperbacks. Thick books. Thin books. Large and small. Books of every genre for every person. (Well, maybe not Hubby; he has a thing against books!) Numerous tables placed every which way. It’s a maze navigating through the narrow spaces and not stepping on books or knocking stacks over. Though the books are loosely sorted as to genre, it would take days and days to look through them.

Immediately, I see Girl on the Train. My daughter loaned me her copy, which I haven’t read yet.  She has a horrible habit of buying books, and then reading and tossing. Well, if she’s going to throw away her book after I return it, I’ll keep it instead of buying another. I text her as quickly as I can, not wanting to waste precious time—and not wanting to keep Hubby waiting any longer than necessary. “You can keep it,” she texts back.

Good! I pick up Gone Girl. I’d seen that movie, as well as Girl on the Train, but I still want to read both.

I grab Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. And then I see Frank McCourt’s two books Teacher Man and ‘Tis at the bottom of a stack of at least thirty books. I juggle them around and yank out the two, thankful the remaining ten books on top don’t topple.

Okay, four books. Eight dollars. Not too bad. I want to keep going, but I figure I best find Hubby, who might have been upset enough to return to the truck.

For ten too-long, nerve-wracking minutes I search for him. And then I spy him: looking at a display of shoes. When I reach him, I nonchalantly ask, “Are they new?”

He produces a black leather wallet. “Look what I bought.”

I breathe a sigh of relief that he doesn’t appear to be too angry. “Nice. How much?”

“Five dollars. It’s real leather.”

“Good buy,” I say.

He looks at the bag I’m holding. “How many books did you buy?”

“Just four.”

He doesn’t reply. We saunter through the room. I keep my eyes open for more books although I’ll never see anything comparable to the previous stall. The odd vendors have a half dozen or so books, and out of the corner of my eyes, I glance at them but don’t see anything interesting.

I also keep an eye open for the bone china pattern I’d inherited from my paternal grandmother. When the middle glass shelf of our buffet collapsed several years ago, it crushed numerous sentimental and valuable items, including some of the good china. I had every intention of replacing the pieces that were destroyed even though people tell me I’m silly to do so. Children today don’t want their parents’ junk, especially not a set of good china.

Thinking of my grandmother’s china saddens me, as does walking by the stalls and seeing endless tables of “stuff” that obviously no one wants. I recognize similar items I owned numerous years ago, even things I still have.

And then, I’m brought back to the present. I see a book. One lone book on a table: The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Gotta be as thick as Dark Tower. I set down my bag and pick up the book. “How much is this?”

The vendor hums and haws. “Is it worth five dollars to you?”

“No, sorry,” and I take a step away.

“Okay, how much?”

“One dollar.”

He glares at me. “One dollar! How about two?”

“Okay, two.”

I scan the room. Where did Hubby go? If he sees me buy another book, he’ll kill me.

I rummage in my purse for loose coins. I withdraw four quarters and a dime. “Here’s one dollar.”  I glance around, still not seeing him. “Can you put the book in my bag?” I hold it up. “I’ll give you the other dollar in a sec.”

He hesitates while my eyes, going back and forth like a hypnotist’s pendulum, search the room.  “My husband will kill me if he sees me buying another one.”

“I can hold it here for you,” he offers.

“Just let me stick it in my bag until I find the rest of your money.”

Hubby’s probably eyeing me right now. Hiding, watching. Ready to pounce.

“Do you think you have a problem?” the vendor asks.

What! Does he mean like alcohol or drugs? I examine his face. He’s serious. Grim, almost. “No, I don’t. But he thinks I do.”

He slips the book into my bag. I’m still looking around the room while digging in my purse. Finally, I find a toonie. “Give my quarters back, and here you go.”

“Sure you don’t want me to hold it here?”

That won’t work, I want say. How would I return to pick it up without Hubby seeing? “No, I’m good. Thanks.”

I amble away, finally spotting Hubby a few aisles over, none the wiser—I hope. My bag is twice as heavy, though, the flimsy plastic stretching with the weight. If it rips, letting the books loose, he’ll know I lied.

We saunter by more and more stalls, not buying anything else but DVDs. After almost two hours of being at the flea market, Hubby has purchased fifteen. He never has enough movies, but at a dollar each, they’re a steal.  And I don’t mind. They keep him quiet and out of my hair, almost like bribing a toddler with candy. He can watch his movies while I read my books. Win, win!

“I got a better deal than you did,” he says, when we return to the truck.

Really? I got the better deal, but I’m not about to argue. My arm is truly about to break. The bag weighs a ton. Plus I carry ten of the fifteen DVDs.

When we reach our trailer, I place the DVDs by the TV and four books on the small stand in the living room. The fifth I add to the pile on the table.

Later that afternoon, he examines the books. “Stephen King? When are you going to read that? You have a dozen of his books at home you haven’t read.” And then he sees the poetry book. “What is that?”

I hold it up. “Isn’t it neat? Poetry. Want to read?” I flip to the back. “One thousand four hundred and fifty-four pages.”

“You’ll never read that,” he says.

After dinner, he asks, “What are you going to do now?”

“Read, I guess. You gonna watch movies?”

“Are you going to read your poetry book?”

“Yes, I am.”

He laughs.

But we do just that. He watches a movie, and I read a few poems. Then I grab my tablet.

Later that night, sitting by the campfire, after too much wine and still enthralled by my purchases, I randomly flip pages and read several poems to him, the first by Dorothy Parker, “One Perfect Rose.” He’s never heard of her and doesn’t much care for the poem.

The next one is “The Dead Butterfly” by Denise Levertov.  He hasn’t heard of her, and I don’t let on that I haven’t either.

I quickly find two short ones by William Blake. “Heard of him?” I ask. He says yes, but I’m not sure he tells the truth.

“Like any of them?”

“The first one was the best,” he says.

Ah, Dorothy Parker.

And then, perhaps to get on my good side since the evening draws to a close, he says, “I like your poems much better.”

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