(Sorry in advance for the weird line spacing...I BLAME IT ON YAHOO! )
The third day of each December could be considered a
miniature Apocalypse for the shop-keepers with the
misfortune enough to own a store within the confines
of the Lincoln Haymarket, a nice-enough place to be
most of the time, but on that specific day, it was
Hell on Earth. The clerks hired to work on that day
would grip the edge of their counter with white
knuckles and close their eyes, breathing slowly, or
would simply flip the sign around to ‘Closed’, run out
the door, and hide in the dark corners of their
houses, awaiting the news that they’d lost their jobs
and would not be expected to return to work the next
December 3rd, it is recorded, was the day the
McLaughlins, a quite respectable couple living on a
quite respectable farm, emptied the old tin coffee can
on the highest kitchen shelf onto their mattress,
divided the bills and coins into sets of eight,
pressed the money into each of their children’s hands
and shooed them out the door, telling them to have a
nice time and be back by dark.
The children, armed with around two or three dollars
each- depending on how old they were- ran down the
mile-long stretch of dust road toward Lincoln, feet
pounding and hearts thumping until they reached their
destination. Once arrived in the Haymarket, the
children would ravage every shelf in every shop,
searching for the right molded-lead soldier, the right
knot of licorice or the right doll with perfect blonde
tresses and eyes that opened and closed. Once they had
found the right item, they would slap the bills onto
the counter, take their purchase by the fist and
sprint to the next shop, trying to get to as many
different stores as they could before the others got
there and found even better things to buy.
There was one girl, however, who lagged quite a bit
behind the others in the rush toward the city, holding
the pages of a book open with a few fingers in front
of her face, humming a little and walking slowly so
she could read as she traveled.
She was a girl of thirteen, with curly brown hair that
could be stylish if she glossed it and a small waist
that could be considered enviable if she wore a
corset, but as you can imagine, a small city in the
middle of no-where with only an abandoned salt mine to
claim as its own, fashion was not at the top of the
list of concerns for its people.
Nonetheless, the girl remained unnoticed, nose
seemingly glued to the inner binding of her book,
trudging toward the shops, sometimes stumbling on
rocks and things that appeared in the middle of the
road and once trodding over an especially stupid
rabbit that had opted to remain on the path and had
not noticed the girl coming along.
Nearly an hour and a half later, when the girl arrived
in the Haymarket, she slipped the novel under her arm
and walked toward the bookstore, where she usually
spent most of her money except for a dime she kept
saved for an ice-cream cone from Suzanne’s Frosty
Parlor at the end of her shopping.
The bell tinkled ominously through the place as she
stepped quietly through the door, letting the musty
smell of paper and dust fill her nostrils and make her
smile just a little bit.
She combed the shelves, running her fingers over the
spines so she could pick out titles she knew or
sounded interesting to her.
At the very last spot on the very bottom rack on the
very last shelf she searched through, she came upon a
book that had obviously not been touched for a very,
very long time, so long that a layer of dust about a
centimeter thick coated the top of its pages.
Sneezing a few times, she blew the dust away from the
book and watched it float in a cloud toward the floor, then wet
her thumb in her mouth and wiped the grime away from the cover.
She slowly read the title aloud under her breath: Blood-Sucking Lemur-gons, Howling Meow-Cats, and Other Creatures of the Night.
She flipped through the pages at a furious pace, just enough to catch the titles at the top of the page, including How To Protect Against Yetis, How To Cure an Eccentric Coughing Pig Bite, and How To Lure Your Aye-Aye Into a Carriage.
Except for the headings, the pages were entirely blank.
She smiled a little more broadly as she propped the books up on the counter and paid the boy behind the desk, inwardly plotting ways to put to use her new book.