The little boy came hesitantly into
the book store and approached the stern book dealer, Escribir Livres. "Would
you buy my book?" he asked, thinking of his unemployed mother and seven
starving siblings at home.
"Lemme see, kid," said Livres, grabbing the
book and man-handling it. "Well, it's a Tarzan book," said the dealer.
"But the word Tarzan is misspelled 'Tarzen' on the spine," he growled.
"They probably only made a few of these before they caught the error and
fixed it. So, no, I can't give you much for this. How 'bout 50 cents."
The kid started shedding tears of joy. Fifty
cents would buy two fresh eggs, which could be boiled and sliced thin enough
so that everyone in his family could have a couple sections. He left the
store, knowing that his family could live for one more day.
Livres smiled evilly as the boy left and marked
the book at $1,200, then put it into a bin marked "JT."
"Heh, heh," said the dealer. "He'll buy ANYthing!"
The door chime tinkled again. In walked a middle-aged
man dressed in khakis, wearing a pith helmet.
"Can I help you?" the dealer asked.
"Maybe," said the man. "I just got back from
Africa and darned if a lion didn't get into my tent and try to eat this
old ERB book, The Lad and the Lion. See, his teeth had almost rotted
out and he left a couple of chunks of them imbedded in the cover."
"You're robbing me," said the dealer. "But I
can give you a buck for it."
As the dealer slid the book into the JT bin,
the white hunter left happily, the four quarters jingling in his pocket.
The dealer was sure that JT would give him at
least $2,000 for the book.
The store door opened again. A good-looking
blonde walked in, holding a first edition of Tarzan and the Ant-Men.
"I thought this might be a good collectible," she said. "You see the title
is 'Ant Men' and, look, there are the dead bodies of those tiny sugar ants
on almost every page."
"How'd they get there," said Livres, frowning.
"I eat lots of chocolates," explained the blonde, "and it attracts the
ants. The path to and from their nest leads right across my lap so they're
always walking across any book I'm reading and I smash them flat whenever
I see them."
"I see," said the dealer. "Well, the last thing
any of my customers would want is a book littered with the corpses of dead
insects. If I were you, I'd take this home and dump it in the recycling
Tears welled up in the blonde's eyes, causing
her mascara to run. "Very well," she said. "I just thought...."
"No," sneered the dealer, "you weren't thinking
at all, you stupid blonde."
The next morning JT himself came into the store
and Livres brought out the two books that he thought the completist would
prize so highly. "How 'bout this one," he beamed. "A real rarity, with
Tarzan misspelled in the title."
JT grimaced. "Why would I want that piece of
illiterate literature littering my library? No thanks."
Livres, angered, put the book back. Now he would
have a heck of a time getting rid of it. "How 'bout this, one?" he said.
"Genuine African lion teeth, Probably from Jad-bal-ja himself."
JT groaned. "Another one? I've got several of
"You're getting too hard to please," snarled
the dealer. "I'm glad now that I didn't buy that McClurg of Ant Men
with all the dead formicidae on its pages. By now that monstrosity is well
on its way to a paper shredder."
JT staggered backward, clutching at his heart.
"No!" he screamed. "You didn't! You wouldn't!" He made his way from the
store, almost losing his footing several times on the hardwood floor which
had been slickened with his tears.
The dealer watched him go, shaking his head.
"These darned collectors," he muttered. "How in the heck are you supposed
to know what will make them happy these days."