Cover of Treasure Island (New Windmills)
It was sunny when you left home, so you didn’t take an umbrella. An hour later, you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of old artefacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you. Tell us what happens next!
The man was ugly—a dark, brooding chap with a faint air of menace. He smiled; I recoiled.
Yellow betel-stained teeth and the odor of beedis and paan assailed my visual and olfactory senses.
“Come in, you will get wet outside.”
I accepted, dour-faced. I had no intention of making my way home in this downpour.
I started to look around, if only to avoid eye contact with my host.
The shop smelt musty, like old books should.
I started to sneeze and quickly pulled out my kerchief.
“Are these books for sale?”, I inquired.
“Yes, sir, they are. They can also be returned at a discount. 85% if returned within 10 days, 75% within 20 and 60% within 30. Any later than that and you will be refunded 50% of the book’s value. Damages further.”
I smiled. This was a indeed a treasure trove in these days when the Internet and television have made the printed book a relic of the past.
And these were relics indeed!
I jest! These were modern editions of the classics but still worth a dekko.
The rain outside had turned into a torrent and the asbestos roof was making a clattering sound that made shouting over the din a necessity to be heard.
“Two hundred. A Hundred each.”
I fished out my wallet and paid the man.
“Do you have an umbrella, by any chance?”
“Yes. I have a spare one. You can return it to me when you come by the next time.”
“I sure will.”
He fetched me a red ladies’ umbrella from the back. I would normally be caught dead with such a loud, floral design but these were desperate times.
I picked up the books, wrapped in a plastic bag provided by the proprietor and quickly said my goodbyes.
Two classics to read on a wet, monsoon evening—what more could a guy need except perhaps a game of soccer in the rain?
I never paid another visit to the shop; the parasol did not survive the downpour.