I had a house-call today, an appointment where I visit a person’s house to (I hope) buy books. I haven’t had much luck with housecalls lately. I usually find reading copies of old bestsellers and little else. Additionally, I have a bit of a cold and I had no babysitter for Tom and Huck. Though I repeated the mantra of Larry McMurtry’s collector/dealer character Cadillac Jack, “Anything can be anywhere,” I was pretty sure there would be nothing here.
Coughing and sniffling, packing my two whining young “assistants” in the back seat of the book mobile, we headed to the home of a deceased woman whose house must be emptied by her nephew and his wife. We drove through cold, dreary San Francisco Bay summer fog. I was the antithesis of optimistic. I did not have the usual excited, anticipatory feeling I get when I hunt for books. I looked forward to returning home to dinner and the summer Olympics.
“You boys better be on your best behavior,” I reminded Tom and Huck, sternly. “And no asking me when we’ll be finished. That’s rude when I am trying to work with someone.” The boys looked at each other and then rolled their eyes at me.
When I arrived at the house, the woman who was there told me that there were books in every room. I’ve had this experience before. Generally, the person fills her shelves with every copy of Danielle Steele she ever read and I go home empty-handed. Worse, I have to tell the person who’s responsible for the books that I won’t be buying anything. I hate it when that happens.
I entered the first room. There were bookcases everywhere. And more in all of the other bedrooms. And guess what?
Not one copy of Danielle Steele.
The woman who’d lived here had interesting books in many subjects, particularly art books, books about printing and typography, books about stamps, and even a complete set of type. I left with about five boxes worth of books and may go back to buy a few more this weekend, after I’ve done some research on what’s left. Tom and Huck were good boys, and helped pack the boxes and move them out to the car.
All in all it was a good housecall. Tonight (this morning, actually — it’s 12:20 a.m.), I sit on my living room floor surrounded by books. I can’t wait to go through each one. I barely notice my scratchy throat, and I’m not tired anymore. I’ve learned a good lesson.
I promise to write “Anything can be anywhere” 100 times.
See you in the stacks!