By Gary Hewitt
Tony turned the handle and savoured the smell of dusty pages and creation.
‘Hello there, welcome to The Cuckoo And The Hairnet,’ smiled an ageing employee. Her dyed blonde hair rose in a bird’s nest. She thought it made her young. Tony thought she looked like an overstuffed ice cream cone.
‘Are you looking for anything in particular?’
‘No, I’m just browsing. That’s a strange name for a store.’
Her eyes widened.
‘It is rather isn’t it? Well, the owner wanted a name to grab the passer by. Mr Aitch came up with The Cuckoo And The Hairnet.’
‘Mr Aitch used to write books when he was younger. He wrote a scene where a villain called the Cuckoo was caught by a fiery old harridan wearing a hairnet and brandishing a rolling pin.’
‘Did he sell many?’
‘I think about four copies.’
‘I see, well no disrespect to Mr Aitch but I’m looking for something a bit more exciting,’
The woman laughed and pointed to the back of the store.
‘You’re quite right not to waste your money on that old drivel. I actually read his story once and it was truly dreadful. The books are laid out from A-Z by author. We’ve got the classics as well as some newer stuff. I’ll be right over here should you need me.’
Tony headed to the back of the store. He fingered his way past Dickens, Hardy, Lovecraft before stopping at an author called Paddlethorpe. His finger traced a path down the spine of the book and the red binding rippled at his touch.
He removed the book and a pentagram with childlike writing dared him to peer inside. He flipped the novel over and began to read the blurb.
‘Behold the book of evil. Inside you will find stories to incite you to despair, flee for your life, pray to your God and to run from death himself.’
Tony shook his head. He prepared to return the book yet the tome slipped from his grasp and fell open onto the floor.
He reached down and was aghast at the garish red font. He lifted the book and the handwriting was quite unreadable.
‘Ah, that’s a curious old book you’ve got there Sir. The book of blood I believe it’s called and a very peculiar work of fiction.’
‘You’re telling me. Damn thing slipped out of my hand and what’s with all this weird written text? I’ve never heard of such a thing.’
The woman sighed.
‘Ah, yes well Mr Paddlethorpe was considered a bit of a tortured soul. Local rumours said he was a vampire and used to drink the blood of virgins, all ridiculous nonsense of course but it all adds to his mystery.’
‘I can barely read it. Did he not have it printed?’
‘No, he had hand written ten copies all by himself. He refused to have anyone put it into text although to be honest I can’t imagine any publisher willing to do so. The stories within are all rather self indulgent and not very good.’
Tony slid the book back to its home.
‘How come it’s with the classics then?’
‘It probably shouldn’t be I’ll agree but it is over a hundred years old. I can’t imagine anyone ever buying it though.’
‘How much is it then?’
‘Eighty five pounds.’
Tony shook his head.
‘You’ll never sell it.’
‘We wouldn’t be able to sell it at fifty pence Sir. Still, it’s our owner who sets the price and decides where it goes.’
Tony slithered towards W. His hand reached for Wheatley.
‘I think I’ll settle for this old devil.’
‘Ah, you can’t go wrong with dear old Dennis. Would you like it wrapped?’
‘No, that’s quite all right.’
Tony looked behind him and saw a trail of crimson leak from Paddlethorpe’s masterpiece.
‘Oh that blasted red ink,’ she cursed.
She removed the offending novel and beckoned for Tony to follow her to the counter. He paid her five pounds. His eyes dropped to her reddened hands.
‘This damn book is more trouble than it’s worth. I don’t know why we keep the ghastly thing.’
Tony shrugged and took his novel. He would at least be safe with devil worship.
- - -
Labels: Gary Hewitt