Another Sunday; another day in another week. Only this time a crack appears in the fabric of one hour. A hole, if you will, that suddenly swallows the mundane minutes, the usual seconds, twisting them into threads so unusual they border on the bizarrely out-of-time. A happy trip that quickly turns to consternation, makes a brief stop at disbelief, then hightails it full throttle to a place most experienced readers fear to go...next stop, the Bookstore Zone...
I visit my local Barnes & Noble, all two floors of it with Starbucks nestled in one corner by the magazine racks. It has been a while. I like B&N's magazine racks; they are better stocked than Borders. I find Gorezone and Screem issues and nod with satisfaction. I poke and prod a little more among the magazines then take the up escalator in the middle of the floor. My mission is simple: page through any books I can find on The Prisoner television series and check out the Horror Section for any interesting titles to browse.
I circle the second floor. There's Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, but no shelves marked Horror. I am confused. It gets worse when I see a small book rack set aside for Television. I start thinking my browsing experience is not going to be a good one. I'm sure of it when I can't find any books on The Prisoner.
I give up trying to find the Horror Section by sight alone and search using the nearest computer. Within two minutes an employee comes rushing over to berate me for using it. She tells me it is not for customer use. I think about pointing out how it is on, there is no sign saying I cannot use it, and how I can easily use any of the computers at Borders to search for books, but I decide against mentioning it. Over her continued petulance with my audacity, I ask where the Horror Section is. She looks at me with consternation, thinks about it some more. "Horror?" she asks. "Yes," I tell her. "Authors like Lovecraft, King, Ramsey Campbell, you know, Horror." She looks behind her, though I am not sure why, then says, "Those books are in Fiction or Science-Fiction."
Now it's my turn to show consternation. "But Lovecraft is not science-fiction or simply fiction, he's Horror." I am adamant on this point.
"Look, I just got back from being off a few days, I don't know."
She keeps talking down to me as if I am a kid in elementary school and she is a teacher scolding me for being naughty or defiant. "What happened to your Horror Section?" I ask. She can't tell me. She doesn't know. Maybe she was away for more than a few days.
"Do you have any books on The Prisoner?" I have to talk over her because maybe she thinks if she keeps talking I will walk away and not bother her any more. "It was a television series," I add. She stops talking to think about it. She looks behind her again, although the Television section is in front of her. "I checked your sparse section," I tell her. We both look at the untouchable computer. "Let me check," she says.
She types the words "The Prisoner" into the search field. She gets back lots of results that miss the mark. "Let me try this," she says, and narrows the search by adding the word "television." A smaller list of possibilities appears. I lick my lips in anticipation.
"Sorry, we don't have any of these in stock," she tells me. I point to the words IN STOCK next to three of the results. "Yes, those are in stock, but not in this store," she corrects me, pointing to the words NOT IN STORE just above the words IN STOCK.
Faintly, maybe it starts from the Mystery Section--I am not sure--I hear a snicker that rolls softly into a chuckle. It fades away somewhere between the New Age, Religion and Spirituality aisles. "But how can a book be in stock but not in this store?" I am adamant on this point, too.
"Well, we can order it from another store or from the distributor. You can have it sent to you. It usually arrives in one to two days after you pay for it." She misses my--for the life of me, I think obvious--point about the contradiction between IN STOCK but NOT IN STORE. She also misses the whole concept of why I'm here. If I wanted to order it online, I'd have gone online to order it. I'm in the store now. I want to browse the book, now. I did not step into this bookstore expecting to go online to order an IN STOCK book that is NOT IN STORE and have it delivered to my address without browsing through it to make sure it is a book I want to read in the first place.
"Would you like to place an order," she asks. She knows she has me now. She knows I will refuse and be on my way. She has won.
"No, thank you," is all I can say.
"I can print the list out for you. Would that help?" She smiles. It is the smile of rain-drenched jack o'lanterns and Hansel and Gretel witches and corn-stalk scarecrows; the smile of Freddy Krueger and Doctor Pretorius and Murder Legendre.
"Yes, please. Thank you."
She hands me the list. I tuck it into my pocket. I head for the door and step back into the Sunday I left a short time before. I go online and order two books from Amazon on The Prisoner. I do not look at the list.
I will not look at the list as I write this. I will not look at the list, ever.