7 pm, Paul’s Books

Close the front door.

A sighing hush, plus footsteps and Duke Ellington. Tally up the sales. Settle the credit card machine-thingamajig. Staple the receipts. Empty the cash register, and save the music for last.

Walk a narrow path towards the back of the store, between bookshelves and book-smells: a comforting claustrophobia. Like a tight-knit wool sweater for the soul.

Turn off the fans. Lock the back door. Go downstairs. Empty the humidifier water into the bucket. Water the tree outside. Don’t forget to lock the quarter rack.

Go back inside.

The faint sound of the piano, fading. A jazzy voice, crooning from the void. Nostalgia is the record’s skips and scratches, the floor’s creaks, the pages accruing valuable dust, the oriental rugs, the cassette player, the nooks and crannies and the clippings adorning the shelves, like accidental collages.

Turn off some lights. Leave others on.

Walk outside. Emerge, as if from a closet. The cool just-night air is a splash ofcold water to the face, or an alarm, buzzing. Flip the sign from “Open” to “Closed.”

And please, don’t forget to lock the door.

– Samuel Eichner

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