Some days ago friends and I, never mind which ones I cannot seem to remember, were wandering up and down the curved and crooked isles of a local bookstore. I do not recall the express purpose of our venture and I seriously doubt we needed one, but there we were. This bookstore is named after someone; I would assume it is the proprietor’s surname in order to give it an affable sort of feel which is odd because surname be damed! this establishment has the least amiable employees to every grace the literary inclined crowd. I am not sure if they all share the last name and the discourtesy is genetic or if they hire based on the characteristics, but alas it bears mentioning that it is universal within this small, tightly packed place if you are wearing a name tag. It is funny in an odd sort of way that librarians are often older, cantankerous souls who wear their glasses far to low on their noses while bookstore owners are supposed to be full of sage wisdom, are males with patchy tufts of curly hair that stick out garishly from their heads. We have such absurd notions of people.
And in this bookstore on this day there was a grey haired man and his son. The son was a man with two, fine children of his own: a boy near ten and a girl a few years shy of double digits. The boy was determined to find his sister a book until his father kindly reminded him that he too was allowed a book of his very own if you do not include all the hands that held it before the boy slide it across the counter to the clerk. I was on one side of a bookcase when I heard them. I was looking at books on European history and they just a few feet away, a few feet of leaves, and centuries, and bindings, were looking at American military history. Specifically Vietnam.
They were discussing the war and the older man’s first hand experience with it. They wandered out of the history section and I must tell you I followed them. I had been reading much about our less successful wars as of late and wanted to know. The man used a raciest term in reference to the war. I was shocked that after all this time, in the most liberal of towns that I heard these words in public with nary a hushed tone. Maybe that was his right or maybe he was just truly resentful or maybe he would never use that words to describe someone an American of Vietnamese descent. And then, there under the Virginia Woolf tomes the grandfather told his son,” Well, you really do not have to buy it.” “Oh come one, it is not everyday that you find a book you dad is mentioned in.” I let them drift away from me then, their voices muffled by distance and paper. What was he mentioned for I pondered. Would he show the grandchildren that book with pride? With a clear conscience? It is interesting, the notions we carry.