It will be a combination used bookstore and café. I will run the bookstore and my wife will run the café. That way we will both become equally wealthy.
We’ll call it Ussalone Books. As a sly rebuke to Quebec’s language inspectors, the name above the doorway will read “Livres Ussalone.”
Customers will be drawn off the street by the smell of early-morning croissants in the kitchen and the sight of late-period Colette in the window. The sign above the display will read “Let’s Colette a Day.” That joke will never get old.
Inside, they’ll find me either working on my latest novel (sure to be the commercial breakthrough the critics have been predicting for years) or sorting the latest arrivals of used books, sold to us by an elderly couple moving into a seniors’ home with no room for their ample collection of twentieth century fiction with zero Danielle Steele. It will be a big pile, but that’s okay because we seem to sell books as quickly as they come in.
Despite the quick turnover of stock, the store will be stuffed with quality books, floor to ceiling, on shelves and in crates, and will smell of paper, nutmeg and pipe tobacco. I’ll know where everything is and will offer generous discounts to the fire inspector, an avid reader of young adult fiction. My offer to sell him a copy of Fahrenheit 451 will be our running joke.
People will read in the café at the back. Go ahead, read all you want, because it will be uncanny how customers won’t be able to leave without buying something, even the people who come in to use the bathroom. It’s called IBG – Independent Bookstore Guilt. So what’ll it be? A book or a bagel?
I will be on great terms with my customers, especially the regulars, of which there will be many – knowledgeable customers who will beg me to set aside the cream of the latest arrivals. But woe be unto the customer who is belligerent or snooty or on record as having enjoyed The Best Laid Plans.
“Do you have any Camus?” the undesirable customer will ask.
“What’s the point?” I’ll say.
“How about a copy of Fight Club?”
“Beats me,” I’ll say.
“It’s a mystery.”
The regulars will smile knowingly at these exchanges, which will capture the essence of Ussalone Books: salt-of-the-earth elitism for ordinary folks who are just a bit full of themselves.
Desirable customers will be the ones who ask, “Can you recommend a book?” In response, I will pose two, three questions tops, suggest a title, and they will come back a week later and say, “Loved it. Lo-o-o-oved it!” They will never, ever dismiss my suggestions and ask instead for romance novels about vampires in kilts.
Besides our in-store customers, we will do a brisk online business, and I will establish a long-distance friendship with a book-buyer in England, just like in the book 84 Charing Cross Road, except, thanks to email, our correspondence will take 20 months instead of 20 years, and I won’t have to die at the end.
The weekly poetry nights will have people lining up to get in, because live poetry is as popular as used books. And the poems will be profoundly beautiful and easily understood, as will be the poets; the “No Mumbling!” rule will be strictly enforced.
“Ross, read us something of your latest,” the audience will implore, and I’ll be shy at first but then will bring the house down with my latest heartwarming but scathing yet hilarious poem. Then I’ll whip out my guitar, and the reading will turn into a hootenanny. I’ll also learn to play guitar.
I will offer free books to small children, unless they’re obnoxious.
It goes without saying that a sweet young couple will meet over a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces, and I will officiate at their wedding, having become an ordained minister between writing critically acclaimed novels and sorting quality books and the guitar lessons.
As the years go by, Ussalone Books will become a treasured landmark in the community, famed for its support of literacy and minestrone soup, a beloved institution that meets the community’s insatiable desire for books and light lunches, especially now that Amazon and Starbucks have gone out of business and Kindles cause sterility.
Wouldn’t that be nice?