Today’s Positive Adjective:
Zealous: marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal
Reginald Malcolm Trueblood III descended the creaky wooden steps leading from his one-bedroom apartment to his street-level shop. At the bottom of the staircase, he opened the worn gate and stepped onto the cracked, soggy pavement. The sodden canvas, installed to protect his short journey, concentrated the raindrops and formed a continuous waterfall under the canopy. The latch clattered, and the jamb rattled as he slammed it shut, before plunging through the deluge to the unprotected sidewalk.
He shuffled along the twenty feet to the opposite end of the building, skirted the torrent and stepped into the alcove to unlock the entrance. It was a trip he had performed every morning for the last twelve thousand seven hundred and seventy-five days. The bell tinkled as he opened the door and the familiar aroma of old books greeted him.
The main aisle stretched the entire length of the building, shotgun style, to the back exit. To his right towered rows of bookshelves. They touched the twelve-foot ceiling and extended to the far wall. He had read, cataloged and loving found a home for every book in his collection.
He snapped the light switch, shaking the rain from his coat while the lights flickered, and the ballasts hummed. At the mid-point, Reggie had carved out a small space where he worked. Neat stacks of books and piles of paper graced a large oak library table at the back of the area. A tattered leather couch faced two bedraggled mismatched chairs anchored by a massive, once brilliant, Persian carpet. Behind the couch, a pair of identical lamps sat at each end of a console loaded with more arranged books.
He shrugged, freeing himself from his damp coat which he hung on the rack. He petted the coat’s folds, making sure it didn’t touch his extra sweater, or the two wool throws draped on the adjacent hooks. Satisfied, he turned, and stroking and adjusting each tall book column, he inched toward the single straight-backed chair at the table.
Reggie was a zealous reader and vendor of rare books, although he had sold nothing in his collection. Only the curious or the lost entered his domain. The former he dissuaded, and the latter soon left of their own accord. Today he was looking forward to following another clue. He sifted through his organized notes, ready to begin his work when the shop bell tinkled. Reggie tapped the papers back into place.
“Hello?” a female voice called.
Exasperated, Reggie smoothed the wispy silver hair that hung across his forehead, tugging and pulling at his black cardigan as he scuttled down the row.
“Hello? Is anyone here?”
Reggie poked his nose into the main aisle. It was empty.
“Eh,” he coughed and cleared his throat, “Who’s there?”
A slim girl popped into view from the second row of shelves. She was tall. Wiry. She wore a long dark cloak slung over the back of her shoulders with the hood covering her head. Ebony hair, brown eyes, black leather clucky boots laced up to her knees, and a charcoal colored vest covered with silver chains completed her look.
“Goth,” Reggie muttered.
“What?” the girl asked.
“Got nothing but books here.”
“Yeah, right,” she glanced around and pointed at the shelving. “I see that. But I am looking for someone named Reginald?”
She hesitated then moved closer. She closed the distance between them and extended her gloved hand.
“I’m Layla,” she offered.
“Of course, you are.”
“What? Why ‘of course’? Do you know me?” she asked as she searched his face. When he didn’t respond she looked at her outstretched hand. She turned it palm up and glared at him over the top.
“Social much? Like I said, I’m looking for a dude named Reginald.”
“What do you want with him?”
“I need to talk to him.”
“A personal matter.”
“Who sent you?”
“He hasn’t got any friends.”
“Listen, mister, I don’t have time for this. It’s obvious you know him. His friend gave me this address and said I should ask him for his advice. Can you make it happen or not?” Layla placed her hands on her hips and waited.
Reggie stared back wondering who had sent her.
“Who are you?” Reggie’s gravelly voice broke the silence.
“I told you. My name is Layla. Remember?”
“No, I mean… Who are you?” Reggie paused, elongating each word.
The girl sighed. She scanned Reggie’s face as if she was trying to decide something important.
“I’ll make you a deal. If I tell you, you’ll let me speak with Reginald. Okay?” she asked and waited for his response.
Reggie nodded, and Layla took a deep breath.
“My full name is Layla Trueblood.”
Reggie gasped, his eyes bulged, and he hyperventilated. His knees buckled under him and he reached for the bookshelf trying to steady himself but only succeeded in dislodging books that tumbled on him as he fell.
“Dude, are you okay? Harry. Harry you’ve got to help me I think he’s having a heart—”
Reggie felt her grab his arm, as the gloom swirled around him. He tried to fight it, push it back where it belonged. His stomach lurched, and his ears rang. It was happening again.
“Please, not again,” he whispered. Terror surrounded him, as two strange faces filled his vision and melded with the darkness.
Keep on writing.
Jo Hawk The Writer