I have a new customer at the store.
The non-paying kind. Usually around the age of nine or ten, sometimes older. Arriving on a bike, or a skateboard, or on foot from one of the many apartments near the store.
Most have a key in their pocket and live with a single mom who works and sets different rules for where they can go until she arrives home. Some have the freedom of a few blocks, which gives them both the book store and a Circle K gas station. Some have only one block and can't cross the street that would get them to the store. They stand outside while the others come in and ask for an extra piece of gum for their friend.
My new customer lives in the small, ten-unit apartment building directly behind the store and has only a parking lot to cross. But he can't go outside until his mom comes home. Which is why I never see him until four o'clock or so. He arrives on his bike even though he could get here just as quickly on foot. And he is always alone.
He comes to read the Manga. Sitting in the wooden chair instead of the more comfortable one that others choose, but that would take him a few steps farther from the shelves he likes.
One day last week he asked if I had any drawing books.
"I like Manga," he explained.
"I know," I said.
"And I'd like to draw them. I like drawing too."
I found a book about drawing manga and he went in the other room and sat down in his wooden chair.
He was back again on Saturday. Retrieving the drawing book from the exact spot where he saw me take it and where he returned it at closing time.
I was leaving a little early for an appoinment and there wasn't much time for him to look at the book.
I asked if he'd like to take it home over the weekend. He could read it on Sunday when I'm closed and bring it back after school on Monday.
"I would love that!" he said, with a smile worth more than what I was giving him.
Minutes later he came back in with his mom who doubted how he got the book. "I told you," I heard him say as they walked out.
I have no doubt he'll bring the book back in on Monday.
I'll probably set it aside.
Right next to the pad of drawing paper that I found.
He may want to check them both out next weekend.