July 30
I'm a lawyer in my past life, who got the kids through college and decided to try something different and a little more fun. A used book store sounded like a good idea, so that's where I am for now. I just hadn't counted on a recession or E-readers and am a little afraid there's going to be a third act. In the meantime, I have plenty to read and a little time to write. Not a bad way to spend a day.


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JANUARY 14, 2013 9:44AM

The Boy Who Reads Manga On the Wooden Chair

Rate: 36 Flag

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.

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Sweet story. You are an old school merchant with a strong sense of community. I remember sitting for hours with my friends in the corner candy store nursing our nickel cokes and browsing the comics. They never asked us to leave. R
This is a great story. The kind of story we all need to hear more and think about. This century can be the greatest ever if we carry forward the hearts that we grew in the last one.
Oh wow. The hope and vitality of youth gives me tingles down my spine. The future generation is faced with amazing challenges and it will be fun to see what they do. Thank you for helping him.
bookstore chronicles continue!
impetus of Manga (of all damn things )making a boy
spend these treacherous yrs with so many ugly temptations
settle into the Life of the Mind, with your help. Well done
I had to Google "Manga" but I think this young man will go far in life~
Gerald--I remember those days too. Maybe they actually enjoyed having us there. And you meant "young merchant with an old school mentality," right?

David--Thank you. With most of the kids I see, I think we're going to be okay.

zanelle--They're some of my favorite customers, even though they don't buy anything.

James--I can kind of picture you sitting in a hard chair next to the philosophy section.

scanner--I had to google "manga" when I first opened the store too.
You may have made a customer for life.
I really miss small bookstores. I imagine yours is like the Shop Around the Corner in "You've Got Mail." (I didn't know what manga was neither ...)
Margaret--They tend to wander away when they hit their teens.

Nilesite--Keep that picture in mind. But, in reality, I'm quite a bit messier.

toritto--You may be a little more optimistic about the longevity of OS than I am.
Back to Basics: Humanity! R
Lovely. Really lovely. It's the small things. Little acts of empathy and kindness. Pay it forward.
In one of his future mangas (or graphic novels) he may be including you, your bookstore, the parking lot, the neighborhood, and his mom. It's good to know that he has found you and your bookstore, and it's good to know that you have found him.

Please let us know what he is drawing when you see him next and when you get a chance.
Aww, this is so sweet! I wish all bookstore owners were half as generous as you!
oh man. tears. i love you, jl. i do. case closed.
So beautiful...your store's become a library, a safe place for the kids. Thanks for sharing your books & your story!
Thanks to everyone for commenting. He returned yesterday on his bike, on time, and with the book, as expected. We'll see how the drawing goes. Maybe I'll have a picture to post some day.
So nice. You are adding so much to so many young (and not-so) lives. Must be gratifying to do something you love and to do something important.
What a difference you made to him. He will remember your kindness for a very long time. Love this story. R
wow. you may not have any idea how you positively influence this young man's future. great story.
Such a sweet story.
Great story. You have heart of gold. If you can change one child's life, you have benefited society greatly. Who knows this kid may become a great artist and thank you. R
This is a sweet story. You are making a real friend there. I have never forgotten the adults who were kind to me when I was a kid. He will never forget you. Well done. I hope we hear more about him. R :-)
Lucky kid. Back in the day I got yelled at for reading Mad Magazine in the grocery store. With sticky fingers as I was eating a donut.
I remember that I wanted to be Rod Serling,
Once during a duck and cover drill I was reprimanded for mimicking the Twilight Zone theme song. Right up aside the head with a fresh roll of Weekly Readers. Before supper we latch key kids ... one day my friend showed us where his mom's boyfriend hid his six shooter beneath a pillow. He taught us how to check and see if the gun was loaded.
E-readers will never replace the glorious earthy aroma of paper or tactile sensation of turning the page of a book in held your hands. You've written a lovely vignette about a lovely place in a time where few of them exist. The scent lingers on....
You have changed a life and it didn't take much to do it. Bless you this is the kind of story I could read all day long. Rated fabulous really.
[r] awwwww. nice. best, libby
Very nice. I am sure you made a difference in his life.
A truly lovely story. Reminds me of my own favorite bookstore back stateside. Thanks for posting.