For the third time, he told himself this was not his problem. It was not his problem that the books were all out of order and that this book really wasn’t romance. It was a nonfiction book. A nonfiction book about airplanes. Definitely not a romance novel. But he pulled the book from the shelf and put it on the ground by his feet in a new pile—a pile of books to move out of the section and back into the right one. He couldn’t, could he, be the only one to see the difference between a harlequin and a flight manual?
“What’re you doing?”
It was one of the employees. A new employee. A young girl that he didn’t know. And she was poorly concealing her frustration.
“I’ll put them back,” he pled.
She turned her face away quickly to hide her clenched jaw.
“No. No, I’m taking them off the shelves to put them back in the right order. This book by Mackenzie was in among the Bs, and this one by Donaldson was in with the Ms, and this one,” he picked up his latest find and showed her, “is a flight manual.”
“Oh. Oh,” she said again. She looked back at him, then her mouth turned in a quirk of a grin. “Well, I guess romances can feel like flying.”
“But the book doesn’t go here.”
“No,” she took the book from him, “it doesn’t. Thank you.”
She clutched the training manual to her chest, wrapped in her arms like a teddy bear. He hadn’t carried any book that way in a long time. It was a posture he took with only his most sacred books, books like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, and The Lord of the Rings.
“We can’t pay you, you know,” she said, “and we’re not hiring.”
“No. No. I—I don’t want a job.”
“Oh. Well, good. Thanks, then. I’ll take this over to Transportation.”
“Put the books back.”
He watched her walk away. As she did, she took the training manual away from her chest to peer at the cover then cracked the cover to skim the pages. How she avoided the displays and customers he didn’t know, but she made it to Transportation, slipped the book onto its proper place on the shelf, and walked away without looking at him.
He felt a little let down as he put Donaldson back with the Ds and Mackenzie with the Ms.
A few, quick legal notes: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is written by Douglas Adams. Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers is the first of the Red Dwarf books written by Grant Naylor. Lord of the Rings is, of course, J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpiece.