The true story below happened about seven years ago. I still haven’t found the gumption to tell the owner what happened in her bookstore that day. Some things are just better kept unknown or are they?
The bookstore was cramped and maybe a bit small for a book signing. The co-owners had worked hard to use every inch of its meager space. The ladies wanted nothing less than for their customers to have a unique experience while perusing shelves of books. The day I signed books there was certainly that.
When I arrived both were busy preparing hors d’oeuvres for the event. Off to the side, they worked in a quiet, cozy reading area. Adjoining this area, separated and isolated by a glass window was where I would read and sign books. The little seating area felt like being a fish in a fish bowl—you could see out, but you couldn’t easily get out. Through the glass window all happenings in the bookstore were in view.
As I sat there, to my right, I watched through the glass as the owners prepare a table. Customers in the store could not see me or the table; a ceiling-high bookshelf blocked their view. Behind the bookshelf, both ladies arranged drinks, hors d’oeuvres, finger food, and a host of snacks for the soon to arrive attendees.
After preparing the treats, both co-owners came to the other side of the glass window—inside the reading room. We spoke briefly. One owner soon left to assist a customer. The other lingered and we talked. Then, hearing more people enter the bookstore, she too left. Alone in silence, I picked up a book and started to read.
A minute passed. For no particular reason I looked up and could not believe what I saw through that glass window. Something was there that I’d seen often in other bookstores, but this time the something was acting out of character. The something was a cat. Quiet as a mouse he tiptoed across the table, stepping on the culinary delights—the tiny triangle sandwiches, the green and black olives, and the cheese filled celery stalks. Head down, he prowled the table top, sniffing, licking, and nibbling each delicacy.
I sprung to my feet, but then hesitated. I told myself, you should do something, but what and how? I knew some people didn’t take kindly to strangers correcting their pet. Still feeling torn and compelled, I scrambled to the hors d’oeuvre table. The cat glanced back at me indifferently. He smugly turned his head away and continued to sample the food. I fought back a strong urge to yell or strike at the cat. Seeing me frantically wave my arms, he reluctantly dropped to the floor.
About the same time his paws hit the floor, one of the co-owners approached from around the corner of the bookshelf. She saw me grimacing and silently waving my arms but she didn’t see the cat. He had run under the bookshelf. She looked at me, twisted her face and asked “are you okay?”
Before I answered, she zipped on up to the table and grabbed a cheese- filled celery stalk. Munching on it as I gasped, she asked, “Would you like something to snack on before the crowd gets here? I think there will be plenty.”
“No. Uh-uh. … No. I think I’ll pass on that.”
Cutting my eyes up the aisle, I watched the cat mosey along, painting a trail of pimento cheese on the carpet.