Tuesday, November 21, 2023


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

PS I no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M. C. Beaton. People liked Jessica Tartnick at first. Then they got to know her. She enraged the aristocratic landowners of Dembley by insisting her hiking group had every right to walk across their land. Lovers found that when they tired of her and wished to break up, she was very comfortable threatening scandal and exposure. So when she's found murdered in the field she was banned from hiking through, there no shortage of suspects

This is good news for our heroine, Agatha Raisin. Back from six months in London, she finds she missed country life and her neighbor/crush James more than she realized. One foolproof way to impress James was to showcase her ability as an amateur sleuth. 

I enjoy this series. Agatha is refreshingly three-dimensional, with her very human faults on display. I also like spending time with the recurring characters, like the vicar's wife, Mrs. Bloxby, and Bill Wong, the police officer who is forever begging Agatha to just leave the crime solving to him. When, at the beginning of the book, he encourages Agatha to join the hiking group because no one ever got killed walking, I had to smile. Oh yes, they will, Bill. Just wait a few pages.


2. What did you recently finish reading? An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena. Eight people check into quaint, exclusive Mitchell's Inn in the Catskills. They're counting on a weekend of tranquil luxury -- great food and wine, 5-star service, no internet or wifi but plenty of cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. 

Then a violent ice storm hits and they're trapped inside. The first death looks like an accident. But then there's a second ... and a third ... someone is picking them off and they're terrified, with no way to defend themselves and no way out.

Yes, it's a lot like Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. That classic is even in the well-stocked Mitchell's Inn library. It's also got a dash of The Fugitive and a soupcon of Gone Girl tossed into the stew. It's not high art, but it's good, scary fun. It starts slow, but stay with it. I promise you won't see the end coming.


3. What will you read next? I don't know.

She didn't remember

My old art director called me about 10 days ago to catch up. After we blabbed for a while, she told me how much her partner, Kevin, likes me and that he's eager for all of us to get together again. She specifically wanted to meet on Sunday. I thought she chose that day because it was the 19th and my birthday is the 22nd.

When I walked into the bar Sunday, I could tell they were sincerely happy to see me. I could also tell she had completely forgotten my birthday. Kevin offered to pay, but that's just because he's a guy and that's what guys do. This wasn't my birthday lunch. So I thanked him but left the tip.

Which presents me with a dilemma. Her birthday is coming up in December. I was going to invite her to lunch at one of our old work/Michigan Avenue haunts and give her this gift: a personalized compact.

I have to give it to her. It has her name on it! It's not like I can give it to someone else. Besides, it didn't cost me very much. I just know she's a very girly-girl who carries a small purse, so this seemed like a good choice for her.

So this is what I shall do: I'll mail it to her. No lunch. The meal would be the most expensive thing. I also think that if she opens it herself at home, she'll be spared embarrassment about missing my birthday. After all, the point is to celebrate her, not make her feel bad!

The illusion of order

This stock photo* is a fair representation of the card shop where I work. Your eye doesn't go to anything specific, it's just an overwhelming collection of cards and color.

The store, which is small, is filled with boxed cards and decorations. Stocking stuffers. So many rolls of paper are jammed into the bins that the cello wraps are tearing. There's even more paper in the backroom.

Into this world walked Jen. She is "second in command" to our boss, Cece. She's been at the store the longest, even longer than Cece. In her late 40s, a mom of kids under 10, she like me is an ad agency drop out, working 20 hours/week at the card shop. 

But boy, when she's there, does she ever work! I saw that ad agency ethos in everything she did. The floor needed "care," the floor needed "clean up." It needs to be done NOW because Black Friday is coming! We ad folk respond very well to deadlines. In fact, we need them.

She went into the backroom and brought out sequined reindeer antler headbands and asked me to unpackage them. "They won't sell if they aren't on the floor," she said, correctly. She was my supervisor yesterday and I respect that, so I torn cellophane off headband after headband and handed them over to her. Jen placed them in a wire basket on a table that already had mugs and pens and journals and Santa socks and oh, hell, I can't even recall what all else. 

"There!" she said proudly. She seemed to believe now they will sell. I'm not so sure. I don't think anyone will see them on that overcrowded table. 

There was a basket of ribbon behind the counter. It had been delivered over the weekend and no one knew what to do with it. I offered to start sorting the ribbon by color and putting them away, wherever Jen decided "away" was. It seemed like a useful thing to do and it would keep me near the register where I could ring customers up.

Jen quit spinning like a dervish long enough to tell me to concentrate on green. Why green and not red? I didn't ask. She was on a roll. I was to put the Evergreen ribbon in open slots on the display (there were only two open slots on the display) and the rest in the GREEN RIBBON overstock box. 

I did as told but let her know the GREEN RIBBON box's lid now wouldn't close. To Jen, this was catastrophe! She made it plain that, while she wasn't upset with me, she was still upset. How will I or anyone else find the right ribbon to refill the display from a box so overstuffed? Unless every single person in my neighborhood came in for green ribbon on Black Friday, I didn't see that as a problem. There was literally no room for another roll of green on that display.

She had me start a second GREEN RIBBON overstock box. I told her I'd begin with all the pale greens, since they aren't very Christmas-y and could go in the back without being missed. She liked that idea and I worked on that -- and ringing people up -- until my shift was over. I felt a little bad that there was still a wire basket behind the counter filled with red, blue and yellow ribbon, just not green, but I'd made Jen happy and so what the hell.

I overheard Jen telling a regular customer about her on-going kitchen renovation and how this year, she would not be able to celebrate Thanksgiving the way she'd like to. Either the kitchen counters or the floor aren't ready yet. (When you're eavesdropping, you don't always get the whole story.)

Suddenly Jen made sense! Not only is she a recovering agency rat, she is living in a remodeling zone. Her whole life is chaos right now. While she seemed like a spinning ball of frenetic tension and energy, I suspect she was soothing herself by injecting dose after dose of order to the card shop during her shift.

Objectively, I don't believe her efforts did much good. The fact of the matter is: Corporate has sent my little neighborhood store too much product for the floorspace.  

But really, what difference? Jen got to restore a little order to her crazy world and my shift goes faster when I'm busy (even if it's with busywork).

I think the best thing about this job will be learning about my new coworkers and their stories.

*Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash