Hubby and I celebrated our 16th anniversary the same way we’ve celebrated for the past nine years. We spent the day at The Big Chicken Barn Books & Antiques mall. It’s just what it sounds like: an old chicken barn that’s been converted into an antique mall. The bottom floor is like a huge indoor flea market, and the top floor is nothing but books, books, books. And comic books. And old magazines. If you’re ever in Maine, you should absolutely stop in. It’s right on Route 1…either in Ellsworth or Bucksport…I’m not sure which…but either way, you can’t miss it. I mean, it’s a big chicken barn, with a sign and everything.
Anyway, having already completed my three hour downstairs shopping spree (result: a 19 x 24 antique picture frame and a rainbow clown wig…yes, you heard me; a rainbow clown wig!), I made my way upstairs. I happened almost immediately upon a hardcover book I just knew I had to have. I’d never heard of it before, nor of its author (Charles Mergendahl), and I tucked it under my arm without bothering to read the synopsis on the inside jacket. What was the reason? Get a load of the title:
Don’t Wait Up For Spring.
That’s right, not only did I not know what the book was about, at that moment I didn’t care. All that mattered–at that moment–was the ironic image that immediately popped into my head of seeing it displayed in my bookshelf right next to Waiting For Spring. Call me silly, but I really dig irony.
I think I should mention–in case you hadn’t already noticed–that I also didn’t bother to look at the price of the book. I wasn’t really all that concerned about it–at that moment–to be honest. The average Chicken Barn price range for a regular sized hardcover book (ie: not a coffee table book) is $2 – $5. I had reason to believe this particular book would hover closer to two bucks than five. It was obviously quite old, not in what you would call mint condition, and I’d never heard of it before. Who, other than a weird lady aching for a little irony on her bookshelf, could possibly interested in this book?
Imagine my astonishment, therefore, when (well over three hours later) the cash register informed me that the thing cost $15.
I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. I’m not cheap. Okay, well maybe I am a little cheap–although perhaps frugal would be a better word. But when it comes to books I’m neither of those things. Remember, I’m the geek who paid almost fifty bucks to have Luke Davies’ God Of Speed shipped to her house all the way from Australia. (It was worth every penny, by the way. The man is a genius.) It’s just that fifteen dollars is a lot of money to pay for Irony. Still, if I gave voice to the “What the hell????????” that was running through my mind and declined to fork over the dough, the clerk–who had no knowledge of my Australian extravaganza–might have gotten the impression that I was either Cheap or Frugal. And I couldn’t have that. Because something else I am is Vain. So, I ignored Hubby’s “WTF?????????” look (his total: $19 for seven hardcover books, $3 for a tie pin) and forked over the dough.
As you can imagine, I was itching to find out just why this book had cost me more than two bucks. As soon as we got to the car I read the inside flap. I had purchased a love story set during World War 2, a touching and passionate story of young people in love in war time, of young men at war when they should have been just in love.
“Touching and passionate is good,” I said to Hubby. He just grunted and flipped through one of his new Robert Ludlums. Then I noticed something on the opposite page. “Hey, look! The author signed it!”
Hubby perked up a little. “Signed by the author is good. But is it fifteen dollars worth of good?” (This might be a good time to mention that Hubby is a little cheap.) “I mean, who is this Mergen…Mergen…Mergen-whoever guy, anyway?”
“Well, he’s obviously no Robert Ludlum.”
I investigated a little further. The front flap informed me that Lieutenant Charles Mergendahl wrote this story between engagements at North Africa, Tarawa, the Marshalls and elsewhere. As his book is being published, he is still in active service in the U.S. Navy.
As you may or may not know, I am an avid student of American history. Even if I wasn’t, I’d be aware of the fact that World War 2 has been over with for quite some time. At least, I hope I would have. So the still in active service bit let me know I had something kinda hot in my hands. I checked the publication date. 1944 was the only date listed; fourth printing. Then I noticed something unusual on the back flap:
The format of this book is designed to save paper, which is now rationed…
And, at the very bottom:
BUY WAR BONDS AND WAR STAMPS.
Hubby and I both conceded that my fifteen bucks was well spent.
Bonus: I started reading the book when I got home. It’s very good. Worth every penny.
Hubby and I overheard the following conversation during the downstairs portion of our Chicken Barn visit:
Husband: What do you mean you don’t like it? It’s art! You like art.
Wife: Just because there’s a naked lady in the painting, it doesn’t mean it’s art.