It's Sunday. I’m in Boulder to celebrate my wife’s birthday with eating, conversing, and shopping. I’m already having a fantastic day when we step into the Boulder Bookstore. I have blinders on as I rush past the new fiction shelves and make my way for the newsstand. I’m a man on a mission. I mean, if any bookstore in Colorado is going to have copies of the Sports Illustrated Brett Favre tribute, it’s going to be in Boulder. They may be out of the latest issue of Vegetarians in Need or Fun with Tofu, but a football magazine should be readily available…assuming they ordered any in the first place.
I turn the corner just past the new fiction shelf and head for the magazines. My eyes are drawn immediately to the bottom row where I see, in all their glory, at least 20 copies of the Favre tribute. It’s as if I've died and gone to Cheesehead Heaven.
I spend the next 10 minutes looking at each copy, weeding out the obviously unacceptable ones and slowly narrowing down my choices until I have three copies to choose from. I look at these three with even more scrutiny. My attention to detail pays off as it turns out one of them has a slightly off-center spine. Just like that, I have the two copies that are going home with me.
I’m not done yet, though. I can’t head to the cashier without looking over the eight copies of the weekly edition of Sports Illustrated; it has a tearful Favre on the cover and features a story on Favre’s retirement so I might as well pick up one of those, too. It only takes me a few minutes to choose the best copy because all but one has serious spine damage. How this one copy managed to escape unscathed is beyond me, but it’s clear the Collecting Gods are smiling down on me today.
I’m all smiles as I walk to the cashier, yet there’s a tugging at the back of my mind. Something’s amiss. Disaster is looming. But the feeling is elusive; I can’t pin it down. Maybe it’s the excitement of getting my hands on these magazines, but for whatever reason, I discard my instinct to hide.
At the cash stand, the big woman with too much cleavage for a bookstore clerk pushes herself off of the counter with a huff. She takes one last slurp of her 80-ounce drink and puts it on the counter mere inches from my pristine magazines. The cold sweat on the plastic cup drips onto the counter.
Her nonchalance paralyzes me. If I were on my game, I’d make an excuse and pull back to get my bearings, to make a plan. But my judgment is cloudy. I’m not thinking straight. I can’t move. The collector in me is yelling to grab my magazines and run, to move over to the next cashier, the one who’s handling Stephanie’s books with care. Anything to save those magazines.
I hesitate. And just like that, disaster strikes. Only it does so in slow motion.
“Oh, Beckham is quitting?” the slob says, reaching for the magazines.
My heart plummets. What did she say? Quitting? Beckham? What?
Her large left paw slides under the spine of the top magazine, the green one. Her thumb presses down on the spine as her other digits push up from underneath, bending the magazine into an L-shape. The spine buckles. I can almost hear it scream as a white crease spreads across the pristine forest green cover.
“Oh, that’s just Favre,” she says, letting the magazine flop back to the counter as she turns to enter prices into the computer.
I’m numb. Her voice is distant, muffled. I can’t respond. All I can do is stare at what once was a perfect spine. I hand her my credit card, a zombie unaware of my surroundings.
The next thing I know, I’m outside with Stephanie, walking to the car.
“What’s wrong?” she asks with worry in her voice. “Honey, are you okay?”
“Did you see that? She totally bent the spine. Practically folded it in half,” I tell her. I’m not really sure where I am. I’m still in a daze.
I don’t speak again until the magazines are set safely in the backseat of the car and we’re reading a menu at some Latin lunch spot. I can’t read the menu; my mind is still fighting its way out of the fog. It takes awhile, but I finally start to get my bearings.
“Can we stop at another bookstore on the way home?” I ask.
Stephanie just smiles and says, “Of course.”
Ah, that’s better. Not as good as already having a nice copy, but it’s a start. This whole Favre thing is far from over, but at least I have a plan.