All Booked Up

Itzhak Volansky insists he isn't much interested in books, or the bookstore he owns. That disinterest is one reason McDonald's Books has become an enormous, wonderful, disordered phantasmagoria that attracts a wonderfully eccentric clientele. And who real

Her glasses are equally spectacular: big and black and framed in artificial jewels. Her purse is bright yellow, her lipstick bright red and liberally applied.

Francesca's queenly carriage and dress have been undermined by a recent tragedy: an aneurysm laid her low and stole her sight. But, she says, "the grace of God" gave her back her eyes and her books, and today she's on a search. She's looking for Bibles and dictionaries -- old ones, new ones, as many as she can find. Her self-appointed task: to trace changes of vernacular in various versions of the Scriptures.

When this royally eccentric bookworm returns to the front of the store hours later, she has finished exploring subtle changes in biblical idiom and found two items to purchase: a paperback version of former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas' The Right of the People and a bizarre little antiquity, a series of small bound and boxed pamphlets from the 1930s, written by someone named Estelle B. Hunter, Ph.D., titled Practical Language and Effective Speech: A New Self Teaching Course.

The cover of each pamphlet is made of red leatherette, slightly rough to the touch. Very nice, really. The pages are yellowed, but only slightly.

Francesca counts the pamphlets. She's scored a complete set of Dr. Hunter's tutorial, meaning that she has purchased an old and extremely rare item that has absolutely no value.

Except to Francesca Causey.
She gathers up the loose papers, notepads, and books she came in with. She adds her new books to the bundle, takes her change from Volansky, and asks for a bag, a nice one please.

"I will bring it back Saturday when I come back to purchase more of my books," she says.

Again, the word hangs in the air like rare music. Francesca darts out the door with new treasure to catch a bus.

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