Unfortunately, a while ago, Joel noticed that our copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was missing from our bookshelf.
Super unfortunately, today he really needed it.
Whether we’d loaned it out or lost it somewhere in the last move, neither of us had seen Norrell and Strange for a good long while. It’s not an easy book to lose; our hardback copy probably weighs a solid five pounds and is a dramatic black with the title and author emblazoned in bold, white printing down the spine and cover. I'd bought it for Joel several Christmases ago and have been quite pleased with its presence in our library. And, most importantly, Joel loves it.
But, back to our saga, for Joel, work is going really well. He’s able to balance his Chiefly Chief role of wining and dining and touring and schmoozing with the Stooge-Getting-the-Job done and manages to trim the diagnoses with an extra little helping of Really Smart from time-to-time.
That is when he’s not coping with a post-surgical complication.
Inside his head.
Last August, Joel finally had his wisdom teeth removed. Suffice to say, it was a rough recovery with a big swollen jaw, difficulty eating, and pain, snot, pain, bloody snot, pressure, pain, and on and on for a while. A long while. Joel’s been suffering from intermittent bouts of malaise, night sweats, and exudate since August. He has adopted my old blue bandana, my one-time hair accoutrement (circa 1997), and turned it into a hanky that permanently lives in his left-hand pocket.
(Joel, not the hanky.)
And through it all, he works. As long as he's got plenty of Ibuprofen and a great work of science fiction to appeal to his inner-English Major.
Well, yesterday things finally came to a head (as it were). Joel awoke with a swollen right cheek and a lot of jaw pain. I said (very gently), “Maybe you should try to get in with Family Practice today?” Family Practice is my favorite; they’re friendly, they’ll give you pain medicine or antibiotics and they rarely use needles in the office, or ever! Joel grumbled, “I think that I’ll have to call Oral Surgery.” And then, Joel went to work, but then today,
Joel called in sick.
Whoa. (He never calls in sick.)
But, he still walked Ophelia at 6:20 this morning. (What a trooper!)
So, later this morning, after a quick consult with ENT, Joel revisited the same office, the same room, and the same chair, in fact, as when he had his wisdom teeth removed in August to drain an old abscess. Poor friend, the abscess was just really getting started, but thankfully was just in the pouchy, fatty part of Joel’s cheek and not in glands (eek!) or bone (yikes!).
But, I picked up Joel battle-scarred from his morning. You know how it goes: first ENT, then Oral Surgery, then X-Ray, then procedure, and then, but then, the long wait for Pharmacy. You began at 8:00 and you’re finally leaving around noon. On top of that, I think that Joel’s procedure was pretty painful.
Well, back to the whole Norrell and Strange quest ... So, I dropped Joel off at the hospital and he agreed to text me throughout the morning so I’d know what was going on and when to schlep back up to the hospital to pick him up. I dropped the kids off at their various places of daily stimulation and then went to the grocery store.
When things seemed to be taking a bit longer than we’d originally intended, I decided - as one does during this time of year - to go Christmas shopping! What better balm for the worried spirit than to shop! How liberating, in fact, to shop for the person that one is worried about! How liberating and thoughtful, I congratulated myself, to buy Joel a copy of a book he’s missing and treasures on this day of all days.
Armed with my thoughtfulness, I stopped by our local independent bookseller, Prairie Lights, to see if they had a copy. Paul, bookseller extraordinaire-guru, greeted me, as he always does, “Can I help you find something to read?”
“Well, actually, I’m looking for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. By Susannah Clarke? Do you have a copy?
“Hmm. I think that book’s out-of-print. Let me check.”
Ohmigod. This is Paul. He’s the guy who know’s every book that’s been published. Ever. If he thinks N&S is out-of-print, it must be true. Paul knows all.
“Oh, no,” I said, “it can’t be out-of-print! I only bought it for my husband a few years ago [Fact check: nearly eight years ago. Whoopsie-daisy, time flies!] for Christmas! He’s lost or loaned out his copy, and he really, really needs a new one.”
“Well,” says Paul after much hunting-and-pecking on what looks like an Apple IIe, “I think that I can scrounge up a paperback next week. Shall I order it?”
“Yes! YES!” says I.
Pleased, but not satisfied, I left Prairie Lights.
I left Prairie Lights and drove directly to The Haunted Bookshop.
The Haunted Bookshop is downtown, but a little out of the way. It’s clean, but absolutely cluttered, floor-to-ceiling with some new, but mostly used books. And cats. The Haunted Bookshop keeps at least three, if not more, cats. They wander about the store, checking inventory, judging people’s purchases, and preventing the really good books from leaving by snoozing on beautiful, vintage copies of Ivanoe and first editions of Winnie-the-Pooh.
Guess who had a mint, hardback copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susannah Clarke for $13.95?
The Haunted Bookshop.
Guess who has it now?
Merry Christmas, Joel. I hope that you feel much, much better soon.
Post-script ... I plan to also buy the paperback copy that will be arriving next week from Prairie Lights. As the bookseller at The Haunted Bookshop said when I told her how happy I was to find a copy, “You can never have too many copies of this book. I have three.”