This isn’t so much a short story; more a character and style experiment.
There is no Dewy Decimal system here. These books are not sorted by genre or author. They are not arranged by colour or size. I would never sort anything by date of publication, or date of anything else for that matter. The publishing house is irrelevant. All I care about is word count. Not even the number of pages or how fat the binding is. Word count reigns supreme. Hardback or paperback; all precisely catalogued by word count.
‘How can I help you today, Sir?’
‘I’m looking for a book on Otters’
‘How long is the book you require?’
When the valued customer tells me 52,943 I can take him to the exact spot without any confusion or need to browse.
I hear your brains ticking over and I know exactly what you’re thinking. What is two or more books have the same word count? Well, then the answer is surely obvious. I sub organise based on the number of letters.
Every book I receive I read, two clickers in hand. One I track the word count, the other the character count. When I started people tried to tell me that I could just ask the publisher for this information to save myself time and energy. But I know that so often they are wrong and I’d hate to be the dishonest bookseller, forever known as the man who short changes you on your words.
Here you pay by the word. Age, author and other applied venues don’t count. You might see a book cheaper or much more expensive elsewhere. But in here, every word is worth it’s weight in gold.
Shorter books to the back of the shop. Longer to the front.
This is my life’s work and I am never alone. This is my life’s work during which I have seen one-hundred-and-sixteen-billion, four-hundred-and-twenty-two-million,forty-nine-thousand, two-hundred-and-seven words form the tapestry of my universe. Each word considered. Each word intended. Some funny. Some harrowing. Long words. Miniscule words. Words littered with literal meaning. Words subtly packed with subtext and intrigue.
You are wondering if I sell many books. I sell words. I sell many words. But if you want a book adorned with pretty artwork, or a name you know emblazoned on the cover and you feel that I am charging too much, then I won’t be offended. This is not the shop for you. You do not value words and as such, I am happy for you to not waste my time.
‘But that’s not a sturdy business strategy’ The cynical capitalists amongst you cry! No. This is not a money making enterprise. These are words. This is not Coca-Cola. I am not Ronald McDonald. I am not here for the fast buck. I am here to protect the syllables and nouns. I guard the energetic verbs that fly across the pages, the letter formations. The adverbs and the subjunctives. The beautiful adjectives and the deified palindromes.
I am currently working on my memoirs. The final word count will be exactly 78,463. One word greater than ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde.