The Shrew in the Bookstore

I get a bug in my ear: go to Big Apple Bookstore in Fort Lauderdale. It’s just three miles down the road,  but I haven’t been in two years. I usually buy my books online. My first choice is They sell cheaply with free shipping. Next is the hated amazon. I’ll try to get the book used if I can wait. Usually, when the book shows up three weeks or a month later, I have forgotten it, and I’m surprised—a nice little gift in the mail.

William Shakespeare Complete Poems
William Shakespeare Complete Poems

 I’m looking for a specific book, Shakespeare’s sonnets. A surprising choice as I’m not fond of Shakespeare. Actually, I don’t mind Shakespeare, but I think his plays are meant to be performed. And they are as boring as dust just sitting on the page. Maybe if Patrick Stewart read them? Probably everything would be better with Patrick Stewart. But I like Shakespeare’s sonnets, and I’m working on my poetry. So I was hunting for the book.

Would you believe it was sitting on an outside table at the bookstore? The complete poems of Shakespeare, I have it before I walked in. But I am still excited to go in and nose around. I am taking a break from the piles of work at home, the poetry book I am putting together, the memoir I am editing, and my teenage who was staying home from school, who is also work.

I walk through the door, and I hear her voice. It’s a shrill shrieking, a bit quieter than a scream. The voice continues on and on. She isn’t screaming. She is talking. It just sounds like she’s screaming. I can’t see her. The sound of her is coming from behind a bookcase. She’s talking to the guy that works there. She shrieks, and he responds in a quiet rumble.

“I need a book for a one-year-old,” She says.

“A picture book would be your best bet,” he says.

“I don’t want to get a picture book,” she says.

“What else is going to work for a one-year-old?” he asks.

She doesn’t answer but changes the subject. “Did you notice that the building across the street is getting renovated?” he said.

I don’t hear his reply. I follow the shelves to the poetry section. One of the most fun things about this bookstore is that only some of the books are in order. The bookcases are well organized and orderly, but beneath each lay random boxes with jumbled books of the same subject. I would scan the neat shelves and hunt for treasure in the random boxes.

I can’t poke around today. Her voice is drilling like a spike in my head. I can’t think, and I can’t relax enough to browse.


I think of the word as she recounts where she took her driver’s license test in 1976. I was probably also thinking of Shakespeare’s play Taming the Shrew. defines Shrew as a woman of violent temper and speech. Her speech was certainly violent.

As I walk to the counter to pay for my book, I wonder if there is a male equivalent to a shrew. There are certainly men as annoying. I have been on dates with several of them—their voices droning on and full of bombast.

 She comes into view. I am surprised by how small and slight she is. She is standing next to the cash register. The guy who works there has disappeared. I thought that she was still talking to him. I am surprised to see two men standing close to her, apparently her audience. I haven’t heard a word from either of them.

Maybe she’s doing me a favor. I should get back to work an

I ring the bell at the counter, and place my books on the counter, The Complete Poems of Shakespeare, W.E.B. Dubois’ The Souls of Black Folk, and Selected Poems by Rilke. I’m almost shoulder-to-shoulder with her. She doesn’t move, and she doesn’t stop talking.

“I’ve met the founder of Island records,” she says.

At the sound of the bell, the bookstore guy pops out of the back. I think he was hiding from her and her voice. I spend $12 on three books. That’s hard to beat.

I step out into the warm afternoon, and her voice disappears behind the closing door. I pause a minute to survey the books stacked on an outside table one last time. I don’t want to miss any gems. The light twittering of birds replaces her shrieking din. I draw in a full breath

I feel fresh, like when you wake up after you’ve had a bad headache. I’m grateful; I need to get back to my typing anyway.

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