Image: Google Images, Labelled for reuse.
Carla Scott wanted nothing more in life than to own a little bookshop in the coastal town she’d grown up in.
Her wish became real when Mr Partridge died. Mr Partridge had been the manager of the local bookstore for as long as anyone could remember.
Carla put in an offer on the bookshop and was soon standing in front with the keys in her hand.
Carla loved the bookshop, it was like stepping back in time. There were no computers, one phone, a very old model attached to a land line was in the tiny office at the back of the shop.
What had always amazed her was how neat and tidy the shop always was. There was never a speck of dust to be found.
Each morning of her first week Carla would arrive early to make sure everything was in order. There was a need to do a thorough inventory of the entire shop, and she hired a few helpers to work through all the stock that covered the vast bookshelves within the shop.
By the end of the first week, she had a pretty good handle on what the contents of the shop were. She was happy to open her second week with a huge sale sign across the front of the shop.
Business was great that week and the care and upkeep of the shop was her next concern.
Every morning when she arrived to find the shelves, the floors and the books looking immaculate. She began to suspect that someone was cleaning the shop overnight.
So, she stayed back one night in the hope of catching the mysterious cleaner.
Around midnight there was movement in the back of the shop, and she could hear voices.
“Get to work and don’t forget the mystery section.”
“Stop ordering me about I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
“Then do a decent job, now get going.”
Carla raised her head from where she was hiding and came face to face with the smallest and most ugly man she had ever seen.
“Shit!” exclaimed the small man, “What are you doing here?”
“This is my shop. What are you doing here?” asked an indignant Carla.
“Your shop? Not likely, this is our shop.” replied the little man with equal amounts of indignation.
“Who are you?” asked Carla puzzled as to where they had come from considering she had double locked every door and window.
For a moment, Carla and the little man sized each other up. Then the little man spoke, “ Calzone Farquarson, my brother Fazart Farquarson is in the back, cleaning the new acquisitions. We are Book Gnomes. At your service.”
Carla was speechless. She couldn’t remember any reference to Book Gnomes when she purchased the shop. “I don’t understand why you are here,” she said puzzled like never before.
“We came when Partridge first opened the shop. We do all the cleaning, and he lets us read whatever books we fancy. It’s a satisfactory arrangement all round don’t you think?”
“Well yes, I guess, but who knows you exist?”
“Well apart from Partridge, only you. You say you own the shop now? What happened to Partridge?” asked a now inquisitive Calzone.
“He died, and I am the new owner.”
“Died? Partridge? Never he was as old as us and never had a sick day.” said the small man. “Fazart get your lazy self-up here. Partridge has died.”
In the blink of an eye, the other brother appeared.
“Died? Partridge? Well I never,” said Fazart in his strange high pitched voice. “Who are you?” he asked looking at Carla.
“She’s the new owner,” explained Calzone to his brother.
“Oh,” said Fazart. “Pleased to meet you but you are holding us up in our work, and I need to get on there’s a new John Connolly novel I’m wanting to get my teeth into.”
“Yes, excuse us Miss Carla, work to be done,” said a now busy Calzone and with that, he disappeared down the children’s book section.
Carla sat quietly not sure what to make of it all.
After a while Calzone reappeared, now he was dressed in a pink pinafore with a duster attached to a belt around his waist. “Can I say, Miss Carla, that its best if you leave things as they are. You keep our secret, and we’ll keep the place in order. You worry about the bookshop, orders, books, etc. and we’ll care for the physical shop. It will work out for all of us.” With that, he patted her on the shoulder and hurried away.
It took Carla some time to get used to the idea of the Gnome brothers but every now and then a note would appear on her desk requesting she order a particular book and stating in their quaint way how they enjoyed whatever book it was they had just read.
Carla ever the business woman, made use of their recommendations when selling or interesting a customer in a new book to buy.
She could see why Mr Partridge had been in business so long.