A woman in a paisley jumper and matching snood came up to me at Publix. We were both wearing masks, and I didn’t recognize her voice. I had no idea who she was.
“Are you the owner of that Little Free Library?” she asked.
“I have some questions,” she said.
“Did you drop off or pick up books today?” I asked.
“Just the opposite,” she answered. “I don’t understand why you have so many mysteries. A lot of people don’t like mysteries. What about us?”
I had never viewed my Little Free Library as a barometer of my taste. Except for removing books bearing mold or smut, I wanted the marketplace to regulate itself. Was there a mystery-averse cohort of the reading public feeling shunned when they passed our house?
“And there are too many kids’ books,” Paisley added, heading to the cashier. We bumped into each other again in the parking lot, and as she passed, Paisley surprised me. “I guess it’s not your fault,” she shrugged, leniently.
“That’s OK. You didn’t hurt my feelings,” I lied. On my way home, I wondered if my book-sharing laissez-faire attitude really was inequitable. I was saving boxes of treasured classic novels and short story collections in our basement. Would my grandchildren ever read them? I chose a few and brought them outside to diversify my curbside stock.
Last year, when the public libraries were closed, my Little Free Library had a banner year. Books arrived and left non-stop. A woman once drove up with a carton of books, couldn’t fit everything in, and left dozens of Curious George and Dr. Seuss stories on the curb. By the next morning, they were gone. Another time, three pristine Moosewood cookbooks were donated. Those disappeared before nightfall and didn’t come back. But here’s the truth: mysteries were really popular. Sometimes volumes by favorite mystery writers were recycled until they fell apart.
But it wasn’t only my Little Free Library at the curb that was on my mind.
Returning home from shopping, I was disappointed to see that the worktable my husband and I had managed to bring down to the street was still there. It had been lying in state for a few weeks, waiting for a new home.
During the pandemic, I had planned to use my unfortunate incarceration for fun projects that involve sawing, hammering, plaster, glue, dye, and paint. I needed a large, sturdy work surface that could take a beating and have no other use than messy projects that leave permanent stains. Real worktables were expensive, and no one I knew had anything that would suit my purpose. Sadly, in order to spend the COVID months productively, I would be forced to shift gears and spend my time bringing all the books up from the basement, an unwelcome purge I had successfully avoided for years.
One day I was driving through Midtown, when I spotted a big, discarded wood table in front of a store under renovation. I pulled up and paid two workers to hoist it into one of their trucks and drive it to our house. “Who would have imagined that I could find a worktable at the very moment I needed it most?” I felt like singing.
There was no room indoors for the massive piece, so we settled it in the carport. Squeezing between our outdoor freezer and storage cabinets to work on projects wasn’t nearly as much fun as I had imagined. Additionally, maneuvering around the table to get into our cars or to move the garbage cans was increasingly unpleasant. The worktable had to go, but I wanted to find it a good home.
We spread the word and contacted several handymen and crafty friends, with no takers. We decided to leave it on the street, hoping that someone who needed it would take it. A neighbor wanted to break it up for firewood. Someone else suggested disassembling it and throwing the pieces into a dumpster. Our county periodically collects large items, which end up in a landfill. I hated these options.
This morning I went to the curb to get our mail and check the Little Free Library. Great news! One of my novels was gone, and so was the worktable! I hope that both items will bring joy to their new owners, and for now, I’m grateful that I’m no longer a person of the table, but that I am still a person of the books. A variety of books.