His name was Luther Malone but everybody called him the book man. He was an odd little fellow whose salt and pepper hair was balding in the familiar horseshoe pattern and his favorite attire was an almost wornout pair of paint splattered overalls.
He was a friendly man who never failed to offer a smile and throw up a hand when a neighbor was walking or driving by. Children, riding their bicycles, waved and said “hey book man.”
Every weekend at the crack of dawn, he would get into his old fire engine red Chevy pick-up and begin the hunt for the books he called his treasures. After he went to all the local garage sales, he headed to the thrift stores.
He was even known to dumpster dive behind the Salvation Arm Family Store when it was closed. His efforts were always rewarded and he would bring back sacks full of books after every outing.
He wasn’t prejudiced when choosing his books. He didn’t care if they were soft cover or hardback. He didn’t care if they were penned by a famous writer or a one-book author. He didn’t care if they were thick or thin. He didn’t care about any of those things because they were his treasures.
Old man Barnes lived up the street and had a little Jack Russell terrier, named Rufus. The neighborhood had dubbed him “the little Jack Russell terror” because he was fiercely protective of his master. For reasons nobody really understood, the only person Rufus would let come anywhere near old man Barnes, was the book man.
One day, old man Barnes on his daily stroll with Rufus, stopped and looked at the bags in the back of Luther’s truck. He shook his head and said “well, book man. How many did you bring home today?” Luther smiled and said “38.”
“That’s a record, isn’t it?” asked old man Barnes. Luther said “I think it might be.” Old man Barnes said “I reckon you’ll be busy making more shelves.”
That’s what Luther spent a lot of his time doing. He wanted to have the entire basement of his house full of shelves from floor to ceiling but those shelves would have to wait this week.
Luther had been a widower for five years. He had a son named Cole, who was married and had two little girls. It had been almost two years since Luther had seen them and he had never even met his youngest granddaughter.
There was notable excitement in his voice when he told old man Barnes that Cole and his family were coming for a visit the next weekend. “I keep the house right neat” he said, “but I’ve got to get the yard prettied up for them.”
He spent the next week pulling weeds and trimming hedges. He had already chosen the flowers he would pick to adorn the kitchen table and he had gifts for his granddaughters.
The next week, old man Barnes stopped and asked how the visit went. Luther tried to hide his disappointment when he said “well, something came up and they couldn’t make it but Cole said they’d try to get here in a few weeks.”
Luther continued to be ever vigilant in his quest to add to his vast collection of books and he had become quite the expert at building shelves.
He was not one to settle for plain planks held up by brackets. His shelves boasted beveled edges and a dark mahogany stain, finished with two coats of wax.
Christmas was coming and the weather was turning cold but it was no deterrent for Luther. There were fewer garage sales but the thrift stores were always filled to the brim with second-hand items, including an ever-present array of his precious treasures. Thrift stores generally commanded a higher price than garage sales but to the book man, his treasures were worth it.
Once again, a visit from Cole and his family was promised. Luther hadn’t had a Christmas tree since his wife Ardene had died. This year though, he went to a tree farm and picked out the most beautiful one he could find. He got out the old lights and ornaments that had long ago been relegated to a resting place in the attic.
Ardene had carefully wrapped each ornament as if it was priceless. Luther smiled as he examined each one and as he hung them on the tree, happy memories of days gone by came flooding back.
He wrapped the presents he had picked out for his granddaughters and put a tag on them that read “Merry Christmas.”
To be continued________________