Coffee, Kittens, Nightgown an’ All

It’s chaos on the half-shelf at the bookstore right now, and I have to admit it’s got fun parts and it’s got … parts.

Yesterday morning I swam up from sleep at 7:30 and wandered upstairs, my bare feet attacked by hungry foster kittens at every step – and found three people at my front door, waiting to get in and organize the upstairs kitchen.

We’d told Kelley, the head chef at SECOND STORY CAFE, that she and her helpers Sam and Thom would be able to get into the bookstore “first thing Thursday morning” to have the kitchen ready for an 11 a.m. health inspection.

“First thing” in the morning is a non-specific measure of time, applied differently by different people. I let the team in, apologized for my long white cotton nightgown (which kind of makes me look like a rumpled Victorian ghost with bed hair) and aimed them toward the stairs. Then I moved to the kitchen to flick the switch on our coffeemaker and grab the cat spoon for doling out their breakfast. The cats, meanwhile, unhappy at the disruption to their routine, chorused protests.

That’s why I missed the soft knocking at the window of the bookstore, next to the kitchen and below the outside staircase. Really, given the state of my hair and nightie, it was Rick who should have screamed, not me. But he was “tryin’ not to startle ya, ma’am,” as he explained once I cleaned up the puddle, opened the upstairs door–kittens and nightgown trailing–and let him in to “get started a little early” on the heat and air installation. We hadn’t expected him until 9, but he figured “one big push today’ll do ‘er.”

Back down the stairs I went, kittens riding my bedtails, to find a man on the porch, waving through the glass door. We’d borrowed the keys to the theatre down the street after the Celtic festival ended, so we could get some equipment out when we had volunteers to help. They needed their keys back. I handed them over and invited the poor soul in for a cup of coffee, since the rich brew’s smell now permeated the house and people were trailing one at a time–circus clowns from the Volkswagen–up and down staircases, headed for the source of life.

Theatre dude cast his eyes over my hair–I think at this point a kitten was sitting in it, too weak from hunger to walk any farther–and nightgown, then declined.

I fed the cats, checked the porch just in case someone else had showed up, got dressed, checked the porch, and went for coffee. Pot was empty.

I love my life.

Circles of Words

Jack and I are getting used to people making lunch reservations, or sometimes just showing up at the bookstore, saying they read the book and had to see the place live. At first, we were a little shy. Believe it or not, that outgoing Scotsman can be tongue-tied around large clumps of people. And me, I’m an introvert.

But there’s something very nice about people who want to see your place because they think it sounds “charming” or “sweet” or even “too good to be true,” or who just want to “meet those cats, Beulah and Val-Kyttie.” (Beulah likes meeting people; Val-Kyttie does not.)

So Jack and I set down a “soup, salad, shortbread and tea supper or lunch” menu and started taking reservations that include chatting, singing, browsing, help with other town attractions: whatever the visitors-to-be want. Mostly people come in book club groups, but we also get girlfriend posses.

Friday past, three couples ate with us and did some browsing, then went on to the outdoor drama of Trail of the Lonesome Pine. I never did figure how Pendy, Jill and Vernelle (and I’m sorry if I’ve butchered the name or spelling!) fit together as a reading group since they were all from different states, but they were a lot of fun. Unfortunately they were the ones taking all the pictures on the day; my new iPhone doubles as a camera, but I can never find the thing when it’s needed.

Vernelle made me a bracelet of tiny paper beads with words on them: a circle of words celebrating people brought together by words. Isn’t it pretty?

word bracelet Words bring circles of different kinds of people together. Saturday, the phone rang and a lady from Oregon made a reservation to meet us in October, when she’d be driving by on her way to the Atlantic coast.


On Sunday (when we aren’t open) I was straightening the porch when a car pulled up. It was Barbara–the lady who opened her own bookstore about 40 miles away, for those who’ve read Little Bookstore. Out with her mom and daughter for a drive, she just stopped to say hi. We chatted awhile, but as they were leaving another car pulled in.

“They open?” the woman called to Barbara, who turned to me, eyebrows raised.

“No, but come on in,” I shouted back, and the lady and her husband climbed the porch steps.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “My husband and I live in Cincinnati, and we were passing through for a family funeral, and when I saw how close we were gonna be,  I told him we had to just stop and see the place. I read your book by accident, and I just loved it. It was like you read my mind!”

Turns out she’d been trying to order a copy of the novel Big Stone Gap, but “all those things you said about small towns? Amen, sister!”

It’s fun, this people visiting thing. You just never know what’s gonna happen next.