It was while he was unpacking his paperbacks that Richard realized that he owned the Fotonovel for the 1979 George Hamilton-Susan St. James film Love at First Bite. He was unsure how this had escaped his attention while he was packing his books in the first place, but there it was in his hands, an incontrovertible fact.
He wondered how it had come into his possession. Sure, when he was a kid he had always enjoyed the movie when it came on TV, but how had that translated to him acquiring a book based on it? He consoled himself with the notion that it couldn’t have cost more than a couple bucks.
Setting the book aside while he continued his unpacking, Richard resolved to try to sell it to a used bookstore. At best, he hoped to get some store credit. At worst, he would just dispose of it. One less Love at First Bite Fotonovel in the world would not be a tragedy.
There were several used bookstores in town. As soon as Richard entered the first one, Fotonovel clutched in his hand, he knew he was making a mistake. Behind a cluttered desk sat a middle-aged man who had more hair on his face than his head. He was examining a set of musty hardbacks, but looked up when he heard the door. He had an electronic calculator, but no cash register. His one concession to modern technology appeared to be a laptop, which was on a screen saver.
“Can I help you, young man?” he asked.
Resisting the urge to flee, Richard approached the desk.
“Err, yes. I recently moved here and while I was unpacking I found a book that I don’t need.”
“Do tell.” The man sat back in his chair. Richard imagined if he smoked a pipe, he would be puffing on it thoughtfully at this point.
“Yes, so I was wondering what you would be able to give me for this?”
Reluctantly, he proffered the Fotonovel, whereupon the bookseller’s face instantly lit up.
“Oh, my. Is that what I think it is?”
“Uhh, I guess.”
The bookseller leaned forward expectantly. “May I hold it?”
“Sure thing.” He handed the book over. The bookseller handled it gingerly, the way one would a valuable antique.
“Cover looks good, no surface wear, spine wear or edge wear, no loose pages. Why, this is in excellent condition. I daresay it’s almost like new. Are you a collector?”
“Well, I have some books, but--”
“Don’t be modest, young man. This is clearly the work of a preservation expert. I must tell Bill. He’ll be beside himself.”
Richard made a half-hearted attempt at interjecting, but the bookseller was already on the phone and dialing. It did not take him long to get someone on the other end to answer.
“Ah, Bill. Dean here. You’ll never guess what just walked in my door. Are you sitting down? Well, I think you’d better sit down. Now, what would you say if I told you a young man just presented me with a pristine copy of the Fotonovel for Love at First Bite? Yes, the same. I’m telling you, I’ve never seen one in better condition. Hold on, I’ll ask.”
The bookseller cupped the receiver.
“Young man, are you the original owner of the book?”
“I don’t think so. I probably picked it up used.”
“That makes its condition doubly miraculous.”
With that, he was back on the phone.
“Bill, I need to ring off. I must find out how much this beauty is worth.” He nudged the computer to wake it up. “Sure, I’ll call you the moment I know. If you’re lucky, I may even let you see it.”
He hung up and started his online search.
“Well, young man, let us see what this book of yours fetches on the open market, shall we?”
Richard leaned over the desk to look at the screen.
“What site are you checking? I went on eBay, but I didn’t see any listings for it. Is that because it’s very rare?”
“I’m on a bookseller’s resource site. It’s a lot more reliable than any online auction. Okay, just let me enter the particulars.”
Richard could scarcely believe his luck. Without knowing it, he had stumbled upon and kept safe an extremely rare and potentially valuable book. Who knew how much he was going to get for it? Well, the man sitting behind the desk in front of him could.
“Ahh, here we are. Love at First Bite: The Fotonovel. Excellent condition, no wear and tear…”
“This book is worth…”
It took a moment for Richard to process this.
“Less than what?”
The bookseller just shook his head and pushed the book back across the desk.
“I can’t take this book off your hands. You hold onto it. Save it for a rainy day.”
Richard picked up the book and turned it over in his hands. As he did so, he noticed that it wasn’t in quite as good condition as the bookseller had described it. He tried hard not to blush and didn’t think he succeeded very well.
“Thanks anyway, mister.”
With that he left. On his way back to his car, he passed by an open dumpster, which he tossed the book into. And thus there was one less Love at First Bite Fotonovel in the world, which continued turning unabated.