It is the last day of school. After dismissal today, we will have seven glorious weeks of holidays for relaxation and fun. We, the fourth formers, together with the second and first formers are assembled in the school hall. The headmaster gives a short speech reminding us not to forget our studies. Then he gives away the prizes to the students who had topped their respective forms in the various subjects. I receive a book token for my excellent marks in English.
After the assembly, we are allowed to go home as there is nothing much to do. I do not go straight home but rather I stop by at my favorite bookshop in town. I want to select a book that will do justice to the $10.00 book token that I have just received.
There are many types of books on display. It is difficult to even to begin selecting a book. There are books on sports, hobbies and crafts, travel, health, self-improvement, and others. On fiction alone there are dozens of titles, all of them equally attractive. There are also dictionaries, encyclopedias, and various other informative books. The books are all very inviting and I have a fleeting wish to own all of them. It is just a thought though, for I know I cannot afford them all.
So I browse around taking my own sweet time in deciding on the book. I want to savor every wonderful minute in the bookshop with the knowledge that I am getting myself a well-deserved present. Though I am in the shop for a long time the proprietor does not mind at all as I know him well. He knows I love to read and I often patronize his shop. I suppose he is always happy to see me for I am a good customer.
After an hour or so of walking up and down the rows of books, I narrow down my search to three books. One is a novel, the second a book on space travel and the last one an anthology of short stories. I pick them out from the shelves and hold them in my hand, trying very hard to decide on one.
The novel is Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22”. I look at the price. It is slightly more than $10.00. The book on space travel is beautifully illustrated with color pictures but its price is a dismaying $25.50. The anthology of short stories is less than $10.00 and it seems reasonable to buy it. I flip through the pages of the anthology and find that it contains six short stories. Two of the stories I have already read elsewhere.
The book on space travel is ruled out because it is too expensive. Now I am left with two books. If I take the novel I will have to foot part of the bill but if I take the anthology I will have some money left over to spend. I am in a dilemma. It is tempting to take the anthology for then I will have a book plus extra money. However, I think of the two short stories I have already read. That leaves four short stories to read. Is it worth the price I have to pay?
Arguments for and against each book crowd my mind. have not experienced this kind of conflict before when come to buy books. This book token certainly is starting to cause me a headache, just because it promises me a free book.
I close my eyes in an attempt to ward off the headache. It does not work. So I take the two books over to the counter where the proprietor is. I put the two books side by side on the counter in front of him and ask him to touch any of them. The proprietor is visibly puzzled by my strange request and he hesitates. I assure him that I mean no harm. Shrugging his shoulders he places his hand on the novel. Ah, he has selected my book for me. He grins in understanding.
I say that I will buy the novel and I give him the book token and the balance needed. He takes the book token and returns part of the cash to me. It is my turn to hesitate but he grins again and says, “a small discount for you.”
Thank him and leave the shop.
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