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+ PLEX TOURS .7 The Bookstore

There was a lot that Susanna liked about Good Times, Good Tomes

For starters, it subverted the typical tale of small, local, independent businesses being bought up and assimilated by massive chains. In the case of Good Tomes, the building used to belong to LEGACY, one of those vast corporations whose name covered billboards and computer screens throughout the city but no one could tell you exactly what they did. Economic consulting? Technology development? Research? Production? Marketing? They still had dozens of offices and factories but one less than they used to, after that strange night last year when a blackout, a meteor shower and an earthquake had hit the city all in one night. The next day the building had been abandoned. Within a week, after a blitz of renovations, the bookstore had opened. 

Susanna liked the mystery of it all, too. Anyone who knew what (obviously wealthy) entrepreneur was behind the store's launch wasn't talking. Apparently the folks who staffed the place were hired on through a recruiting agency; they all seemed happy with their jobs and well-compensated. The cashiers, clerks, and cleaners were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and gender identities, some had physical disabilities and some were developmentally delayed; diversity was clearly a priority for the owner. It was a welcoming, friendly place. 

She liked the way that they categorized the books on the shelves – not by subject or genre, but by which tarot card the book most reflected. The aisle of The High Priestess might contain fiction by women authors or biographies of female politicians. The aisle of Justice might contain crime fiction or legal texts. The aisle of The Moon might hold books about astronomy or dreams. If you got lost or confused then the staff were sure to help, but the odd layout turned each visit into something of an adventure. 

Not to mention the decor, the music playing softly, the selection of teas and coffees, the comfy chairs. Or the discount that Susanna received because she was a teacher. And the community notice board by the counter was where Susanna had found the ad for the woman she now took guitar lessons from.

Most of all, however, Susanna liked the stories. Not the ones in the hundreds of novels that lined the shelves. The ones that the Book Club told. That was her nickname for them, the odd group of friends who would gather, usually on the second floor, and exchange tales. She was never sure if they were recounting books that they had read (maybe movies they had seen?) or if they were all writers work-shopping their latest ideas, or perhaps even actors rehearsing. And she was never sure when they would meet, but on the days they were here, Susanna would get herself a tea and try and find a chair nearby so she could listen in. 

She had picked up a bit about each member of the Book Club: there was Frank - who was a businessman, Angst – a cheerleader (for a team called the Dragons?), Goner – served in the military, little Suki – still in school, and Max – who seemed most like a writer. How they all knew each other was another mystery. 

A lot of their stories were violent, scary even. Most of them were science fiction. The thing was, Susanna didn't really care for sci-fi stories or violent stories, but there was something about the way that they told them... No matter what the story was about, or even if it didn't always make sense, she always felt it was really about something else. About things like friendship, or feeling lost, about trying to find your way. And there was something about the way that they told their stories, that no matter how weird and wild they were, somehow they sounded like they were true. 

Susanna kept telling herself that one day she would introduce herself to them, ask them if they were accepting members into the Book Club. On the subway ride to and from work she imagined what she would say to them. She imagined what stories she would tell them. 

For now, she listened, like they were music.