I’m sending Isabel and Jack back to Colorado, but I’m going to let Sabrina stay around a little while longer.
Isabel and Jack are brother and sister—I believe-and I first laid eyes on them last month at a used book store-coffee bar in Fort Collins, Co. when I was visiting my brother and his family.
We had gone to this place one morning, and while I have far too many paperbacks in my house already, I couldn’t help but wander over to the used books section in the back of the store.
I’m just going to look, I lied to myself. I’m not going to buy anything.
And I was doing pretty well until I walked by the 50-cent shelf and spotted The Hook by Donald E. Westlake. I didn’t know this particular title, but I’ve been a Westlake fan for a long time.
I thumbed through the book, trying to decide if I should buy it or not when a wallet-sized photo fell out from in between the pages.
It was a picture of a little girl holding even smaller boy. On the back it said “Isabel 3½” and “Jack 9 months.”
That settled it; I had to buy this book. I slipped the photo back into the book and brought it to the cashier, hoping she wouldn’t find it when she rang up the sale.
I have this obsession with finding photographs and other items, but I worried about bad karma, as I was taking a picture that didn’t belong to me. Finding the photo after the sale is one thing, but this felt shady…underhanded.
Struggling with his character…
I tried to rationalize my actions, deciding that the book’s original owner probably didn’t miss this photo, and it belonged to me now since I was buying the book. The human mind is capable of all sorts of moral gymnastics when the need arises.
I wanted to know more about these children. I wanted a piece of these lives, I wanted to learn their stories, but I realize now that I don’t have anything but a picture of somebody else’s family.
I have to make things right.
I crossed paths with Sabrina a few days later during a stop at a coffee place in Durango. When we sat down at our table I saw that someone had left behind a copy of Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey.
I was debating if I should bring home another book when I opened it up and read this immaculately written note on the acknowledgements page.
“28.07.2014 Durango, CO
Sometimes I wondered if I could ever make it through this book. Struggling with his character and his style of writing, I was still intrigued enough to finish. He undoubtedly loves the American Southwest and expresses that in a very moving way. Enjoy. Sabrina, Switzerland.”
I really wanted to keep this book now and not just because I like Edward Abbey. Sabrina’s message made the book priceless in my eyes.
This time I did right thing, though, going straight to the owner and asking her how much the book cost.
“Oh, just take it,” she said. “Somebody left it here. You can have it.”
There was no guilt this time, no worries about bad karma. I handled this transaction on the up and up. Sabrina has moved from Switzerland, to Colorado, and is now with me in Brooklyn.
When I’m done I’ll leave her someplace where for another reader to find. I wonder where Sabrina will go to from there.
Tomorrow I’ll be mailing the photo of Isabel and Jack off to the used bookstore in Fort Collins with a note of explanation and a fervent hope that they will be reunited with their family.
They’ve been on a long, strange trip, but they may get home yet.