“You come here often?”

“Uh, yeah. That’s kind of necessary when you work at a place.”

“Oh, I’m… Didn’t see your nametag. Melissa, huh?”

“That’s what my parents named me.”

“I’m Jay. Look, I… We didn’t get off to a good start. I’m not a creep. I mean, I read and everything. See? You read this one before?”

“It was assigned to me freshman year, yes.”

“Such a good book. Harold Caulfield was a great protagonist.”



“Never mind. Sorry, but I’ve got to get back to work.”

“Oh, uh, yeah. Okay.”


“Oh, it’s… It’s you.”

“You seem pleased to see me again.”


“Just finished this one. Really heavy stuff. Please tell me you’ve read it.”

“Required reading when I was a sophomore. At least we’re getting closer.”

“Tell me it’s not the best damn dystopia you’ve read.”

“I would be impressed by your proper use of the term dystopia if I didn’t have the sneaking suspicion that you googled it like point five seconds before walking in the store.”

“Guilty as charged.”


“Hey, at least I’m honest. I read it, though, for real! Umm… ‘Under the spreading chestnut tree / I sold you and you sold me. / There lie they, and here lie we / Under the spreading chestnut tree.’ Come on… don’t walk away. You know that was impressive.”


“Me again.”


“Wait wait wait. Before you storm off and alphabetize, I simply need to know whether you’ve read this one or not.”

“Murakami, huh?”

“You like him?”

“He’s one of my favorite magical realists, actually. Not bad. More on the obscure side, too.”

“Impressive, right?”

“Meh. That old aphorism about broken timepieces periodically being correct comes to mind.”

“One of my favorite aspects of the book was the use of the present tense in the ‘End of the World’ section. I think that was the right call on the translator’s part, since the formal and informal versions of ‘you’, watashi and boku, don’t necessarily translate too well from the Japanese.”

“I can’t believe I’m actually agreeing with you, but yeah. Alfred Birnbaum is the only person I trust with translating Murakami’s work. I mean, 1Q84 wasn’t bad, but Jay Rubin didn’t give it the same linguistic flair that Birnbaum did this one.”

“1Q84? You mean 1984, right? That was last week’s read. Get with the program, Melissa.”

“Missed it by that much. Should’ve quit while you were still ahead.”

“Wait… what?”

“Look, it’s my lunch break and I’d like to spend it lunching. Shoo.”


“You’ve got a thing for dystopias, huh?”

“Only the good ones. You approve?”

“I suppose you get the Melissa seal of approval for this one. Although when it comes to post-apocalyptic anachronisms I tend to think Russell Hoban did it best with–“

“Riddley Walker? I completely agree. He clouds his deep-seated intellectualism in a story with such heart in a way that Miller doesn’t quite achieve.”

“Yeah, totally. I’m of the variety that points the finger at the use of language, at least if you’re going to compare them. Miller’s great, don’t get me wrong, but he veers a little too far into ‘Look ma, no hands’ territory at times.”

“Yeah, but you’ve got to grant that Riddley’s hobbled English would’ve fallen flat in the wrong hands. I mean, it already did in The Book of Dave. I like Will Self, and if you’re gonna crib someone you might as well crib Hoban, but at least do something with the genre we haven’t seen before ad nauseum.”

“Oh, I know. And don’t even get me started on the ‘Sloosha’s Crossin’’ section of Cloud Atlas, if we’re going to talk about cribbing Hoban. The constant apostrophes killed the entire atmosphere Mitchell was trying to achieve. I felt like I was being elbow-nudged more than I was being told a story.”

“God, yes. I’m glad someone else gets it. But anyway, I’ve got to let you do your job. There’s a line. Could you just ring me up on these ones?”

“Oh. Okay.”


“Here’s your change.”

“Until next week, mademoiselle Melissa.”

“Yep, uh, yeah. Until next week.”


“Okay, you did not read that in a week. Jesus, did you?”

“Not in a week, but I did. Read it, I mean. Footnotes and all, I’ll have you know.”


“It’s the truest exploration of the human condition I’ve ever read.”


“And sure, if there’s anyone who can be accused of veering into ‘Look ma, no hands’ territory as you so eloquently put it last week, it’s DFW, but good Lord does the story’s heart make up for it.”

“I cried when I read the last line. I’m not ashamed to admit it.”

“I’d be worried if you didn’t!”

“And I don’t give two shits, frankly, if some people think he left it too open-ended. Did they honestly think that DFW, the author who famously ended a novel mid-sentence, would wrap everything up in a tidy little bow and tuck them into bed?”

“Yes, yes, and more yes. I’d kiss you if it wouldn’t get me kicked out of this place.”



“The book’s great.”

“Yep, uh, yeah.”


“So, what would you say to – and you don’t have to say yes, mind you – but what would you say to maybe lunch once your shift’s up? I am quite the luncher, let me tell you.”


“Wait, really?”

“Yeah, really.”

“Oh wow. Oh… I mean, cool. Awesome. So it’s a date, then…?”

“Yeah. It’s a date.”



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