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I was reading a book the other night when a piece of paper fell out. I had just turned the page, when hey! a small square leapt out as if it was part of a ‘3-D’ children’s book. It fluttered down like an aged butterfly onto my chest. The paper smelled like old paper and ink, like the book it had been. The book I suspect hasn’t been opened since the 70s, when I last read it. The next day I did a search on DuckDuckGo to see if Mr. Ritchie and his company are still with us. Alas, Babylon! No such luck. I typed in the address and got a photo of a large stainless steel building. My intuition is Mr. Ritchie and Company with its trophies and gavels (?) are long gone for. There’s no written records or memories of him – until now.

Things falling out of old books is not a common phenomena but when it happens it feels thrilling. It must be like just how an archeologist feels when he digs and finally finds something wonderful. The last time this happened to me, it was a ladies church cook book (circa the 50s) that delivered onto me a folded piece of paper with a recipe:

I suppose the writer, Thelma, is also the creator of the recipe. I wonder who she was and why the recipe didn’t get extracted before the cookbook was given away. Chances are she died, and her heirs, cleaning out the house, packed up the cookbooks without first thumbing through them looking for things.*

I have a friend who ran a B&B. He tells me people often left their books behind, and they invariably would tell him ‘just keep it’ when he called them about it. He also tells me he regularly thumbed through the tomes prior to hauling them to the used bookstore, hoping to find money. It’s amazing how common it is to use a single or a fiver as a bookmark. Other things he has found:

A piece of beef jerky

A condom

Countless business cards

A shoelace

A candy bar wrapper, written in French.

A ten dollar gift certificate to some seedy adult store in Tennessee.

A baby’s sock (pink)

Half-completed divorce papers

My most unusual find for a bookmark was a brief letter threatening “Joe” if he doesn’t return with the beanies babies by Sunday the writer will call the attorneys and ‘sue his ass to hell’.** I sometimes wonder what happened to Joe and the purloined beanies. I hope Mr. Joe came to his senses if just to know in the speculative crash that was to follow he didn’t loose money AND to jail.

Getting back to Mr. Ritchie and his business pamphlet, when I find something like this I usually remove whatever bookmark I am presently using (I have heaps) and use the one found until the end of the book. When completed, I put the bookmark back to the front of the book, so the next bloke who gets it may use it too. This way Mr. Ritchie’s legacy lives on.

What do you use as a bookmark? Have you ever found something in a book?

*I have yet to make Thelma’s rolls. It is on the list of things to someday try.

**The succinct letter (unsigned) was found in my recently purchased copy of Pepys diary. I used it as a bookmark for the many months I slogged through that lofty tome. So far as I can remember, it’s still in there.

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September 2022

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018