August 2, 2005

A couple nights ago, E.S. and I went out to eat. I had my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with me, and put it under my chair.

About halfway through dinner, I heard a nearby voice say softly, “Excuse me? Excuse me, sir?” I paid it no attention until E.S. said, “Faustus, she’s trying to get your attention,” and indicated a girl sitting across from us at a table with her mother. The girl was staring longingly at my feet.

I was baffled and beginning to be somewhat disturbed, until the girl’s mother said, “She’s looking at the Harry Potter book. She wants me to get it for her.”

The girl’s eyes were so full of longing, of love, of the pain one feels when one is separated from one’s heart’s desire–even if by only a few feet–that I reached down and handed her the book. “Here, go ahead and take a look at it,” I said. She accepted it reverently, as if it were a Gutenberg Bible. She caressed its cover, opened it to where I’d marked my place and read a few words, flipped around and read a few words elsewhere. “You should get it for her,” I told the mother with a smile.

“She wants it,” she replied, “but $30.00 is a lot of money.”

“You could probably find it online at a heavy discount,” said E.S.

The mother didn’t quite seem to believe this, but after a moment she nodded. “I’ll check it out,” she said.

After a few more minutes, the girl got up from her table and returned my book. “I want it so bad,” she said. “I’ll get a job if I have to, so I can get the book.” Her face was wracked with emotions so complex it would demean them to describe them here.

Eventually, E.S. and I paid our check and left. I almost gave her the book on the way out. I mean, if they were eating at that restaurant then the mother had $30.00 to spare, but the girl’s performance was so committed and powerful I felt it deserved to be recognized. If not with an Oscar, then at least with a Harry Potter book.

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14 Responses to A couple nights ago, E.S.

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Hasn’t chintzy mom ever told her daughter of these wonderful places called libraries where they let you read the books for free?

  2. anapestic says:

    Two (or perhaps three: who can remember?) HP installments ago, I fell for the hype and pre-ordered the book from Amazon, deeply discounted. They promised delivery on the release date, and I dutifully waited at home all day on Saturday so that my older daughter could have the book on that day. It finally came in the afternoon, and then we set off to do some shopping at Costco, where they had a whole table of the books at the same deeply discounted price. This time around, I just shuffled off to Costco on the morning of the release date and paid my eighteen bucks.

    And I will not annoy the spoiler gestapo by giving any details, but the pile of books at Costco was right by the front entrance, and I didn’t even move my cart out of the way before I turned to the last few pages of the book to see whether I’d been right about the major event at the end. I had.

  3. Joe.My.God. says:

    One of the beautiful things about pop culture is the lovely feeling of superiority one gets by selectively ignoring bits of it.

    This is the pleasure afforded to me by Harry Potter, for which I am eternally grateful.

  4. matt says:

    Ah, you should have given it to her! Poor thing! Am trying to think why a mother would even hesitate to purchase something for her daughter that will have her reading and thinking?!?!? …for $30. Sad.

    What’s a library?

  5. David says:

    I think she was playing you like a trombone. Good thing you didn’t surrender your copy. :)

  6. tenunda says:

    This story would be fantastic if the girl was 16.

  7. Mr.D. says:

    Ah, you old softy, Faustus!

  8. Mush says:

    What kind of parent would deny a child a book?! Any book!?!

  9. Kevin says:

    Although that stingy parent should clearly have her children confiscated from her, you’re to be commended for not pandering to the histrionic display. I’d prefer other people’s children illiterate rather than bratty, for at least the ones who can’t read are less likely to disturb me in restaurants.

  10. Another Joel says:

    Mommy Dearest is clearly a Philistine. What price a dinner at a nice restaurant compared to buying her child a book?

  11. roy says:

    How incredibly typical of a Manhattan mother to inform the stranger of what the child wants rather than tell the child to stop bothering strangers. Shifty, them.

  12. lou says:

    hey just bounced onto your cute blog.
    HP6 was probably my fave out of all of them… hope you liked it despite the grammer and spelling :)

  13. TCho says:

    That’s just weird. Like you said, they’re at dinner at a restaurant, and the mother is saying she’s too poor to spend $30? She must have principles against books or something.

  14. Lux says:

    Maybe someone had already bought it for the girl as a birthday present or something and the mother didn’t want to give away the surprise. Maybe it was sitting on her bed waiting to be discovered when she got home.

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