I was shelving near the front of the store when he approached. It was a quick walk with an abrupt stop, the kind where you think the person is being facetious. He wasn’t. This wiry guy of about seventeen was dressed in a button-up shirt and jeans, and he was accompanied by who looked to be his slightly older brother.
“Do you have any books…”
(This pause was so long I actually thought he was only asking if we had any books.)
“… about the Catholic Church and exorcism. And vampire slaying.”
I didn’t have a go-to section for either of those, so I suggested we look those subjects up on the computer. While I tippity-tapped a couple searches, he added requests.
“And anything you might have on Van Helsing. But not fiction.”
I said, “I was unaware that there was any nonfiction on Van Helsing.”
“There is… he’s just been distorted by the media.”
That’s when I thought screw it and told him and his brother to follow me to the Occult section. There we looked at an assortment of titles on ghost hunting, sasquatch, etc, and I hoped to at least find something I could hand to him. While there were indeed books on vampires, they were books on “vampires”. He spotted something that interested him.
“Oh, the Freemasons. You know they helped with exorcisms.”
This was when the brother finally said something.
“I don’t think they would do anything like that.”
The boy’s tone became severe. Refusing to turn and face his brother he said, “Have you been researching exorcisms for five years? Do you even know what you’re talking about? You’re not even worthy of being in my presence. Go away. Leave me alone.”
“Well,” said the brother, “I saw National Treasure.”
(I think this is a good time for me to say I shit you not.)
I shrugged and told the kid that I didn’t see anything he’d find pertinent. He turned to me and said, not unpleasantly, “Yes, I suppose I should do more research online. Then I can check back later.”
“Yep,” I nodded. I added that he could even just give us a call and we’ll search a title over the phone, if that’s more convenient.
“That sounds good. Oh, and can I ask you one more question?”
I said he could.
“Do you… know anything or know anybody who knows about vampire slaying?”
I replied in the negative.
“See, I have just been over to that store in the mall, All Things Catholic, and I inquired about any trained vampire slayers I might be able to contact. They were very reticent. I mean, they gave me some names, like Father Tom or Father Will, but none of them are in Colorado they said and they wouldn’t give me any contact information. I think they were just trying to get me to leave.”
He said a couple more sentences that I don’t remember, probably because I simply stopped hearing him in order to meditate on the words that had just gone through my ears and into my brain. At one point I asked him if there was anything else he needed, and he said, “No. Thank you,” with a gesture where he parted his arms slightly in a half-bow, half-curtsy.
I returned to the service desk where there was another customer waiting, a man wearing bedroom slippers asking where we keep the books on serial killers.
What I’m trying to say here is that sometimes I want that little red button underneath the desk. I doesn’t even have to alert any authorities or have any extrinsic function. I just want the button so I can press it.