Livvy Excerpt – “Some Dostoevsky Thing”

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Excerpt 4 – “Some Dostoevsky Thing”

I pull an old book off of a shelf, noticing its discolored spine.  Dostoevsky.  The pages are stiff and brittle.  “Didn’t Dostoevsky write The Brothers Karamazov?”

Emmanuel takes the book from me and sets it back on the shelf.  “Were you speaking English just now?”

“Yes,” I laugh, reaching for the book again.  He puts his hand on mine.

“When Professor Murphy said to find something ordinary, she didn’t mean ugly.”

“This is not ugly,” I correct him, gripping the novel once more.  “It’s just old.”  I turn to the title page to see the date it was published.  First edition.  1922.  And it’s signed.  “Really old.”

“Well, we could do something interesting with the lighting and the pages.  Maybe curl them–”

“Are you kidding?  No.  We’re not doing anything with these pages.  In fact, we’re not photographing it at all, but I might buy this.”

“We have thirty minutes left,” he says.

“Hold this.  I’m going to find something in here.”  I hand him the book and start wandering toward the back where they have writing instruments and stationary supplies.  An old, rusty pencil sharpener catches my eye.  I pick it up and start walking toward a small reading area that has an antique side table with a Tiffany lamp.  The light produces a soft, cool glow.  “Do you think I should use a macro lens?” I ask him.

“Frame it,” he says, walking toward me as he carefully thumbs through the book.  “Look through your viewfinder.  If that’s not the picture you want, you can try another lens.”

“Is this everyday enough?”

“I like it,” he says.  “It’s gritty and vintage.  Are you going to shoot in color or black and white?”

“I think black and white would be too obvious.  Oh, you know what might be cool?” I ask him.


“Can you hold the lamp up?  What if I lit it through the colored glass?  That might give it a little more personality.”

“Now you’re thinking,” he says as he sets the book down on a nearby bench.  He picks up the lamp, standing in between it and the only salesperson in the store.  She may not like us handling her antique this way.  After trying it with my standard lens, I switch to my macro.

“This is cool,” I tell him,  noticing how the warm reds pop off the worn metal.

“Balance the camera on the chair arm,” he suggests.  “With the lighting in here, you won’t be able to hold it steady on your own.”

“I have a pretty steady hand,” I tell him.  As a painter, I have to.  I tuck my arms as he’d taught me and snap a few pictures.  The third one is perfect.  I zoom in to make sure it’s in focus, reading the etched brand name and noting all the scratches around it.  “I’m done.”

“You don’t want to let me be the judge?”

“I can see beauty, too.”

“I’m sure you can,” he concedes as he picks up the book again.  “Hey, you sure you want to buy this?  It’s three-hundred dollars.”

“It’s priceless,” I correct him.  Jon would cherish it.  Jon would see its beauty, even if he can no longer see mine.  The fact that I can’t deny myself this purchase reminds me of the hope I have… through the anger and frustration I have for Jon, hope underlies it all.  “And yes.”

After I pay, I put my camera away and follow Emmanuel out of the store.  My phone starts to vibrate in my backpack, and I struggle to get it out in time.  “Dad?”

“What did you buy?” he asks.

“Huh?”  I stop walking, touching Emmanuel on the arm to stop him, too.

“Three-hundred-eighteen dollars, Livvy.  What did you buy?”

“How do you know that?”

“I get alerts.”

“You never cared before,” I tell him.

“You never owed me money before, either,” he explains.  “You can’t go around spending money like that when you have bills to pay for the loft.”

“Daddy, it’s a first edition book.  It’s special.”

“What book?”

“Some Dostoevsky thing,” I tell him.

“How special can it be when you just called it a thing?”  He sounds annoyed.

“Dad, it’s a gift for someone.”  I won’t tell him who, not here, and not now.

“Tessa, if it’s for Jon–”

“No, it’s not,” I lie.  “I don’t want to get into the details, I just had to have it, okay?”

“If you can afford it,” he says.

“I can, Dad.  I have savings, remember?”

“And you can’t blow through it in a year, remember?” he counters.

“I know this.”  I sigh into the phone.  “Are you really going to monitor all of my spending now?” I whisper, a little embarrassed.

“I sure am,” he says.  “Someone’s got to teach you how to maintain a budget.  That’s one thing I know we didn’t do well when you were living at home.”

©2014 Lori L. Otto

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