Tag Archives: Wytheville

The more Empty it Got, the Smaller it Became

As most of you know, we closed our beloved bookstore for good in early July of this year. The last few days were a frantic “All books 50 cents, all proceeds to Appalachian Feline Friends” clean-out, and we had fun.

About 500 people came through, and almost every single one of them said some form of, “We really enjoyed having you here. You really added something nice to our lives.” Which is legacy enough for anybody. We feel full and loved and excited for our next adventure (which, yes, could possibly include a bookstore, but not this year).

empty bookstore 2Something weird started happening, though, as we emptied the shop slowly, removing things room by room and centering them up front. People bought books and shelves and said nice things and took free stuff we had lying around for the taking, and the walls began to appear. The more they appeared, the smaller the (former) bookstore got.

When we lived in the shop, there was room enough for us and two dogs and about 12 cats at one point (but don’t tell Jack because he doesn’t think there were ever more than 10) and 30,000 books. Plus all the detritus that a musician and a yarn-loving writer (yes, both senses of the word) would collect. Let’s not talk about my addiction to thrift store kitsch.

When we stripped the shop back to its bare walls, it began to look, well, tinyempty bookstore 1. Space that had held the ideas that launched a million ships, some for good, some for evil, shrank to the size of a human living room. The more we worked, the lesser the bookstore looked.

Friends who came to help commented, unprompted. I’d see them sit back on their heels over a box, or pause hefting a shelf to the porch, and stare at the walls (which now showed all the places we had drawn artwork around paint chips and cracks) and say, “Hunh. It’s getting, like, less instead of more.”

And it was. To us. To the nice couple with their daughter who bought the place, I am sure it will fill with their own happy home memories and fun, and be just the right amount of space. For Jack and me, we’re off to claim our new territory, when the time is right. God guides, and she has a great sense of humor sometimes. We are enjoying our year of resting undangerously in Wytheville (where friends tell us our house looks like a miniature version of the old bookshop) and then we’ll see what new walls unfold their spaces.

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Filed under between books, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

ELF STORY GRAND PRIZE WINNER

IMG_6114
Remember this guy? He surfaced in our new house’s yard, face-down under a bush, after a strong wind a couple of weeks ago. In an effort to banish the creepy factor and turn this into a fun discovery, we launched a short story contest. Congratulations to Grand Prize Winner Kathy Osborne Still. Kathy is Director of News and Media Relations at UVa Wise.
Second Prize, Honorable Mention, and Flash Fiction Short Short prizes posted next week.
It was the longest ten days in Sparkle the Elf on the Shelf’s artificial life. Becky, Wytheville’s biggest QVC fan, sent Sparkle on a bumpy UPS truck from Newark to Wytheville.
Becky unboxed Sparkle and the little spy started observing her straightaway. She bought purses hawked by tired sitcom stars, slow cookers endorsed by celebrity chefs, and décor that would never make sense in southwestern Virginia.
On day five, Sparkle witnessed the woman unbox perfume, a Saturday Night Fever commemorative plate, Pioneer Woman salt and pepper shakers, and skin care products by Victoria Beckham. Sparkle and Becky’s cat, Jade, made a game of predicting how long it would take the hosts to sway Becky to send another useless product to Wytheville. Jade always won. The tabby had skills.
Becky’s latest purchase was an expensive cosmetics case filled with sticks, tubes, pencils, tubs and brushes. Sparkle and Jade spent hours watching Becky watch make-up tutorials on her tablet. They smirked—Sparkle wore his permanent smirk—as Becky never quite recreated the photos on the screen. Jade found it hilarious. Sparkle watched and judged.
Day seven arrived and Sparkle cursed the worker in China that painted lidless eyes on his plastic elf face. Watching QVC hosts digitally peddle mops, faux diamonds, rugs, and yoga products was torture. Jade would gently knock the elf off the table when he could, and Sparkle was always grateful. On day eight, Sparkle begged the cat to bury him deep in the litter box. The QVC show on Christmas wrapping finally unhinged Sparkle.
Day nine came and Becky’s niece visited. The four-year-old child would have driven any elf on the shelf insane. She put Sparkle in the chair of her Barbie Beauty Parlor playset, clutched a fine tipped permanent marker from QVC’s Home and Office Collection and mimicked each stroke Aunt Becky did with the QVC cosmetics. Once Becky noticed her niece’s work, she knew Sparkle was headed for the landfill. She tossed Sparkle in the kitchen trash. All thoughts of the elf vanished from Becky’s brain when she turned up the volume to hear the chimes playing from the Santa’s Workshop mantle clock that was selling for an unbelievable $29.99 for the first customers who place orders in the next hour.
Jade quietly padded to the kitchen, jumped on the Nigella Lawson microwave cart, and saved the elf from the landfill. Sparkle was tired of his artificial life.
Jade hid the elf behind the Debbie Reynolds’ Singin’ in the Rain umbrella stand. The UPS truck would arrive tomorrow with a QVC plate of Donald Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast. Jade knew a signature would be needed for an expensive item. The artist chose the perfect hue of orange, Jade remembered. Fake hues would not do for Trump, Jade surmised.
On day ten, the doorbell chimed. Becky opened the door and did not notice Jade escape.
“Please carry me under those bushes,” Sparkle said. “And put me face down so the world can kiss my ass.”

 

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Filed under humor, Uncategorized

Letters, Boxes, Words–Tomatoes

hidden roomThis time next month Jack and I should be finding places to put things in our new house. It’s 550 Tazewell St, Wytheville if you want to look up the rooms and stuff. People have already observed (correctly) that it is a half-size version of our current bookstore home.

No, we won’t be running a bookstore. Yes, the blog will continue. Yes, I’m still writing, working on my fourth book and oh glory the joy when I can stop packing boxes and start using the time for writing instead. No, I won’t be working with Appalachian Feline Friends in any significant capacity, just driving transports and running an online craft store for fundraising. I’m retiring and turning it over to younger people with more fresh ideas: no strategizing. I need the brain space.

The joys of the new house include: a hidden bedroom. Halfway up the staircase is a small hobbit-shaped door, with no stairs into it. You have to hop. This reveals a slope-sided attic space in which any self-respecting hobbit or child would delight. I revel in the prospect of filling it with my yarn, lining the sides in visible boxes, waiting for me to pluck it out and make it into things that will assist the cats or surprise and terrify friends at Christmas (2019, I hasten to add).

A small greenhouse. My heirloom tomato nerd side is already planning. If you have heirloom tomato seeds you’d like to send me, please do. Oh, the happiness of growing baby tomatoes from seeds. I’m going to pipe in classical music to help them along.

The old jail. Seriously, we inherited the 1866 Wytheville jail as part of the property. It has heat and light and it’s the perfect size for a 9-months-of-the-year writing studio. A small table, my laptop, and NOTHING ELSE! I haven’t had a designated writing room since I finished the writing residency in Fayetteville last March. Jack is the one who called it, too. As soon as he saw the room, he said, “Well, you got your studio back.” Yep.

The tiny balcony. Despite his best efforts and mine, Jack still smokes. Not in the house. It’s a deal-breaker. But on the lee side sheltered by the roof and some trees sits a small patio on the second floor, just big enough for two chairs and an ashtray. My beloved can do his bad thing out there and I won’t have to smell it and he won’t be cold in winter. Little portable heater’s chord fits under the glass door.

The big ceilidh room. The house is 1890, so it has an original and an added bit. The original has big wooden timbers framing it, exposed for aesthetic pleasure. It’s a big room, and even with two sets of double doors leading to the front and back gardens, it gets less light than the rest of the house. And it has the fireplace. This will be our music room and where we hold ceilidhs and house concerts. No furniture, just folding chairs, instruments, and the bookshelves at the far end holding our collection of rounds and songs to sing together. Already we are looking forward to meeting the Wytheville musical crowd. Debra Preese, the lady we bought the house from, knows several, and our realtor Tyler Hughes knows more. They’re rumored to be happy to have a Celtic music couple arriving.

There’s still a twinge at letting go of the bookstore, but it’s thriving and we have high hopes the next owner will continue its community service. Jack and me, we are ready for our next adventure, in a smaller house with a big heart.

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Filed under bookstore management, home improvements, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing