Ray Bradbury (rest his soul) was quite possibly the greatest author of the 20th century. While known only for his science fiction by literary Philistines, he wrote a wide range of fantastic, imaginative narratives that inspired me in my youth and even today. That said, when I was informed today that my son needed to read a fantasy book for a book report he has due November 1st, Ray was the first author who came to mind and no single work of his better speaks to me as a fantastic, fall inspired work for an 8 year old boy than The Halloween Tree. Not a particularly long book and, at least in my edition, filled with creative images, it struck me as the perfect fit for his book report. Of course, with the massive amounts of chaos in my life so many of my books are scattered. Most are locked away in one of two storage lockers while only a handful made it with me in the move. Among them, I thought, was The Halloween Tree. I, of course was wrong. This led me on a mission, a holy crusade to find a new copy of what I thought would be an easy to find work of fiction.
O’ how wrong I was.
I began my quest at the deceptively named Books A Million. Not only was I appalled by the terrible selection of books but the staff was near useless. The first two employees I came across could hardly be bothered to look at me, let alone answer my query so I took off on my own. Most book stores care to organize a bit, make out for their customers what is what. They have sections labeled Fiction, Non-Fiction, Horror, Romance, Sci-fi/Fantasy (because they always get lumped together nowadays), Mystery, etc… but not “BAM.” The staff is obviously easily confused and, as such, the store is listed as Fiction and then Non-Fiction with varying sub categories of Non-Fiction. After wading through a sea of Bradleys and Bradfords and Bradys I finally found Bradbury. Well, I found what Bradbury was there to be found.
Two copies of Fahrenheit 451 and one copy of Dandelion Wine were all that they had. Dejected, I returned to the counter where an inept and slightly rude clerk was less than happy to answer my question. I told her I was looking for a book by Ray Bradbury to which she condescendingly asked “Could it be Fahrenheit 451?” Pimp hand holstered for the time being, I said “no” and was about to tell her the title when she began rattling off titles from a computer screen. Thankfully, before I had to back hand the imbecile, she said “The Halloween Tree” and I stopped her. She informed me that it wasn’t in stock and again seemed put out when I asked if any of the other Books A Million in the area might have hit. So kind as she was, she turned the screen to show me that, in fact, no “BAM” carried it but she would be “happy” to order it for me. I thanked her for her time and walked out.
I can deal with a lot of rudeness and, in fact, in my professional life I deal with more rude and uncouth people than anyone really should have to deal with in a 40 hour work week. That said, I try to do my job as politely and helpfully as possible and if I don’t know the answer to a question attempt to find someone who does. Rudeness is an intolerable trait to me and this trip reminded me more now than ever why I had quit shopping at this particular “book store.”
Now, hindered but not defeated I set off to Barnes and Noble, hoping that in the confines of an ACTUAL book store I might find the piece of literature I was in search of. While B&N has a much better selection arrayed in a slightly more suitable format with (usually) friendlier staff, this too was a disappointing venture. While they had several more titles by Ray Bradbury they didn’t have what I was looking for… at least not readily available. I went to the counter in the center of the store, the customer service counter where a courteous, helpful staff member is usually waiting to answer your questions and assist you in finding what you need. What I found was an empty desk surrounded by the largest herd of ignorant, obnoxious hipsters I have ever seen in my life. I fear not a zombie apocalypse as I am currently living through the hipster/douche bag apocalypse as we speak. Down, but not out, I returned home to gloss over my small bookcase one more time in an attempt to locate my copy before turning to Amazon and my Kindle for the answer.
Well, as this post is labeled as one of my rants, it should come as no surprise that The Halloween Tree is one of several titles still unavailable in an eBook format.
So, being the spectacular dad I am and wanting desperately to share an incredible piece of fiction from my favorite author with my son, I will be going to storage tomorrow to root through boxes and boxes of poorly labeled crap in search of The Halloween Tree. Wish me luck.