Who Remembers the Scholastic Book Fair?
A Gymnasium Awash With Titles...and Dog Art
It’s at the third-grade Scholastic Book Fair that I find the Airmont Classics paperback series of H.G. Wells titles. These carry the same cover art I’ve seen in the backmatter ads of Famous Monsters Magazine.
I want all of them.
But I want the Dashiell Hammett Maltese Falcon too—because I saw that on TV late Saturday night.
Of course, what I really want is the German Shepherd poster.
Until I write about it many years later, I don’t know it’s by a famous French naturalist painter named Leone Danchin. All I know, is it’s available to order for twenty-five cents.
See, that’s how these things work. They usher you into a gymnasium awash with books, tell you to take your pick, and then admit you won't get to take anything home.
Turns out the teachers will fill in the mail-order forms.
And you’ll wait six-hundred years.
Once you hand over your money.
I eagerly comply.
The Danchin dog is worth the quarter. And the wait.
After I’m old and gray—say three weeks—my Dashiell Hammett comes through the door. My H. G. Wells lands.
But the dog has gone missing.
My third-grade teacher assures me she’ll check up on it. She’ll make inquiries.
When we find out the poster is back-ordered, we back-burner it.
For nine years.
My graduation from high-school is imminent. I’m hanging out on the campus, acting the big-shot, when I see my third-grade teacher, now older and infinitely more wise than me, walk down the sidewalk.
A memory stirs, and I call out. “I never did get my mangy dog poster.”
She turns on her heel, walks straight toward me with fire in her eyes.
I suddenly feel sort of mangy myself.
“Twenty-five cents, wasn't it?” she says.
Impatient, she digs in her purse.
Now I really feel silly.
But when she comes out with a shiny new quarter, her smile is warm. Gracious.
She grabs my hand, opens my fingers and slaps down the payment. “Happy graduation,” she says.
Then: “Don’t ask for any interest.”
When I finally find the Danchin print—ten years later, on acid-free stock, I buy it.
It cost more than a quarter.
But somehow, in some weird way—finally—everything is put right.
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