The Friendly Ghost

I was trying to think of something spooky to write about, in honor of the holiday, but it’s not easy. The polls do not agree even now on whether the Newberry is haunted, though most everybody says not. If there is a ghost around, it probably puts on its best clothes and crashes the wedding receptions, where spirits are always welcomed. The story about ghost dogs in the basement isn’t bad, but the question of whether there ever were dogs in the basement so they could become ghosts is another one on which the experts divide.

And no ghost has ever appeared at the Book Fair to demand a book back or to tell me where the letter from George Washington is tucked away. (Anyhow, you tuck letters from George Washington into clocks, don’t you?) On the other hand, there is Mr. Mallowmar.

I’m calling him Mr. Mallowmar because you don’t need to know his name and surely there aren’t MANY people even in Chicago named Mr. Mallowmar. Mr. Mallowmar donated books to the Book Fair again this year. He gives us mighty nice books–art, architecture, design; the kind of thing our customers love–and I am grateful for them, and would tell him so cheerfully.

Except that I have been reliably informed by several people that Mr. Mallowmar has been dead now for nearly five years.

There really can’t be any mistake about his books. He writes his name in the upper righthand corner of the first white page, in most cases, taking up the space where I want to mark the price. The signature is distinctive, and he always puts the date he bought the book underneath his name. It’s not a shy little note; it’s “MALLOWMAR, Sept., 1986”. And it’s not a matter of one book, which might mean someone bought the book years ago and redonated it. No, it’ll be at least a boxful with that signature in each book.

How does a man keep sending me piles of books when he passed so long ago to the Great Golden Ultimately? No mystery, really. He kept moving around, and wherever he stayed for a while, the books piled up. I had his books coming in before his demise, but even then, they almost never came from HIM. His brother brought me the books Mr. Mallowmar left at the brother’s place. His first wife brought the books he left with her. His second wife sent me the books he had there. His mother called us up and we picked up boxes of his books at her place.

I guess this turned out to be one of those warm, inspirational ghost stories. In any case, I hope Mr. Mallowmar’s revolutionary book storage plan inspires you. As to whether there’s an actual ghost in the story, I do wonder.  Maybe Mr. Mallowmar does drop by, just to look around. After all, at some of our Book Fairs, we had more of his books in one place than he ever did.

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