The One I Would Never Know (Flash Fiction)

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Every morning I walked to the cafe for my latte and a glimpse at him. He was always in the same spot- a round table by the window with a black coffee and a sandwich in front of him. He was never interested in his surroundings but was always busy reading his book. I noticed him a month ago. He looked absolutely charming with his boyish looks, ruffled blonde hair and hazel green eyes but what caught my attention was the old, tattered copy of ‘Don Quixote’ in his hands. A handsome man who reads classic literature- this was my definition of a perfect man!

He seemed like a voracious reader. Every day he had a different book in hand. Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Homer, and Shakespeare – he seemed to love the classics. From the condition of books, it seemed that he was a regular to the secondhand bookshops. I could so relate to him. Reading can be an expensive hobby. Every day I wanted to stop by his table and get acquainted but it seemed such a crime to interrupt his reading. Being a librarian, I had seen all sorts of readers but he was so different. It seemed as if he found reading meditative.

As I was entering the café today, he bumped into me. He quickly muttered his apologies and rushed out. He seemed to be in an unusual hurry and was too preoccupied. I noticed his book lying on the floor and called out but he was almost running in the street. And then I saw two men running behind him. Was he in some sort of danger? Should I call the police but what I am going to tell? I barely knew the guy. I picked his book from the floor and quietly put it in my bag. I will return the book tomorrow and it would be a good pretext to have a conversation with him. I paid for my latte and went to work. The day was quite hectic in the library and I almost forgot about the whole incident till I reached home at night.

After having dinner, I took out the book and crawled in my bed. As I opened the book, I gasped in shock.  I stared with wide eyes at the book in front of me- the first edition of ‘The Canterbury Tales’ by Geoffrey Chaucer printed in 1477. Being a librarian and an avid book lover, I knew that my trembling hands were carrying a rare and collector’s item. Only a dozen copies of this first edition of ‘The Canterbury Tales’ are scattered around the world today. The last remaining copy owned by a private collector was purchased by Earl Fitzwilliam for only €6.80 in 1776. And the very same copy was sold in auction in 1998 for 7 million Euros.

Just then there was news flash on the screen. That handsome man appeared on screen, handcuffed and being escorted by the police…The headline flashed…The World’s most wanted conman Henry Acklom tracked down to a café in Switzerland and arrested early this morning. Acklom is wanted in more than a dozen high-tech heists around the world all of which involve theft of rare, vintage collectible books.

‘He is not a thief…He is a bibliomaniac,’ I wanted to scream as tears trickled down my face for the one I would never know.


©2019 Shaloo Walia All rights reserved



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