It’s all Darrin’s fault. Having no consideration for weaker brothers, he put a stumbling block in my path. I didn’t mean to do it, honest. I was just looking. It doesn’t hurt to look, does it? Anyway, here is what he did: he posted—callously, I might add—this excerpt from J. H. Merle D’Aubigne’s The History of the Reformation. So I went shopping—just looking, mind you!—and I found it, used. Now, Darrin had stated (the previous link is my witness) that it has rarely been out of print, so I emailed him to enquire if he knew where it could be found new.
This is where it gets ugly. No, it could not be found new; but there were many options, from merely used to antquarian. He sent me links. One of them had over 300 listings. I tried to resist, really, I did. I tried to click back, but the page loaded too fast. I had no choice. I scrolled down. Then I scrolled down some more. Like Jonah, I went down, down, down, until I had gone too far to turn back.
Then I saw it: a promising specimen. I clicked the link. It was a nice set, and reasonably priced. I bookmarked it, virtually guaranteeing my demise. Still, I told myself I was just looking. Certainly, if my wife had walked in and caught me, that would have been my defense: “Just looking, Dear! (nervous laughter here) Really! (more nervous laughter, beginning to perspire) Oh, nothing, heh, heh, just some old (mumbling now, hoping she doesn’t catch the damning word) books.” That’s when I will get THE LOOK.
You see, we’ve been down this road before. My fellow book addicts will understand. Money magically disappears from your pockets when you walk past a bookstore. You wake up clutching a strange hardcover, with no memory of acquiring it. You have books on your shelves that you had to have but haven’t yet read. Challies reviews a book, and you click the Amazon link every time. Of course you don’t buy every one, but you add them to your wishlist until it is bloated beyond any useful limits. Your wife begins to squirrel money away in Switzerland, out of your reach. No, she’s not leaving you—she’s just hiding the grocery money.
I kept scrolling and clicking “next page.” I bookmarked two more pages before I stopped. I now had three serious temptations before me. I clicked back and forth between them feverishly. The one that called my name the loudest was a beautiful 1843 edition in quarter-leather binding. I’ve purchased used books many times before, but I’m no expert on antiquarian books; so I emailed Darrin once more. He gave me his opinions, which were pretty much what I had hoped for. I was gazing hungrily at the screen, mesmerized by antique leather, when my wife walked in, jarring me from my trance. From this point on, my memory is hazy. This is how I remember it.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I decided to play it straight—as straight as I could, anyway. “I, ah, I’m looking at some books.” Her eyes narrowed. It was THE LOOK. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. THE LOOK is only worth a few, but they are unambiguous. Whatever you are doing when you get THE LOOK, you know exactly what it means, and it is never encouraging.
“What kind of books?” she said, her voice low, eyes narrowed, brows arched. It was THE LOOK, deluxe edition.
“Antique Reformation history books.”
“And how much are they?” It was an accusation, not a question. I gave a number. “Hmmm…,” she said, voice very low. THE LOOK intensified. “I have to do laundry.” She stalked ominously from the room.
I looked at the screen. My cursor was situated directly over the “add to cart” button. My heart began pounding. My ears were ringing. My vision became cloudy. A voice in my head whispered, “It’s now or never!” I heard a click, and another. Then, before my eyes, a form was being filled out. A name—my name! An address—my address! Numbers, dates, click, click! The room was spinning! What is that black bird above my monitor? What does he mean, “Nevermore”? Bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells! Click, click!
I awoke with a start. No! I thought. It was a dream. It had to have been a dream. Then I saw it: the little envelope icon on my taskbar. You’ve got mail. I clicked Outlook Express. There is 1 unread Mail message in your Inbox. Hands trembling, I clicked my inbox. Thanks for your recent order! This is confirmation that your order has been received . . . My heart sank. Then, slowly, the cloud lifted. 1843; leather; History of the Reformation. I couldn’t help it. A warm sensation engulfed my body, and the corners of my mouth began to creep apart until a broad smile stretched across my face.
My wife walked in. “Oh, no,” she said, “you’ve done it, haven’t you?”
I just smiled.