An-unusual-night-out-on-our-small-town included the authors’ readings at our luscious indie bookstore, which in a larger city would be considered trendy. Afterwards I picked up a paperback, one of those not with a slick covering but with that thick pulpy cover that screams Quality. Both the owner and the very-knowledgeable clerk were behind the counter. As the clerk took my money and handed me the book, I could hear the rain pounding the sidewalks. My next stop was a small bar a block away.
“Can you put that in something?” I asked.
The clerk looked flummoxed.
“A bag,” the owner whispered. “She wants a bag.”
The clerk heaved a sigh of relief and dug under the counter. He fished up a thin paper sack. If I carried my new compelling book out in that sack, within seconds it would swell up like a marshmallow without me even having had the pleasure of reading it in the tub.
"Do you have plastic?” I asked.
I think for a second the universe stopped. In a musical it would have been the moment after poor orphaned Oliver said, "More food, please."
The clerk began pawing under the counter again.
“We don’t have any plastic,” the owner said. “We don’t have any plastic,” he repeated, his voice an octave lower.
“No plastic,” the clerk whispered.
I considered how big a carbon footprint I would make if I left my book and came back the next day to pick it up, if it weren't still raining which it had been doing almost every day for six weeks as if we lived in Oregon and not in Mississippi.
In silence the three of us stared, them at me, me at them, and then the three of us at a plastic bag filled with store supplies someone had left on the counter.
“Here’s a plastic bag.” The owner sounded as if a life raft had been spotted from his sinking ship.
“A plastic bag,” the clerk said. He could have been making a toast.
Folks, there were maybe fifty people in that classy bookstore that rainy night, all buying books m a d e o u t o f p a p e r. I was the only one who requested plastic.
I promised to use the bag to pick up my dog’s poop. The clerk laughed, but it could have just been nervousness.
Of course I repeated the story to my husband when I got home, just as I’m telling you now.
“Green,” said the curmudgeon. “It’s the new puce.”
He’s a smart man. I am sure he knows puce is not really a green. He just liked the way puce sounded. Say it out loud. You'll understand.