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Hidden Treasures
3.23.2002 by Scott, every Thursday.

It was a snowy day in Montreal, and I was heading to Verdun to work for a second hand bookstore on Wellington Ave. The day was warm, and the falling snow was wet and slushy, and if a drop of it managed to dodge between your hair and your collar to splat on your neck, you’d be chilled to the bone for the rest of the day. The sun was out this afternoon, and I squinted, as it seemed that every surface was reflecting the light in my eyes.

I walked from De L’Eglise metro this day, with the bizarre music being played from the speakers on the lampposts (Verdun does this, plays the radio for pedestrians. I’ve always wondered how a city could agree on what station to choose. Anyways.) looking at the shops and Dollar-ramas as they passed. I was tired. Work sucked, and it was my day off. The snow that had fallen into my hair was melting, and the icy water dripped down onto my scalp.

I was going to this shop as a favour for a friend who knew the owner. This shop had maybe six to eight thousand comics rotting in the basement storage, and I was getting paid (in comics) to go through them and pick out the choice ones for the owner, so she could make a few bucks on ebay.

I get to the shop, and it’s a nice quiet little place that holds that used book smell, you know the one I mean. That smell of knowledge and fantasy that has been shared by many. The owner is very nice in that used bookstore way, and shows me into the basement storage area. Down some rickety stairs, the smell of used books in a basement clouds around me. This one is damp, and you can almost hear the paper yellowing. The ceiling here is about six feet high, and since I stand at 6’3” easy, I had to hunch over as I was lead to the 12 long boxes filled with Marvel and DC comics from the seventies and eighties.

So I got to work, flipping through them book by book in that chilly and ill-lit basement. It was so much fun.

I felt like a kid, excited to see what the next book was, often stopping to read an issue that I’d never seen before. Hidden away here I found a complete run of Conan the Barbarian, a run of the Fantastic Four from the seventies, Wolverine issues 1-6, a run of Uncanny X-Men from 180 to about 290 spanning nine years, runs of the original Brave and the Bold, Justice League of America, and Sandman Mystery Theatre. I found in those old boxes the first appearance of Rogue in Marvel Comics (Avengers annual #10) and the time David Letterman’s show was accosted by super-villains.

It was a blast.

At the end of it all, I handed over about a hundred books to the owner to look into getting priced. She was really nice, but wasn’t really sure of herself with these comics, and took notes of what I was saying. I felt like a scholar of sorts. I also took my pay in comics, and dropped another wad of cash to walk away with some books for myself, a big run of X-Men, a few What-Ifs, and a beat up copy of a graphic novel called “Meltdown”. I was happy, so was she, and every one was a winner. (Except my back, which was killing me for days afterwards as a result of being hunched over for hours in a damp, cold room.)

It got me thinking, though. There were so many comics that I had wanted down there, books that I’d never seen in bins at the comic shops, and books that had never been reprinted. Not to mention that in the four hours or so I was looking through books, I dug out a good three-hundred bucks worth of books for her. It would have been more too, had so many of them been left down there to rot and get crumpled in a corner. I can’t help but wonder how many books are just lying around in basements, closets, parent’s houses, just waiting to be found.

Scott MacIver

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