I miss you so much.
I won't lie and say that you're the only bookstore clerk who's ever meant anything to me. Todd at Merchant of Venus was such a dear when I won the Asimov Award -- "I heard it was a local kid, but I didn't know it was you! I'm so glad!" -- and coming home to Minneapolis to find Scott Imes had died in our absence was very upsetting. (Not nearly so much as it was to people who knew him well, I'm sure.) The others at The Other Change, the Nice Distracted Man and the Girl Who Probably Would Have Been Our Friend If We'd Known Her and all of them, they were fine enough.
But, Will, you were our bookstore clerk. We made our trips to The Other Change based on when you would be there -- several times we aborted-mission on realizing that it was not a day you worked, and got on BART two days later instead. Before we knew your name, you were our Nice Mean Man. I loved how you greeted me with, "How's my favorite up-and-coming SF author?" and tried to get everyone to buy the Analog I was in when I was in the store that summer. I loved how you harangued people who bought crap. I loved how you knew exactly how hard you could push a hand-sell and when to let up because we really, really had no more money. You were one of the first older guys who could let me know that you thought I was cute as a button without having any particular designs on my person, and that was very nice, too.
I don't know much of how you were to other people. One of the last times we were in there, you were beating yourself up for being a terrible excuse for a sweetheart, and maybe you were. Maybe you weren't a model employee, either -- I'm not sure most store owners want people trying to talk their customers out of purchases with phrases like "bigoted homophobic tripe" and "absolute shit." But as our bookstore clerk, you were the best.
timprov makes fun of me for having relationships with people, for knowing Rosie and Paul at Byerly's, for knowing when to go to get an oil change when Eric will be there. But he wanted to go to the Other Change when you were there, too, and that definitely counts for something.
My hindbrain is convinced that comic stores are bound by neither space nor time, so I have to stop myself from going into our local comic stores to see alecaustin when he worked in a comic store. I have the urge every time I get bagels down the street from it. I know SF bookstores don't work that way. Still, I had a twinge today when I went into Uncle Hugo's.
Uncle Hugo's is my archetype of a science fiction bookstore. I love the place. I go out of my way to give them my money. And I don't want Don to try to become less nice to be more like you, Will, and I don't want Jamie (if he still works there) to become differently not-nice to be more like you. Because what I miss is you. You were pretty down the last few times I saw you, and then you didn't work there the last couple of times we went, and we moved, and now I don't know where I'd even start to find you. I'd like to know that you're putting books into someone's hands somewhere, and I'd really like to know you're okay.