An tall older gentleman, 80's or 90's, neatly trimmed white mustache, wearing a blue fleece jacket over an oxford shirt and khakis, came up to the counter. He was purchasing THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS.
"I've heard a lot about this," he said. "I'm looking forward to reading it."
"Yes, that's what I've heard too. Everyone I've talked to who has read it has really liked it," I said. I told him how much the book cost. He slowly opened his wallet. Very slowly, the slowest I've ever seen, took out a credit card. Slowly. The transaction finally completed, I asked if he wanted a bag.
"Sure I do. You're not going to arrest me, are you?"
"Not today!" I said. He leaned over slowly to pick up a piece of paper.
"I'm going next door to get some coffee," he said.
"Good idea," I said. "Enjoy your coffee!"
"Thank you, I will," he said as he slowly raised his hand in farewell. He walked slowly out of the store. Nice man.
A few minutes later, a young woman came into the store and up to the registers. "There was an older man in here a little while ago? He just bought a book?"
"Yes, he was just in here," I said. "He bought a book and said he was going to get coffee."
"He's in the coffee shop and he doesn't seem to be doing too well. He's spilling coffee on himself. I just came over to see...do you know if he was with anyone?"
"I didn't see anyone with him at all," I said. "He just said he was going over to get coffee."
"Okay, thank you," she said, and went back to the coffee shop.
"That doesn't sound good," I said to "Twyla". "I'm going to go see if he's all right." I went outside and into the coffee shop. He was sitting in a chair, two women were holding him up. His eyes were closed. I could see his chest moving with his breath. He was not speaking. His color did not look good. One of the baristas was calling 911. The manager came over to me and said that they'd helped him to his seat, and one of the women came up and told them he was spilling and didn't seem to be doing too well. Knowing I couldn't do any good there, I went back to my store. Upset. Crying. Twyla gave me a hug and I pulled myself together. We watched the fire truck arrive, then the ambulance.
I finished my shift about 15 minutes later, and Twyla and I walked over to see if they knew anything. The barista who'd been on the phone with 911 was just coming to see us.
"They've taken him to the hospital, evidently he was just at the beginning of a major heart attack, but they were able to stop it. He'd regained consciousness by the time he left. I made sure he had his book with him! It'll give him something to do while he's getting better."
Relieved, and still a little emotional, I drove home. The next morning I stopped in to get my coffee. The manager saw me and told me that they have his name and know where he was being taken and they are getting a card. They'll bring it over for us to sign. Very nice.
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