Friday, December 4, 2009

Tuesday Morning at the BookaPlex

The 'ping' was either Mom's breakfast toast or a new email. Anteriyuma Snapdragon Cooper, just "Snap" to her classmates, swiped her thumb across the fingerprint-resistant screen on her ComPlex cellphone. "Wicked-nova!" she stared at the bright display. The five-star review for the newest Zombie Paradox book had just zipped to her Inbox. "Marra Thneed's book got front line POD billing!"

"I take it you're off to the BookaPlex this morning," Mom said, scraping a healthy measure of grape jam over a piece of hot sourdough. "Vampire's Den Eleventeen?"

Snap rolled her eyes. "Zombies, Mom. Zombies. Vamps are SO 21st century." She sniffed the air and shifted from foot to foot. The smell of roasting caffeine was tempting, but Mom didn't have the caramel flavoring in the cabinet like the BookaPlex's café. "I saved up for the paperback. And I figure I'll grab some coffee with friends."

Mom spun around, butter knife still in hand, and a drop of jelly oozed into a pockmark in the beige linoleum at her feet. "Your father and I make sure you have perfectly good coffee at home. Why do you insist on squandering your allowance over there?"

"For the third time this week, Mom. It's not the coffee, it's the company." Snap waved her cellphone at Mom and snagged her Plastic from the holder by the back door. Shoving the card into her back jeans pocket, she added, "I'll be back for dinner." Snap bounded down the back stairs and onto the sidewalk, hiding a grin at the lingering image of her disgruntled mother with her hands on her hips, hair sticking up like she'd shoved the knife in the toaster instead of just the bread. Mornings.

The BookaPlex was bustling with activity, and Snap spotted her usual crowd by the periodicals. "Mere!" Snap waved her phone and the little plastic cartoon doll hanging from the phone's keyring lit up as she approached. Mere's friendship doll lit up in response and Snap's best friend barreled across the café area with arms outstretched and twin braids bouncing over her shoulders.

"It's out! Have you read the reviews? Oran42 said it's the best one Marra Thneed's ever written! Ever! How do you beat that?"

"I know!" Snap's sneakers squelched against the polished floor as she jumped into the air for a high-five. "You get your copy for the signin'?"

"Five more minutes. I've been nursing my hot chocolate and checking out the mags." Mere pointed to where two of their other friends were sitting, thumbing through the latest news on the BookaPlex's rental touchscreens.

Only Sasha waved in their direction; Toby had his headphones on, his eyes closed, and bobbed his head to the latest issue of what Snap knew had to be Music World.

"Be back, Mere." Snap scampered onto the thick pile carpet that filled a good third of the rest of the BookaPlex. She weaved past the bargain table, stepped around shelves of hardcovers and audiobooks, and made a direct line for the PODs. Two were empty, and she dove for the door, slipping inside with a quiet 'snick' of the latch.

"Good morning," the machine chirped at her with a friendly sort of voice.
Snap loved that voice. It meant she was going to get a brand new, hot-off-the-presses book before she'd even finished her cup of coffee.

"Will you be using paper or Plastic today?"

Snap swiped her card through the reader and tabbed through the printing and shipping options on the screen. "Not electronic, not mailed to my doorstep, I just want plain old . . . " she mashed the button with a grin, "paperback."

"Please make your selection."

Snap typed in the title and wiggled her fingers in the air before pressing down on the cover image with barely restrained glee. A preview of the text sprang to the screen and she thumbed through it, already more than happy with the book about to be in her hand.

"Would you like to make any other purchases today?" A list of related titles came to the forefront of the screen, each sporting their own preview. The list based itself on publisher marketing and her own previous purchases.

Snap thought about it. She 'could' print off a copy of Nosereaper. And maybe get something for her brother. She stared down at the card in her hand. Not today. The holidays were around the corner and she would have them all shipped instead, pick up a stack of hardbacks her parents had been drooling over. Besides, the new Ed Riley wasn't even out yet and Mom would want that for sure.

"Leticia McEllen's Faeries and Peacocks is 20% off today with your purchase of Zombie Paradox Four."

Snap thought harder. She chewed on her bottom lip, sighed once, and finally pressed "No."

"Please verify your identity by placing your thumb on the scanner," the machine chirped. When she did, it said, "Thank you," adding in her own voice, "Anteriyuma Cooper."

Snap's cellphone pinged as the receipt hit her Inbox. "Wicked-nova! Zombie Paradox Four is so mine!"

"Your book will be ready in - 30 - minutes at the front desk. Please be aware that if you do not pick up your purchase in the next 24 hours, it will be shipped to your home address. Have a book-tastic day!"

Snap grinned and stepped down from the POD. Already a line had formed for the machines, most of them teens like her. Someone asked, "Printing?"

"Printing!" Snap waved the receipt still gleaming on her cellphone screen at the boy in line. "Coffee time," she murmured to herself and trotted off to join her friends.

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