Short Stories 366:279 — “Exactly What You Need,” by Brandon Crilly

coverOne of the best parts about being surrounded by so many wonderful authors through Can*Con every year is finding out how many of those wonderful authors are writers of short fiction (spoiler: I dare say most of them), which lets me track down their stuff and enjoy. In this particular case, all I knew about the story in question was it concerned a magical bookstore, and was written by the lovely Brandon Crilly (who has also been my DM in a D&D game because we are just that cool).

It’s probable that I should have concluded this tale from The Best of Abyss & Apex (Volume Three) was going to go sideways and freaking creepy, but I didn’t, because bookstore, I guess? The result was a shuddery tale that I wasn’t expecting, which honestly was kind of delightful. So. Here’s the set-up: a woman runs a bookstore, flying solo since the passing of her wife, and the store is unusual in that whatever you’re looking for? It’s there.

It’s, as the title says, exactly what you need, and therein lies the rub: because some people need a rare text for their professorial career, and others are looking for a cute abecedarian for their kiddo, and then there are the truly hurt and wounded who are looking to break whatever rules necessary to get back something—or someone—they lost. The “how-to” section was never meant to go this dark… and there’s just one bookseller standing between morality and the unthinkable. Honestly? As a fellow former bookseller, I have to weigh in here: she deserves a raise.

Now, since I know Brandon, I could sneak in a “where did this come from?” e-mail, and here it is:

Ottawa residents might be familiar with a certain Bank St independent bookstore that specializes in used books (which shall remain nameless). I used to make it there a few times a year, usually looking for a specific book or two. Inevitably, every time, I would either find exactly the book I wanted, or another book that I’d been wanting to read a while but couldn’t justify spending full price on. This happened enough times that I started joking the bookstore had a mind of its own … which led to the quasi-benevolent force in this story.

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