Jac Jemc


A woman called and said that she was looking for a certain baby board book which featured beautiful photographs.

I asked her if she knew the title or author and she said, “No.”

I asked if she knew what the photographs were of, and she said, “Ya got me. I don’t remember. Maybe other kids or everyday objects?” She asked this like she thought I might be able to confirm that this is what she was looking for.

I said I knew quite a few board books featuring photographs. She asked if she could speak to the owner and I said she was in a meeting, but that I was very familiar with the children’s books and should be able to help her.

She asked if I knew titles or authors of any of the books I said I knew and I asked if she could hold on a second. I left her on hold and grabbed ten different books which fit the description of what she was looking for, then picked up the phone again. I described each book to her and for each one she asked the title and author.

When I was finished she said, “Well, those all sound great.” I asked if any of them sounded like what she had seen and she said, “No, but that’s okay.” She paused, then said, “Ya know, I’m in my car now, so I’m going to give you my home phone number and ask you to call that number and repeat everything you just told me.”

I said, “Why don’t I just put these on hold for you and you can stop in a take a look at them?”

She said, “Well, that’s not gonna work, because I don’t live in the area.”

I asked, “So am I correct in assuming you’re not planning on buying them from our store?”

She said, “Well, I’ll call you back and have you ship them out as a gift.”

I said, “Why don’t you call back when you aren’t driving and we can talk about the books and then we aren’t making a million calls back and forth and someone else doesn’t have to try and track down the books I’ve been describing to you.”

“FINE!” and she hung up.

I am still waiting for her to call back.


Several months ago, a woman called asking if we had any books-on-tape by Sarah Hoafghlihh.

“Pardon me?” I politely replied.

The caller repeated: “DO YOU HAVE AN-Y BOOKS ON TAPE BY SA-RAH HOA-dlighs?”

I replied, “I’m sorry. I’m still having trouble hearing the author’s name. Do you have a title I could look up?”

The caller exclaimed, “You know who Sarah Horgflish is, don’t you?”

I said, “Sarah Hogdish?”

“Sarah Hoagland! Sarah Hoagland! She wrote Lesbian Ethics!”

“Oh!” I replied, pretending I’d heard of the book and found it very important to me. “Let me see…No, we don’t have an audio-version of that book…It doesn’t look like there’s one available.”

The customer pressed on: “Well, she’s a regular customer in the store isn’t she? You should tell her to make one. There’s a lot of women who would like to listen to that book on tape.”

I replied, in Ms. Hoagland’s defense, “I think it’s more complicated than that. The publisher has to decide to make an audio edition of a book and Lesbian Ethics is out on a university press and it came out in the seventies. They don’t often have the budget to make an audio version of each of their books, or if they do, they can’t keep the audio version in print forever.”

“She comes into the store though, doesn’t she?”

I said, “I honestly don’t know.”

“Well, she’s friends with the owner there, isn’t she?”

“I don’t know. I would check with Linda, but she’s in a meeting.”

“Well do you have any poetry on tape by Jacqueline Lapidus?”

I looked up this author as well. Again, the books had been released in the seventies and none were available on cd or tape. I relayed this information.

“Don’t you have anything I’d like to listen to on tape?”

“Probably. We have about two hundred titles of audio books available for rental and maybe 60 different titles available for sale.”

“But not these two?”

I said, “We can really only keep the newest releases or best sellers in stock in audio. They’re expensive stock and we don’t sell that many to warrant making the section bigger. If you wanted to come in to take a look at what we have, I’m sure you’d find something you might like.”

“Well, I would love to come in, but I’m BLIND!”

Somehow, I wasn’t surprised at this exclamation. I offered to read titles aloud over the phone for her if she’d like and we could mail them to her.

“No, no. You don’t have to do that. I need to read the backs of the books, so I know what they are about. I would love to come in and look at the books, but I’m blind and I get lost in your neighborhood. I’ve tried to visit several times and never made it. Maybe I could call when I’m coming over and you could watch for a woman with two canes: a regular cane and a blind-cane.”

I said I’d be happy to wait outside for her is she called before she headed over.

“Okay, okay. FINE!”

I have been keeping an eye out for months.


“Women and Children First. This is Jac.”



“They really call you that?”


“How long they been callin’ you that?”


“Is that short for Jaclyn?”


“Oh, I get it. You’re a tomboy?”

“Not really.”

“I’m looking for someone who was helping me with my Lifetime Reading List. I think her name was Jean.”

“There’s no one here by that name.”

“I’m sure her name was Jean.”

“I’m trying to think of someone with a name like Jean and nothing is really even close.”

“Well, maybe it was you. Are you the nice, buxom girl that’s always behind the counter?”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, I think it was you. Are you always really cheerful.”

“I’m sorry I don’t remember helping you. Buxom really isn’t an appropriate term to use in casual acquaintance. Hold on, I’m going to get someone else to help you.”

“What do you mean? Oh, ah—” And then he hung up.

He has not stopped back in.

Jac Jemc’s stories and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming from numerous magazines including Caketrain, Pedestal, Opium, No Colony, Hotel St. George, Sleepingfish, The 2nd Hand, Thieves Jargon, A Handsome Journal, Bird Dog, Circumference, Tarpaulin Sky, Zoland Poetry, 5_trope, The Denver Quarterly, why vandalism and elimae, among others. Jac completed her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  You can view a blog of Jac’s recent rejections at