Summary: 14-year-old Jess Mariano in his natural Habitat: A bookstore. ALDI past.

Rating: PG-13 for some language

Disclaimer: Jess is not mine. The others are mine. No money.

For Christie, who gave me puppy dog eyes and encouraged this idea.

Between the Hawthorne and the Homer

It wasn't a large bookstore by any means. It was "quaint" by most people's (tourist's) standards.

Frankie Mariano had a more pragmatic view on his store.

"Eh," he would say. "It's a living."

To Jess Mariano, however; it was a sanctuary. A home away from home; shelves upon shelves of books, organized by author; old big band and jazz playing at a low decibel. He'd tried to switch the musical selection that morning, but was caught.

"What're you doin?"

"Putting in something tolerable," Jess replied, holding up his Velvet Underground CD.

"Not on your life, ya little punk," Frankie laughed. "You put Brubeck back in."

Jess rolled his eyes and complied. "This stuff melts brains."

Frankie took the CD from his grandson and studied it, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Who in hell is Nico, anyways?"

Again, Jess rolled his eyes. "Who the hell is Bill Evans, anyways?"

Frankie lifted the newspaper he'd been reading and rolled it up quickly, smacking the younger Mariano upside the head with it. "Get outta my face."

Jess grinned and sauntered back to the classical section. He sifted through the authors until he came to the H's. "Hawthorne... Hawthorne..." he muttered. "Homer." He blinked. "Huh."

Frankie smirked as Jess made his way back to the front counter. "Whatsamattahwichyou?"

Jess squinted. "...What happened to the Hemmingway?"

Frankie shrugged. "Sold 'em."

"All of them?"


"You did not."

"Did so."

"There were tons!"

"Not anymore."

"You're hiding the Hemmingway from me."


"Don't lie."

"Not lying."

"Where is it?"

"Not here."


"Why don't you go ask Gramma when lunch is gonna be ready?"

Jess rushed behind the counter and started his search.

Frankie laughed. "Y'know, for a kid who's read most of the guy's work, ya sure are making a big deal outta this."

Jess didn't reply. Merely kept looking.

"Frankie!" a voice scolded from the staircase at the back of the store. "Why are there seven Hemmingways sitting under the sofa cushions?!"

Jess gave a glare to his grandfather and stalked to the stairs.

Frankie laughed. "That stuff'll melt your brains!"

Jess appeared at the bottom of the staircase, carrying the books. "So will Harlequin Romances."

"I set those aside for your mother!"

Jess snorted as he put the books in their place. "Sure."

"You mention the Harelquins again? I'm hidin' the Salingers."

Jess whipped his head around to give another glare. "You wouldn't."

Frankie smirked widely. "Try me."