Best metamorphosing bookstore mascot (2008)

Community Bookstore

Firmin, the titular hero of Sam Savage's first novel, is a rat who lives in the basement of a bookshop in Boston. He reads voraciously—books like Huck Finn, Middlemarch, and Dead Souls. This seems ambitious for a rat, what with his putative low standing in society, being told again and again he is bad, hated for centuries as a source of pestilence regardless of his individual character, and faced with the constant threat of extermination. One must be an extraordinary rat to crack the canon. But an owl . . . owls are wise; they can afford to be. (John Houseman's success at playing intellectuals was directly proportionate to his owlish nature.) Still, when I encountered an owl at the Community Bookstore in Park Slope I was surprised. The third occasion I saw her she had lapsed into dogdom. The next, owl again. It was some sort of owl-dog. Bookstore-owl owner Catherine Bohne says she was found four years ago. Derrick, a homeless man, had left her tied outside the shop, hoping Bohne would take her in. A man had jumped out of his van, Derrick later told Bohne, and thrust the bird/dog into his arms, saying, "My wife's having another baby. We can't keep her. Her name's Bibi." Bibi, a "shih tzu," was around 10 years old then, with "no fur and an infected uterus," Bohne says. She has a cream-white medium-haired coat with two onyx stripes, prominent pink eyelids, a face of concentric grayish-and-soft-tan rings, and a small gray mouth—all owl. She's in the store every day, but her reading habits are questionable. She seems to spend most of her time burrowing into the edge of a bookshelf, head buried in her fluff.


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