Sean Kyoto had gone to a Catholic high school and then graduated from Boston
University, where he’d majored in communications. That field of study
was, at one point, a trendy, albeit ultimately rather unmarketable
major. Still, Sean had to be able to get a better job than maintaining
the new releases at a Barnes and Noble. It would’ve been understandable
if he’d kept his bookseller position for a few months, a year even,
after graduating, until he’d entered a better career. But Sean Kyoto had
been at the Paramus Barnes and Noble for eleven years at the time Drew
started working there, and it seemed unlikely he’d ever leave.
Sean had an unbearable personality, and many odd tendencies.
He liked approaching young female employees (which there was an
ever-revolving abundance of at the store’s cafe), stepping in front of
them as they walked to or from the breakroom, and handing them a
lollipop, which he’d kept concealed behind his back. The girl would
usually take the candy politely yet uneasily; mumble, Thanks, Sean; and
hurriedly walk away, leaving Sean standing there, grinning like a fool.
Another habit of Sean’s was shouting a person’s first name and the first
letter of that individual’s last name whenever he saw said person.
Hey, John K!
Hey, Fred T!
Hey, Drew W!
And Drew would mumble, Hey Sean, while inwardly feeling like punching
Another weird thing Sean did was to find a book he thought a certain
employee might like, approach that coworker the next time he saw him,
say, I have something for you, and then present the aforementioned book.
In Drew’s case, the books Sean would “give” him were never anything Drew
wanted—an essay collection by David Foster Wallace, a copy of The Soft
Machine—and now he’d be faced with the tricky business of “accepting”
this unpaid-for book and discreetly replacing it on whatever shelf it
belonged, hoping Sean wouldn’t catch him in the act; because if that
happened, it could make for an awkward and even tense encounter, as Drew
knew firsthand: one time, he’d been reshelving a Richard Brautigan
paperback that had been “given” to him by Sean, only for Sean to pass
by; Sean’s eyes narrowed in ire and indignation, and for weeks
afterwards, he didn’t speak to Drew, which in itself wasn’t bad—in fact,
it was rather welcome—but the baleful stares Sean cast Drew and the
hostility he silently directed towards him were unsettling.
In addition to these odd tendencies, there were the stories of Sean from
before Drew worked at the store. Once after a closing shift, Sean had
followed a girl who worked in the café home in his car and sat in his
Toyota outside her house for hours. One Valentine’s Day, he’d bought the
female employees valentine cards—even the elderly ones—and on each card
had inscribed a personal, rather forward compliment (e.g., for one girl
he wrote that he loved how she looked in a certain skirt). Another time,
Sean had stalked another female café worker (albeit this pursuit was
confined to the domain of the store), forcing the store manager to speak
to him. Certainly, parts of these tales were embellished, but Drew was
fairly—and uneasily—confident that the essentials of these stories were
Over the years, Drew tried to get along with Sean, and mostly he did—but
still, fundamentally, he could barely tolerate the man.
His disquieting behavior continued as the years passed, with some slight
changes: he stopped handing out lollipops, but still stopped and leered
at female coworkers. He still “gifted” employees books but no longer
Drew. He stopped following girls home in his car.
Drew would occasionally ponder Sean’s behavior. But after Drew quit,
nine years after he started working at the Barnes and Noble, he rarely
thought of Sean; and if he did, it was with distant, amused reflection.
A year or so after quitting, Drew was coming out of a Bank of America
one day when he heard a familiar voice:
Hey, Drew W!
He turned and saw Sean Kyoto approaching. Reluctantly, Drew stopped.
So, he said, after a few perfunctory pleasantries, whereupon followed
an awkward moment of silence. How’s the store?
Drew tried to think of something else. Is John Kenning still there?
And . . . What about Kellie?
Oh, sure. But Brian? In music? He left.
Huh. Drew scratched the back of his neck. Well, nice seeing you,
As Drew drove
away, Sean still stood on the sidewalk. Drew waved. Sean didn’t.
Briefly, Drew felt the same sense of annoyance and perplexity that he’d
experienced so many times when working with Sean over the years. But as
he drove on, these feelings, like Sean’s figure in the rearview mirror,
receded into the past.
S.F. Wright lives and teaches in New Jersey. His work has appeared in Quarter After Eight, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, and Elm Leaves Journal, among other places. His website is sfwrightwriter.com.