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Spellbound Fans of All Ages Wait for Their Special 'Orders' to Land

Copies of long-awaited 'Harry Potter' sequel are delivered around the Southland.

June 22, 2003|Gayle Pollard-Terry | Times Staff Writer

Harry Potter fans come in all sizes.

"Where are the kids?" FedEx driver Francisco "Cisco" Moran asked Saturday in Redondo Beach as he delivered the just released "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the coveted fifth book in the popular series about a boy wizard and his friends.

He expected to see hordes of eager children shouting, "They're here! They're here! My Harry Potter Book is here," like they did the last time he drove the same 40-mile route on the day the fourth Harry Potter book was released.

Instead, on Saturday morning, he greeted pleased, surprised and excited grown-ups, including a few still wearing pajamas or sporting bed hair.

It took until his 27th stop (only 161 to go) for Moran to run into the first youngster waiting for what had already become the fastest selling book in history.

Carrying 170 books, in addition to his normal Saturday load of about 50 packages, Moran was one of 20,000 FedEx contractors and couriers expected to deliver 400,000 copies nationwide on Saturday, according to a company spokeswoman. In Los Angeles and Orange counties, they delivered about 17,320 copies of the book written by British author J.K. Rowling.

"Am I the first?" asked Linda Barentine, 52, at what was actually Moran's second stop of the day. "I'm excited," she said as she took the white box marked with green labels warning: "Carrier please deliver on June 21. Do not under any circumstances deliver before June 21," the day the novel officially went on sale.

On one block, Moran pulled up to the curb four times. At one apartment complex, he rang six doorbells.

"I didn't know it was coming," said Cathy Chien, 30, after the driver called to her outside her apartment. She opened the package from Internet retailer, which pre-sold 1 million copies, without relaxing the leash attached to George, her pit bull mix. But she didn't find a note from the giver. "I think I know who it's from," she said, "a fellow Harry Potter fan," a fellow physician.

Why would an adult want to read an 870-page book written for children?

"It has an appeal because it's such an imaginative story," said Chien, who devoured the first four Harry Potter books. "It kind of takes you away from your life."

Dennis Reilich answered the door holding his 6-month-old nephew, Ethan Guiddi, and said, "He's not reading them yet, but he will be."

"I love the stories," the 59-year-old purchasing agent said. "I called from work yesterday to ask my wife if we were going to have to stand in line" Saturday to buy a copy. But their book was already on the way.

At another address, the driver read a bright orange note that said: "PLEASE LEAVE HARRY POTTER BOOK HERE." He tucked the sought-after package behind a door.

Along the way he met tall adults, short adults, old adults, young adults. A few guys admitted the book was for them; other men claimed it was for a wife, a sister, a brother, a visiting grandma. At least a dozen women appeared to be wild about Harry.

By midday, the only excited kids Moran could talk about were his own: Danny, 12, and Bryant, 17.

"My kids are excited. They're waiting for the book. I'm expecting one of my partners to deliver it today," Moran said.

"My kids were asking me what time is the book going to arrive at home," he said while driving near the ocean. "I told them I didn't know. They said, 'How come you don't know -- you're delivering books?' "

And deliver he did.

He broke into a huge smile when Danielle Berry's father called her out to sign for the book, while her 13-year-old sister stayed inside.

"I like the whole setting, the plot and the fantasy," said Danielle, 16, who will be a senior at Rolling Hills Prep.

As he drove deeper into neighborhoods of single family homes, he began to see "lots of kids."

He understood their anticipation. "I've read all four books, too," he said, adding: "Big people like Harry Potter, too."

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