I open the book. It makes a cracking sound as the cover is forced into an new position for the first time.
I once read instructions on how to properly open a book to protected it for future generations. It was overly complicated and would only spoil this moment.
The new book smell is glorious. I close my eyes and inhale. It's like a first kiss.
I usually don't read hard backs. Not that I have any objection to them, but I find them unwieldy.
They force reading in specific places and prohibit others. Lying in bed becomes too difficult. It is too awkward to carry on buses to fill the brief journey and avoid banal conversation.
This book will be read in a leather chair. The arm rests are the right height, so that the book is tilted at the perfect angle and it is rested on my lap. The chair has a window behind it to allow natural light illuminate the pages. To ignite the words as they transfer from page to person, from ink to imagination.
The book begins. The words flow.
People often curse the arrival of the electronic reader. They exclaim in Luddite fashion how the printed page is superior. These same people bemoan the CD and still equate perfection with vinyl. It is irrelevant. The screen or the page is irrelevant.
Both of them are windows. Through them you glimpse a world that is beyond you, but yet right in your hands. It is the words that transport you through the aperture.
I always thought that it was the words that mattered. A book was a good enough place to hide and a hard back was just a stronger wall built around your hiding place. How little we know.
You sent me this book, the book that broke down the wall of my(more) hiding place, that allowed the outside world in, in behind the walls. And walls were important then, they often are in any sort of prison.
You left some grains of sand between the pages, seems a simple thing doesn't it? some grains of sand left in the pages of a book, such a simple thing. Until one day I sit alone in my cell, hiding in the pages of a hard back from the walls that surround, complete in my isolation from the world....until one day a page turns and my hand sliding down the smooth, resisting surface encounters the wild disorientating grip of the outside world.
Just some grains of sand left in the pages of a book. Just some grains of sand that carry with them the roar of the sea, the wind in my hair, the sun, oh God the sun, warm upon my face. I was almost free in that moment.
I always thought that it was the words that mattered. A book was a good enough place to hide and a hard back was just a stronger wall built around your hiding place. How little we know.(less)
With the scents of blood, musk, and confidence distracting my attention from the impeding impact of his incoming fist; I was unable to brace for impact. The sound of my teeth thumping against the cold concrete of the basement combined with the possible fracture of my chiseled(more) cheekbone further diverts my concentration. Flurries of brute knuckles attack my once charming smile until I lose consciousness.
I awake to the midst of the blood thirsty crowd cheering as the referee shouts ‘FOUR!’ I draw myself to one knee, scanning the cluster of people looking for the woman I love. She is an onlooker in the sea of vultures; flowers at a wake, euphoria before death. With the flash of her mischievous smile I am reminded this is all for her; those hips, those lips. The best prizefighter in unsanctioned bare-knuckle boxing just realized what he needs to do, for her.
The winner’s purse and percentage of the bets would cover most, not all, of her gambling debt. One more fight for me, for her, for us. I summon all of the strength and courage left in me. I rise to my feet swallowing the pint of blood in my mouth. For her.
I charge with thunderous aggression landing punch after punch, a massacre for her. I slip, I miss. My face, his fists have their final dance. ‘The kid goes down.’ For her.
My eyes awaken with the flickering light above me in this crude basement. I lost, no purse. I congratulate the other fighter, a small frail man with scent of whisky.
She is hovering above the bookie and his ledger. A ledger with the spine cracked, the covers split, a hardback amidst digital journals. He hands her the winnings of the dive. For her, forever.(less)
He died with a hard back and a soft belly, wanting a bit more out of life. A solid few remembered the way he once was, but for most he lived his life like a shooting star too far away to be seen.
Two women had loved him(more), a third never decided. The dreams of his youth occasionally resurfaced and haunted the edge of his awareness. Some men's destinies burn as fixed stars in the stormy night; his laughed and faded back into the shadow.(less)
I was sweating through my shirt after the much needed solitary bike ride on my favorite trail. I had powered through the rough patches of roots and rocks and cruised with the light breeze on the straightaways. I stopped once at my turning back point to lay in the slow flowing(more) waters of the little big econ. How could it be both little and big? Some minnows bit at the dead skin on my toes. I love the feel of their tickling little mouths.
I flew back much faster than I had come; trying to feel the lactic acid burn in my tired muscles. I wasn't watching where I was going as well as I should have. THWUMP! My front tire slammed into something solid and I flew a few feet in the air landing near my bike where it lay on the ground. "Uhhnnnn" I groaned, nursing my skinned knee and bruised elbow. Turning behind me to see what had caused my sudden crash I saw a gopher tortoise hidden in his shell. My heart pounded in my chest, had I just hurt an endangered animal?
I scooted over to him hoping he was alright. I examined his shell carefully. He was unscathed! The same couldn't be said for my bruised and bleeding body. I waited until he emerged from his shell to be sure he was completely fine. He trotted away back into the forest. Thank goodness the little fellow had such a hard back!(less)
Books were his refuge. His sanctuary. His safe place. His home. You would never see him without one, an it was a different one each time. He read all kinds of different genres--realistic fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, historical, romance. It didn't matter to him, so long as it helped him(more) escape the horrible reality that was his life.
There was his mom. She had died in a fire when he was eight years old, leaving him nothing to remember her by. Not even her favorite copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. That burnt in the fire as well. People living in his small town would have taken more pity on him if it wasn't for his sexuality.
He was gay. In his tiny, religious town, not many people accepted that. It wasn't like he was burnt at the stake or bullied every day, but no one ever talked to him. He got some of the dirtiest looks as he passed through the halls. He sat alone at lunch, worked alone for group projects.
He didn't really understand it all, so it didn't bother him much. He knew their dirty looks and whispers behind his back were wasted, since it didn't hurt him in the slightest bit. Maybe it was the fact that he'd lost a parent at a young, or maybe it was because he'd been going through this for a long while now. Whatever it was, he was strong. One could almost compare him to a hard back book. (less)
The ghost in front of her was not a ghost at all; it was a man, tall with broad shoulders and dusty red hair. His skin was pink and very stubbornly opaque. She had expected translucent. Hoped for it.
"If you(more) knew it," he said, "then why do you look so surprised?"
"Because," she said, but the word was meaningless. She could have said anything for all she knew -- "fish" perhaps, or "anchors away." Her fingers grasped for the stone in her pocket. The smoothness calmed her. "We all know we're going to die," she continued, twisting the rock between her fingertips, "but we're surprised all the same, right?"
The man smiled. "I wouldn't know," he said. His voice was soft. Quiet. She was pleased (or something like it) to note that his hand was trembling in his pocket too.
"I'd thought you died," she said.
"I had dreams," she said, and the stone grew warm in her grasp. She pushed through it. "You were an angel, singing me to sleep."
"I dreamed the same."
"Then why," she said, "didn't you come back?" The stone was becoming too warm; she dropped it in her pocket and used her hand to wipe her cheek. It was wet. "Didn't you want to? Mom would have understood. I would have understood."
The man sighed. With that simple action, he aged ten years. She could see the grey in his hair and the lines on his face, skin creased like the corners of her favorite books.
"I wanted to," he said. "Believe me, I did. But honey, you have to understand. Sometimes it's too hard to come back."
The stone felt hot against her thigh. The heat burned her flesh.
They ate bland food and felt content, they listened to computer zaps instead of The Stones and they always voted for the wrong candidate. With them he shared a genetic past but not his good sense.
The man showed
his hard back to the city and if you looked at him you knew. But no one ever did. (less)
I went soft. For her, I went soft.
I used to be able to take care of business. Used to be able to make the hard choices. The choices no one else could make. I could take out the garbage in this town and go home to a tal(more)l Scotch. Nothing bothered me. Nothing got to me. I was hard, tough, solid.
Then *she* walked in, and everything changed.
She made me want to see in color, not just black-and-white. She showed me how to enjoy the nuanced flavors and textures in a glass of Cabernet rather than pouring Scotch down my throat every night to burn the memories from the inside out. She taught me to unclench my fists that for so long had been nothing but an outflowing conduit of rage, pouring forth ire and wrath on any poor slob who got in my way.
She made me care about what I was becoming.
I gave up the streets, took a desk job, carried pens instead of a gun, filed paperwork instead of booking criminals. Because she said she needed that. Said she needed stability. Safety.
She needed me soft.
So I went soft. For her. And for a while, I liked it even.
And then she was gone.
She was gone because I couldn't do the work that had to be done. The hard work. The tough job. Taking out the garbage.
The garbage piled up, and it overran her. It swept her away.
The only thing soft anymore was the earth over her grave.
I got my hard back. And I'm never letting it go again.(less)
She's been traveling for far too long. Wandering, wondering. The air is thick, the wind bitter. She stops abruptly, pulls a cigarette from her back pocket and smokes.
Two roads split off from here exaggerating the barrier between who she is and who she wants to b(more)e. She closes her eyes as she takes a long drag off her toxic cigarette, committing suicide in the slowest most sophisticated way she can. She knows which road to take but the memories of the past keep her present.
Time is running out, the wind becomes violent. She picks up her suitcase and with eyes full of tears and a heart full of hope, she takes off down the unfamiliar road.
But it is so hard not to look back. (less)
Shelving the books was easy enough. It was monotonous work that allowed me to delve inside my brain long enough to alleviate the constant chirping of christmas carols over the loud speakers. Atwood. A. AT. ATW. ATWO- there. Allen. A. AL. ALLE- there. and so forth until I'd done t(more)en shelves and wasted four hours. Four insensible hours that could have been better spent in the island bar next door. The only bookstore on the island, and it's a corporate chain staffed by old retired women, who were once school teachers, or librarians etc. Brecht. B. BR. BRE. BREC-there. The manager is young, older than me but only a few years. He has that strut that only chubby well intentioned southern boys get in a position of authority. Snobby, yet modest. He pokes his head between the shelves until he finds me. Burroughs. B. BU. BUR. BURR-there.
"Hey Jody?" he interrupetted that space in my head. The Christmas carols began to flood in, my jaw tightens, my tongue curls, I burp and the distinctive taste of vodka dissipates in front of my face.
"Yeah!" He finds me, three aisles away, and saunters towards me with the daily schedule in hand.
"You were suppose to be in the cafe at 6. It's 7 now. "
"Who's going to put this shit away?" I pointed the the deconstructed shelf. Books strewn across the floor, hardbacks flipped upside down like blue jays in the dirt, unorganized, the publication so fresh you could still smell the ink from the printer.
He scatched his chin not in a contemplative way, but like he was trying to flick a bug off.
"Well, finish this and go to the cafe when your done." He walked away slowly at first until he got to the main aisle.(less)
The rain slid around him, wouldn't touch him, and he forgot what wet felt like. The hungry cold of soggy socks was gone; he was instead the aimless voyeur, walking along while folks rushed around him under umbrellas and disintegrating newspaper. It was he and they, now: he saw(more) them burdened with elements, but they, hunched under the shields they clutched, saw only feet. Did they wonder if he was mad? Or was that inevitable, now that he'd lost the fear of weather that all children absorb from ancestry?(less)
Red grasped at the rock face and tried to keep his footing in pouring rain. Sheets of ice cold winter rain ran down the cliff, numbing his hands where is flowed around the edge of his gloves. He shifted the weight of his pack and tried again to reach(more) for a branch he could steady himself with. His cargo, as precious as it was contraband, would hopefully stay dry within several layers of oil skin and rosined cloth.
Nestled within were the words of gods, both literal and literary. Each page of the books he carried with him would earn him at least a whipping, if not torture and death at the hands of the Inquisitors. Any book not filtered through the Office of Purity was contraband, as was any printed text. The Inquisitors couldn't edit out a passage, or change the meaning of a word on a physical page. So, out of a need for control, the Order had banned all printed materials and published only digital texts they could watch and read along with you. Some had found out quickly that reading Marx, or Hobbes, or Rowling was grounds for a visit from an Inquisitor, and those visits were frequently last one you had.
Red heaved himself across a gap and found a space on the cliff where he could rest and perhaps wait out the storm. People like him, who thought that others should have the right to read what they want without fear of the censor, helped get the Good Word out to those who needed it. He was carrying several copies of Ulysses, as well as a book about chicken soup, a history of Rome and 2 full sets of the wizard books. He'd continue to deliver these Hard Backs when the storm had passed.(less)
I am one of those quirky OCD folks that HAS to keep his books in perfect condition! One time, on a trip from Seattle to Portland with my family scrunched in our Subaru, I remember carrying a copy of Melville's Moby Dick in paper back, well my sister had(more) spilled an entire cup of Starbucks hot chocolate all over it. To this day, I still can smell sweet aroma of the hot chocolate on the pages of that book. No longer is Moby swimming in an ocean of salt and water, but now in an ocean of cacao, the sailors drinking from their flasks of Nestle's. The ship sailing the seven Swiss Miss seas. No longer do I have to be picky and shuffle between different copies of the same novel in the book store. Ebooks will never have strange aromas of dusty book stores, never being picked up for 10 years, pages yellowing. Thoughts of pondering readers scrolled in the margins. Hi-lighted sentences that make no sense to me, but must have had some significance to someone, somewhere, at sometime, meaning something. Books with no "Dear Terry, dont worry about the past, its behind you. Pick up where you left off," forever memorialized in ink on the page before the introduction. Never have the mystery of thinking, "This book was held in the hands of someone else." Never sharing the same exact physical words being processed from our eyes to our minds and then forever scratched in the subconscious of our minds, and pondered upon later. I guess that's the price we pay for living in a digital age.(less)