Looking around the room the young man started to count the shelves and piles of books; losing interest somewhere between sixteen and twenty. Not the first time he stopped counting; seems he lost interest every time. The shelves, most eight, nine feet high, covered every space except the narrow path leading between rooms. Good thing he lived in a basement apartment. Apartment? Regardless of how you define the place, it was nothing more than a repository of books.
It was her fault, most definitely. Had she not taught him to read, nothing like this would have ever happened. “Damn teachers…why we put up with them is a true mystery.” Not that he hated all of his teachers, he just needed someone, a ‘them’ undefined, to blame. The obsession to collect books manifested itself around age twelve. By the time he was twenty, his parents had enough and tossed him out. The old woman had a basement apartment and food in return for odd jobs. When she died, he started to exist off of the money she left lying around the house and what he could sell of her possessions. The money bought food and books; with books being first. He could live with hunger, but not without books.
As he made his way to the next room, the area was shaken by a major tremor; a fault line ran directly beneath the house. He reached out to steady himself, then, with balance gone, he fell. Within seconds he was covered by books. As luck would have it, he was facing up and, thankfully, the books were positioned in a way that allowed him to breathe. He tries to move his legs, but they are wedged against the floor by a bookcase. ‘Sit-up!’ The bookcase impeded movement; it was across his midsection and legs. He was pinned to the ground. He screams for help; no one responds. He passes out.
When he awakes, the world around him is silent; no sounds from inside, none from without. It’s dark; he is in an interior room. No way to tell what time it is, nor how long he had been out. Pings of hunger mixed with fear stir within…
The lecturer stopped and looked across the assembled audience of middle-aged to retired men and women. He scanned their faces and, when he had chosen his ‘focus’, the soon to be leader of the pack, the lecturer stared at the man; he stared with soft intensity that spoke of understanding, compassion, and ‘I have the answer you have been seeking.’
In a firm voice the lecturer speaks to the man, “I understand, we all understand, yet you have given me the answer. Thank you.” Such gratitude, such understanding such…friendship. “Again, I thank you for enlightening us to the answer we have been seeking.” The lecturer steps down from the dais, reaches out and shakes the man’s hand.
And, as the lecturer leads the man out of the room, he says to the audience, “This man has shown me that there is no reason to continue talking. He has imparted human and intellectual understanding…far more than my story would have.”
The rest of the audience follows the two into an adjoining room; where, during the preceding dialogue, salespeople had set up their booths. The audience, their fear of the electronic age now broken, gratefully purchase the tablets and eBooks for their teenagers and grandchildren; least they fall victim to book hording.
(Books, is a work of fiction, copyright Steven S. Walsky, 2013, all rights reserved.)