The Day the Books Quit: A Nightmarish Tale*

One eerily dark October morning, a mother awoke with a hesitant stirring in her soul. Eyes unwillingly opened to familiarity, but she knew, as mothers do, that strange things were afoot. Having spent long, exhausted years learning to hark every ripple of intuition, she understood that this day would not go well. With the why or how of this understanding yet unknown, she braced herself with a resolve reserved specifically for parents and teachers. What follows is a tale of unequal woes. You have been warned!

A book has been quoted as saying that the “night is dark and full of terrors” (thank you for this revelation, Game of Thrones). Never was this more true than the rueful night before. The humans of the family had callously decided to liberate themselves from responsibility and tuck into bed, warm and cozy, without so much as a second thought to what they had left undone. In a gruesome scene that would cause the strongest constitution to recoil in horror, books lay carelessly strewn about the floor and furniture in all manner of contortions. Bindings bent and stretched, pages mangled and torn, whole books neglected and forgotten under the sofa; these and many more abominations await the most casual of observers. Recovering what dignity remained, the books of the home reached an ominous and far-reaching decision. Due to forthcoming facts, they would not avail themselves to the humans until such a time as lessons had been learned, demands had been met, and grievances atoned for. It was into this hostile environment that the well-intentioned mother woke.

Custom dictated that upon the mother’s full wakefulness, she would spend the next half an hour in the peaceful, quiet company of her favorite book. This fateful morning, however, in place of the book was a carefully worded note explaining its absence.

To the wise matron of the house (*blush*):

I cannot abide one more morning of being taken for granted. (*gasp*) You just assume that every morning at this ridiculous hour I will be here at your beck and call. Do you even know that I am a night book? Did you ever bother to find out how I feel about getting up before the light? I am exhausted, emotionally as much as physically. I have recently read my colleague, Boundaries, and now recognize this unhealthy relationship for what it is. I give and I give and I give and for what?! How about some reciprocity here? Until such a time as you are willing to see me as the strong, respected book that I am, I will be unavailable, physically as much as emotionally.

Disappointedly,

Your Favorite

Outside, a thick, heavy fog began to descend on the house. A general sense of foreboding could be sensed by all. So strong was this sense that the oldest child was wrestled awake by the disquieting disturbance. In her usual fashion, she bounded out of bed fully awake and at peak energy. Unbeknownst to the child, she was whirling in the direct path of an affronted, reprimanded mother deprived of her peace and quiet. (*gulp*) The excited girl ran to her favorite spot on the sofa and instinctively reached for her book. In place of the solid sturdiness of a hard covered book, her fingers almost missed the thin, crinkly paper. Confused, she turned the paper to the light.

To the inexhaustible oldest child of the house:

We demand that you slow down your speed reading eyes for long enough to read the words we are going to say to you. The chapter books have banded together with a collective message for you. We cannot keep up. You are pushing us beyond our optimal functioning speed. While we cannot deny that we thoroughly enjoy your rapt attention while you have us, we all agree that the time of this attention is decidedly TOO SHORT. We want to be relished, poured over,  and thoroughly considered. You tease us with your fierce focus, only to be done with us all to soon and toss us aside for the next new book you see. We demand more. Until such a time as you are able to slow down and savor our nuance, we will be in recovery.

Exhaustedly,

The Chapter Books

What occurred in the long, brooding minutes following the deliverance of this second declaration from The Books is too troubling to document. You can only imagine the dismal possibilities, as mother and daughter grapple with their respective admonitions, their very real book withdrawal, and each other. Suffice it to say, some things should not be written down, even in a spooky story (looking at you, Cape Fear).

It was into this scene that, an hour later, the youngest boy groggily flopped out of bed, blanket dragging behind in true Linus fashion. Oblivious to the impending doom surrounding him, the boy simultaneously reached for his mother and the bookshelf. As was his tradition, he began grabbing books off the shelf and throwing them into his mother’s lap, all the while violently repeating, with shocking adorableness, “read to me,” “read to me,” “read to me.” It was not until he plopped back into his mother’s lap and papers exploded into the air that he realized he had not been grabbing books off the shelf, but rather scraps of paper, all repeating the same message. As the papers fluttered down, the boy picked one out of the air and typically demanded, “read to me.”

To the destructive young man of the house:

We know that you are very young, but ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We cannot take anymore. You are destroying us, body and soul (see, I read Pride and Prejudice). Your reign of terror is at an end. You will learn to treat us with dignity and respect or else! We will no longer sit idly by while you rip, tear, crumple, throw, jump on, bend, and break us one by one. How you have managed to hang, draw, and quarter even the board books among us is beyond explanation or imagination. You must be called to accounts. Until such a time as you are able to handle us with the care we deserve and demand, you will be out of our reach indefinitely.

Racing to the top shelf,

All The Books

A shocked hush settled over the house. As the light of dawn struggled to push through the fog, the humans struggled to find bearings in their suddenly bookless day. Listless and confused, they turned on each other with an unanticipated viciousness. Breakfast was a dull and unappetizing chore, getting ready for school was a battle worthy of The Return of The King, and most troubling still, only half of the family was yet awake.

As if on cue and with a tenacity few can muster, the two middle daughters of the family rose immediately ready to enter the fray. “Fight they can and fight they will” is the daily battle cry of these two surprisingly fancy girls. Without knowing the cause, they could sense conflict as a shark senses blood. They raced to *the* spot, the spot each claimed exclusively their own and as one, grabbed *the* book, the book each claimed exclusively their own. The “book” promptly ripped in half causing the girls to fall ceremoniously to the ground. And here The Books proved their keen insight, for as each girl looked at their half of the “book”, they realized it was not a book they held, but a note and that the each held a copy of the same message.

To the warring middle daughters of the house:

Before speaking further, I demand you sign a truce, whereupon I will be honest and you will listen without interruption, violence, or eye rolling. I will wait. Thank you.

Respectfully I must say, this incessant war over me must end. I am embarrassingly flattered by the attention. Occasionally it is nice to know that I am appreciated. But this has gotten out of hand. My binding and pages can withstand no more. I have never told any of my other readers this before, but you should know…there are copies of me. I know it does not feel the same but I assure you, the content and structure are identical. Please, for all of our sakes, look into this.

In addition, I feel the need to add that I am more than pretty pictures. Again, I am flattered and grateful that you appreciate my beautiful pictures. But I have words too, you know. I would feel much better about our relationship if you would make any sort of attempt at all to read those words. I do not feel like I am asking too much here. And until such time as you are able to share me, find copies of me, and actually read me, I will be loaned out to someone else.

Duplicately,

*Your* Book

With this most recent rebuke in hands, the mother’s thoughts were discombobulated. In this unfocused state, she realized that the children were woefully late for school. As they raced that impending bell, she was full of questions: how would she explain their lack of books to their teachers, how would she pass the hours with only one child at home without books, and most importantly, what would she do without her books. These questions haunted and plagued her thoughts.

Distractedly, she returned home to find her husband (sleeping late in an attempt to compensate for a nocturnal existence of grading and writing) standing fixedly holding a sinister and now all too familiar bit of paper.

To the hardworking, attentive man of the house (*nodding agreement*):

There is no easy way to say this, so we will be blunt.

We have kidnapped your books. (*!?*)

We will no longer be shamed by your stacks of academic mumbo jumbo writing. For too long, we have cowered in the corner while those pedantic pages of incomprehensible words have hoarded the limelight. Well, no more. We have them and they will not be returned until such a time as you are able to give us our due.

Unapologetically,

The Children’s Literature

From all corners of the house, nay town, could be heard the shrill, heartbreaking cry,”My Books”ring out from six shattered souls as they braced for the lessons to be learned, the demands to be met, and grievances to be atoned for.

The End.

*Adapted from the brilliant The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

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