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The Journal of Possible Things Posts

The Dishonest Library

“I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.” -Roger Zelazny

When I moved into the first house I owned, I had forty boxes of books. When I moved to Los Angeles, necessity forced me to trim that number to twenty boxes. Moving back to Cleveland, I cut it to twelve. When I moved to where I am now, I cut it back to nine.

I understand loving your library. I enjoy running my eyes and fingertips over the spines, remember the pleasure each book brought me, recalling why each is special.

When they are special, that is. As a younger man, I owned a lot of books I never read. They were the showcase books; the books that projected the image I wanted to foster. I wanted people who came to my house to believe that I was the sort of person who reads those sorts of books. When I bought them, I intended to read them…and never did.

How badly did I want to read them, then? Not very, it turns out.

You may think that those were the first books to go. No…the first were the books I’d read and knew I would never read again. Next were the books that meant little to me beyond some passing academic interest. Next were the old paperbacks I knew friends would enjoy. It wasn’t until the fourth pass that I got rid of my Let’s-Pretend section of books, and it was a hard thing to do.

Giving up that section of books showed me that I was not yet the person I wanted to be, but also that I had not become the person I thought I would be. When I got rid of them, it was a release of personal expectation, there came a freedom to not be bound to what had come before.

As I write this, I’m looking bookshelves that are full of computer programming manuals that either I have not read in years, have never read, or, in the minority, some that are well worn and time honored. I’ll keep the latter. It is time to get rid of the former two.

They say you can tell a lot about a person by their library, and I believe that is true. But I also know that you cannot tell a book by its cover, and while stocking all these extra titles might bolster the self esteem, it’s possible the spines have never been cracked. At that point, are we fooling our visitors or ourselves?

The Nothing Under The Bed

Jack didn’t think Mom would come, but he called her anyway.

“Mom?” A pause, then louder, “MOM?”

A loud sigh, a shuffling of steps, then his mother was opening the door to his room. Her voice was a sharp hiss. “What. Is. It. Now?”

“There’s…under my…” Jack faltered, not really wanting to say it.

“Dammit, Jack. NOTHING is under the BED,” his mother seethed in a fierce whisper. “No. Now…go to SLEEP.”

The door was shut quietly but firmly, then Jack was alone again.

Sitting up in the glow of the night light. He waited.

And waited.

And…waited.

There was a rustle, then a ghostly arm reached out from under the bed. It pulled a body…shrunken, withered, wasted away, out into the open. Jack stared. It was pale like moonlight, like what Jack imagined a ghost would be like. It pulled itself free and then turned, pulling itself onto the foot of the bed. It sat there across from Jack, legs folded underneath indian-style. it stared at Jack.

“Hel…hello.” Jack said.

It nodded.

Jack pursed his lips, then, “What are you?”

It smiled. “Nothing,” it hissed.

“Are…are you going to eat me?” Jack asked.

The creature smiled wider. It’s teeth glinted.

Jack swallowed. “Why?”

The creature’s smile widened more than any mouth could widen.

Jack said again. “You tell me why. What did I do?”

The creature’s voice was a growling whisper, like two stones being rubbed together, “Nothing.”

Jack slouched. A tear started to roll down his cheek. “But…but…”

The wraith reached out, sharp nails drawing blood on the the boy’s cheek.. Covering Jack’s mouth, it tilted the boy’s face up to meet it’s cold eyes. Inside its eyes was…nothing.

Jack was pretty sure he didn’t want to be eaten. . Staring into the mouth of the thing was like staring into one of those black hole things he’d seen on the Internet. Jack didn’t like where this was headed, so he did what any little boy would do. He grabbed the Nothing’s arm and bit its hand.

There was a lot of thrashing. The Nothing tasted, Jack thought, like cold jello and dust, but he didn’t mind. There was something about it that made him feel warm inside. Like…he was waking up. Like he was supposed to eat the Nothing. He continued to bite and lick and suck and chomp, all the while the Nothing’s thrashing becoming weaker and weaker. Finally, only the head was left, held in young Jack’s hands.

His mother’s voice called out from her room, “Jack…what are you doing in there?”

Jack smiled, and the smile was not so different from that of the creature. ”Nothing, ” Jack called back.

And then he finished his snack.