We first noticed changes at the library where we thought books knew their place. Every morning the new librarian had to track down The Wanderers and return it to its shelf. Copies of The Homecoming showed up all over town. We’d never read anything like it; we didn’t know what to think. The reference section was playing hide and seek. Aggressive titles clawed their way to the tops of our to-be-read piles and towered before us obscuring our views of the game shows. Arriving home, I sensed the presence of another lingering in the air. From room to room I passed until, peeking in I discovered, splayed on the guest room bed, lurid jacket cast to the floor, her frank white barely indented lightly handled pages waving, The Scent of a Woman. I eased myself onto the mattress and took her in my hands. The boys from the firehouse traveled through town stopping at every house to collect our copies of Mister Bradbury’s book which were already warm to the touch and which, when they were piled before the courthouse, glowed and breathed out flames and bathing our faces with color gladdened us all and gladden us still for, while they burn, they are not consumed. Perhaps they consume us and we are the flame. I’ve found the perfect book to give my girl. I’ve surrounded her with copies, some of them brittle bound, some of them soft. I hope she’ll clutch it to her heart and that it will teach her to endure me or gas us both I don’t care which. Back at the library, I try to maintain order, but books that climb and fly and stab their friends and steal from God are hard to contain however precisely we number them. That’ll be seven cents.

Copyright © December 16, 2007 David Hodges