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The Boy Who Got Lost In The Library Shelves

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I wasn't prepared to take part in Blogcritics' Bookfair or add anything to Natalie's great lineup and I was sad. Luckily I remembered a few scraps of paper I had found in the Adriance Memorial Library in Poughkeepsie a long time ago. I had been poking around in the stacks and was interested in that magic place between one line of books and the next, backs facing out and their stories, their innards facing each other.

That is a place where the stories live and little boys can lose their way when they venture too far into the library all alone. I found a few pages in a childish hand and, curious, I saved them. He wrote this:

"I was little. Maybe as little as that grasshopper knee we hear so much about. Maybe bigger than that. I am not Alice of Wonderland, just David of the library shelves. The only pills marked 'eat me' here are in Alice's book and one called PDR where they have lots of pills. I'm little and I don't like pills. I am not sure if I like Alice all the time, either.

Library-shelf David isn't my name. Actually, it is. I am David and I live in the library shelves now but it was, simply, David and another name before. David Windless, I think it was. I was a little boy who was normal and lived in a house, then. I was a little boy who was normal and played in the back yard with balsa wood gliders and plastic ships. I was a little boy who was normal and had a chemistry set and a kit to make electronic gadgets that worked sometimes when I did it right. I was a little boy who was a little abnormal because I only had a mother and we didn't have a lot of money so I didn't have a cell phone and my computer was old. We had a TV but it wasn't big enough to crawl into and, besides, it wasn't very interesting except for some movies and documentaries about space and animals and stuff.

One night after I hid under my sheets with a flashlight so that I could read Tom Sawyer again, he, Tom, came to the foot of my bed and invited me to come out into the night and go to his island to play. I couldn't say no to Tom. He could talk a dolt into whitewashing his fence for him – how could I say I didn't want to play on his island? I did want to, after all. We hung out all night on that island of Tom's and Huck's. Huck was only mentioned once or twice and never came. He had family problems. Some old dude named Samuel looked in on us and smiled but he left us alone to play so it was ok.

It was not until a lot later that a lady came one night and said what I should do, since I loved books so much that I read them under my covers and thought I was in them and even was falling into them some nights when the friends I had made in those books came to visit me in my bed. I should, she told me, sneak over to the library, that really big old building with a dome and dark wood rooms filled with the smell of old men and children moaning about school and old books and new books and the copy machine and the new computers.

It was a place I loved during the day even if they did make me go downstairs where the kids acted like kids mostly. Upstairs were the big people who knew more but scared me. So down the stairs I went where the chairs were smaller. My mom — I had a mom, did I say? — promised to give me her adult card and then I could read anything I wanted and say I was getting it for her. What, I wondered, would the dour librarian say when I said my mother needed books on astronomy and World War II and the invention of transistors and computers, a neat old guy with a beard called Hemingway and The Wizard of Oz?

I made one really good friend although he is a little older than me and he is in school way off in another place where he is learning to be a really good magician. I like him and even a lot of his pals. I wish I could go to his school and learn about magic, too. What is really, really sad is that there are some super bad, mean people who want to make him and all his friends and even his enemies leave their library. They might hurt him or burn the books he lives in down in some place called 'Atlanta.' I sure hope enough people stand up to protect Harry 'cause he's really nice and sweet and he has a good heart. Why would anyone want to hurt him?

That strange lady came back other nights and said that I really had to come to the library at midnight and look in the great stacks of the adult section. The books, she said, were waiting. The library knew me and needed me and was waiting. Words and numbers and teachers and even people who would be my friends were waiting. The heavens were waiting under 'Astronomy' and a really neat computer I could make myself if I found the right book, and a lady called Gertrude wanted to tell me about roses but they were complicated. There was a man called Andre Gide but he was scary, she said, and I should stay away from him.

There were so many there and they wanted me to come notice them and read them and maybe play with them or talk to them but I had to be more careful than I had been downstairs. So I promised the promise and one night I left my warm bed and my mother because I wanted to meet so many people with so many stories and I thought I could always come back home since the book always ends and, if you want more, you have to make it up yourself.


Now I am just David and I only have one friend left from those old days. Her name is Colleen and she looks like a Colleen should look from the days with the Little People. I know some of the Little People who live over with the Irish Mythology. They are okay but short and green (but my mom says the color of people doesn't make any difference). They are like Dennis who lives with the comic books. They are always trouble in the end. Colleen isn't.

Colleen is a real girl even if she has green eyes and yellow hair and white-gold skin and a smile that reminds me of that silly cat from the book where Alice lives. There is a weird old guy who likes little girls there. He follows them around with his big, old wooden camera and wants them to look funny in torn clothes. I think he is weird, like I said, but then he writes stories that make me laugh. When I jump in there are odd, old people and rabbits who talk and magic pills and, in the end, dear Alice just wakes up and I guess one day she will grow up. I wonder if I will.

Sometimes I love living in the book stacks in this warm, old library filled with friends and stories and facts. I am learning a lot and there are scary people but so many who are interesting. Some of them spend time with me and some just wander around lost in the stories they belong to. A few have what they call 'series' and get to wander in a number of books. The people who wrote them, that old man with the camera, some women who call themselves by the names of men and some women who are just so sweet and others, all around here, who write things called 'romance novels' and 'mystery series' just want to talk about money and investing and they should go over to the shelves marked 'Finance' and leave us alone but they still hang out here. They don't like kids much.

Colleen came for me finally. She brought my mom who was so busy calling the police and crying. The newspaper people (I stay away from the newspaper room because it is filled with unhappiness and no one stays more than a night or two) were enjoying the story of a little boy who had been kidnapped (I visited the island in that book, too. It was fun but scarey sometimes with the guy with the wooden leg). The policeman thought that I was probably the 'victim of another child abuser.' They really got my mom upset especially since they wanted a new, little story every day about what a good boy I was. Well, I wasn't really that good, really.

Colleen is just a little girl but, I guess, she was a real friend. My pals never told me girls could be such good friends. Maybe it is some sort of secret. She cried and whined that she knew I was lost in the library until my mother came to the library with her. I don't think that policeman wanted to come with them but he came, too. Colleen took them into the stacks as soon as the library closed and the policeman shined his flashlight everywhere a real boy-body could be and looked in old storerooms and behind stairs and down in the basement among the moulding boxes. He wanted a ripped up body, I knew.

My mom knew, too, and she cried some more. I felt real bad for her and wished the policeman would get lost with that man, Edgar Allen Poe. He knew how to hide bodies and make police squirm. Colleen yelled and threw one of those tantrums we were still good at then. Those are the ones when you start screaming and crying and it gets so good that you can't stop and it just gets worse and worse.

Mom got her to stop with lots of kisses and hugs and wiped her eyes and nose. That helps. Then Colleen climbed up to the next-to-the-last shelf and crawled back to that space between one line of books and another. That's where we all live. There were other kids who got lost and old people who came back to the library they loved and people from inside the books. Colleen cried for me, too, so finally I decided a real mom and a real friend would be even better than living in the books and I crawled out of that funny space and back into the real place where the policeman was.

Sometimes I miss it there now that I am home but at least I still have my books. More of them, actually. Everybody sends books to me because I was the boy-who-got-lost-in-the-shelves. The librarian looks real worried when I come in but she doesn't question the books I take out for 'my mom.' Best of all I got to see the face of the policeman. Johnny said he drives an ice-cream truck now."

(The pictures from old books come from a website that is always interesting: Pictures From Old Books suggested on Blogcritics by Natalie Bennett in the Books section.)

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About hfdratch

  • http://www.gohah.blogspot.com Gordon Hauptfleisch

    Wonderful! Thanks for a great read, Howard.

  • http://indemnification.blogspot.com -E

    Congrats! This article has been selected as one of this week’s Editors’ Picks.

  • http://www.myspace.com/xxmichelle_christinexx michelle ashley

    this story is so sad.

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