The Boy Who Loved To Read

Short Story Prompt: “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway

Thor, not the god, the man. Actually he was a teenager. Thor loved to read. Reading was a favorite thing for him to do. Oh sure, he liked the girls. And they liked him. Liked him a lot. Can’t blame them. His blue eyes and blonde hair, and those rugged Scandinavian looks he inherited from his dad.

Like I said, Thor liked to read. It was okay when he was younger, but he was expected to put the books down once he went into puberty. His dad knew the kid had talent. He had the potential to go all the way to the pros. He had an arm on him that would make him a great quarterback.

Thor was not the kind of kid to put up a fight. He was a Libra and Libras are people who like their peace. Will go out of their way, and sometimes against their own best interest, for peace. So, in the tenth grade, he went out for football. Since he was a natural, the coach made him quarterback. First string too. He was the youngest quarterback in the history of the high school.

Between practice and schoolwork and dating, it didn’t leave much time for reading. Then there was the job on the side. His dad brought him in to work in his garage on Saturdays during off-season. Said it was good for him. Would give him a work ethic.

But reading wasn’t something Thor could just give up. He had gotten through all seven of the Harry Potters. He went on to “Treasure Island” and Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. All fun reads. Then there were the Norse myths. When he found out that his dad had named him after the god Thor, he had to know who this god was. So he poured over Edith Hamilton and Bulfinch. Their books had sections on the Norses. He even read some of the Norse sagas, especially the ones that featured the god, Thor.

Thor had a hammer. A big hammer. It even had a name. Mjolnir. It was Thor’s best friend. Other heroes got a sidekick. Thor got a hammer. Was it a real hammer? Or was that hammer symbolic? His high school English teacher taught her students about symbolism in literature. One day he asked his teacher about Mjolnir. She said that it was indeed symbolic. But he wasn’t so sure. Maybe one day he could get a hammer like Thor’s. He’d put off going after it now, but one of these days he was going to have that hammer.

Lately he had taken to reading “The Lord of the Rings”. He read under the covers and by flashlight. But, before he could get a page read, he dropped off into sleep. He wanted to know what happened to Frodo. He wanted to know bad. He just had to know.

He started visiting the bathroom regularly, not for a one or a twosy, but for what he termed a threesy. It was the only place in the house where he could read in peace. At first, it was only five minutes. Then it became longer and longer. When it turned into an hour, his mother became very concerned. The rest of the family, his younger brother and his dad, were not happy either. When they had to go, they had to go. Though they knocked on the door furiously, it was hard for them to get him out.

What happened next is family lore. His mother stood at the bathroom door and knocked.

“Why are you in the bathroom?” his mother asked through the door. “You sick?”

“No,” he replied.

“Then what are you doing in there?” she wanted to know.

“Nada.” Then he realized that would be the name of his hammer.

“Are you playing with yourself?”

“No,” he answered. “I don’t do that. I don’t want to go blind.”

“Good,” she said. “Don’t forget the rest of us have to use the bathroom too.”

He shook his head and mumbled that he understood.

“Then what? What are you doing in there? Are you reading in there?”

He didn’t answer.

“Why do you keep spending so much time in that bathroom?” She was yelling through the door now.

“It’s a clean well-lighted place.”

Natasha and the Elephant

Natasha loved a good book. Give her a good book and she was gone like a light. She could sit still for hours, her blue eyes glued to the page, her lips slightly moving, occasionally pushing strands of her long red hair out of her face to get a better view of the page. When asked what she was reading, she looked up from the page, those freckles on her face alive with joy. “Oh, it’s a book.” Then she went back to the page.

By the time she was reading for university, it seemed she had read near all the classics. And not in her language which was Russian. In the original languages. She read Homer in Greek, Virgil in Latin, Dante in Italian, Shakespeare in English, Moliere in French, Goethe in German, Basho in Japanese. When she read a book in another language, she sat with a dictionary from that language and turned the pages, searching for the word she saw in the book. She was fast doing this.

Though she loved literature, she decided the best career for her was the law. She loved  details and the law was filled with details. The poetry and the fiction she had read over the years taught her compassion. So she took on hopeless cases. If she not taken them on, her clients would have received maximum sentences. Most still received maximum sentences when they were found guilty. And they were often found guilty. At least, they had good representation. From time to time, she was able to work miracles and see them freed.

Occasionally she pointed out a piece of the law judges and prosecutors had forgotten. Because of this knowledge, prosecutors and big time lawyers wanted her on their side. But she resisted.

Her clients had no money, so Natasha worked on the side doing legal work when she wasn’t involved in a case. It was way to pay her expenses and ilk out a living. Over ten or fifteen years, she worked in the trenches, tirelessly. Her head always in a law book. She never tired of the law and the law rewarded her for her diligence.

Then came the case of the elephant.

A circus elephant charged her trainer one night. Her name was Kanda. After the elephant charged and escaped its trainer, it escaped and roamed the countryside as a wild thing. Hunters went after her but she eluded them for weeks.

Natasha was in the area on vacation. It was her first vacation since she left law school. She seldom read the newspapers. But she saw someone else with a paper open. There was an elephant on the front page. Her curiosity got the best of her. Why was an elephant in the news?

“Can I see your front page?” she asked the woman with the paper.

“I’m finished with it. You can have the whole paper.” The woman passed over the paper.

Natasha was shocked at the story. She went and talked to several people at the circus.

“She was such a gentle creature,” one said.

Another pointed out, “Very smart.”

Finally, she talked to someone who had seen the incident. “That Pyotr Pyotrovich is a cruel man. How Kanda put up with him for so long is beyond me?”

“Will you tell a judge this?” Natasha asked the woman who was a trapeze artist.

The woman hesitated. If she talked, she might lose her job. Finally, she said, “Yes.”

Natasha took the woman before a judge. The judge issued an injunction. Any hunter killing Kanda would be prosecuted. Until the judge issued a decree.

The hearing was set for Tuesday. On Monday, Natasha contacted the local papers and national papers, knowing that good publicity mattered. The courtroom was packed that Tuesday morning when the judge entered the courtroom.

“This is highly unusual for a court to hold hearing on a thing like this,” the prosecutor smugly pronounced.

“Yes, it is. But here we are,” the judge said.

Natasha called the owner of the circus to the stand. “How old is Kanda?”

“Approximately forty years.”

“And she has spent her years in captivity, has she not?”

“Yes. I bought her from another circus that went out of business. I am very good at business so she helped my circus prospered.” There was pride in the owner’s voice at how good he was at business.

“If she was such an asset to your business, why did you give her over to a cruel and uncaring trainer?”

“I never saw that trainer be cruel and uncaring.”

“Then why do you think Kanda charged and almost killed him?”

“I don’t know.”

Several other witnesses gave positive reviews of the elephant. How she was so good with children. How there was never ever any trouble. She was the gentlest of animals. They were all shocked at what happened.

Natasha called Pyotr Pyotrovich to the stand. “How did you treat Kanda?”

“I was like a father to her.”

“That is all,” Natasha said. Then she called Tatiana, Pyotrovich’s oldest daughter, to the stand.

“How does your father treat you?” Natasha asked.

“My father is a good man.”

Natasha called the younger daughter, Alina, to the stand.

“How does your father treat you?”

“My father is a good man.”

“Now remember you have to tell the truth. It is the law. If you do not tell the truth, you can be sent to jail. Do you want to go to jail?”

“I do not want to go to jail.”

“If you go to jail, your sister would be alone with your father. Is this not true?”

“Yes, it is true.” There was a great sadness in the daughter’s voice.

“Then tell us. How does your father treat you?”

The girl looked over at her father, then she looked at her sister next to him. She hesitated, then spoke the truth, “He beats me.” Then she shouted for all the world to hear, “And he has raped my sister. Kanda saw it and was trying to defend my sister. She hated the things my father did to us.”

Pyotr Pyotrovich stood up and shouted, “She lies. She lies.”

Tatiana left her father’s side and ran to her sister and the two embraced. They were crying.

“Order. Order in my court,” the judge shouted.

An officer of the court walked over and demanded the trainer sit down.

The judge turned to Tatiana. “Girl, is this true?”

Whimpering, Tatiana nodded a yes.

The judge turned to the officer of the court and said, “Arrest that man.”

Then he turned to the owner, “If we find Kanda, will you give her a home and treat her with the dignity she deserves?”

The owner was crying. ‘I will.”

“Then Kanda will not be killed. She will be returned to the circus to be treated with the dignity she deserves. If she is not, and she is injured in any way, there will be consequences.”

A farmer stood up and said, “Your honor, I have the elephant. She is the most wonderful of elephants. I wish to become her trainer.”

The judge took character statements as to the character of the farmer. Then the judge agreed. The farmer could join the circus and train Kanda and the three other elephants. Then he turned to Natasha, “The court thanks you.”

micropoem for the day: bookmarks

Bookmarks can mark someone’s life. The bookmarks we use tell as much about us as they do the book we’re reading. Me? I’ve been partial to index cards. I never know when I will need to jot down a note or two about what I am reading. Or that salacious or memorable quote a character made. After all, the book may just be a library book and I am not allowed to mark it up the way I do my own books. So I have accumulated a box of index cards from books past. What is you favorite bookmark?

a rose
a bookmark in a Bible
Micah 6:8.

Near 500 words: The finger a sentence

The finger a sentence
the hand a paragraph
the arm a chapter
the body a novel.
Each house a Proust
or a Scott Fitzgerald
next to a Virginia Woolf
or an Ernest Hemingway
down the way from Tom Sawyer
and Huckleberry Finn,
neighborhoods collected
and bound within the walls
of a library, the city.

There are so many marvelous ways to think about human beings. Such a diverse clan we are. Some of us have brown eyes, others blue or green or hazel. Some of us are Catholic, some Protestant, some Hindu, some Jewish, some Moslem, some Buddhist. Others atheist or middle-of-the-road agnostic.

Some are poets, some singers of tales. Some dancers, some performers on a stage. Some gardeners, some vintners or builders. We laugh. We cry. We love and we lust and there is not one that isn’t part of something bigger and more wonderful than ourselves. Aren’t we amazing?

Who is to say that extra terrestrials might not like us?

One thing is for sure. We are each the summation of our experience. We see through a lens those experiences have given us. Each of us could write a hundred novels and still not be finished with the raw material.

When I think about what kind of novel, I wonder. I definitely do not have The Answer to that one. I have to uncheck historical epic. Nothing Game-of-Thronesying about my existence. I sure am not porn. My sex life is definitely not that interesting. Could it be that I am a romance? Probably not. As far as I know, I have not made women swoon or their hearts go pitter-pat. And I am not a Western. I don’t wear cowboy boots and I don’t know “Get along, little doggy”.

I definitely am not science fiction. I am not that technologically inclined. And there’s little doubt that I am fantasy. Ain’t no way I would go off with a bunch of dwarves and slay a dragon. I am not that much of a mystery. My life is pretty an open book. So Sam Spade, stay away.

As far as horror is concerned, I am pretty sure that I am not Dracula or Jason or Freddy Kruger. I do have blackouts during the full moon. But that just means that I need to cut the sugar and eat more protein.

If I have a genre, it has to be a comedy. I might just be one of those boys Tom Sawyer convinced to paint his aunt’s fence.

So what genre do you think you belong to?

A Monday Xtra: Why Kindle is so Kindle-licious

I appreciate that many of you prefer physical books. But I have come to enjoy eBooks as well. The reason I am posting this is not to say eBooks are preferable to physical books. If you are reading, you are awesome. I am writing this simply to state that both have strengths and weaknesses.

So here are fourteen reasons I am happy with eBooks.

1. Convenience. I am one of those peeps who carry a book everywhere. I read them at lunch. I read them standing in line at the grocery store. Some books are too heavy to carry around. They can be thick and cumbersome. Not so with an eBook. The size and the weight are the same whether I have one eBook or fifty on my Kindle.

2. Reading at lunch. I have not found a place holder that would hold different sized books in place while I ate.

3. Reading faster. I am a slow reader. When I first got my Kindle, I immediately read five books on it. Then I read a physical book. An interesting thing happened. My reading speed increased. My reading speed increased to about 1/3 faster than previously.

4. I often read more than one book at a time. I can easily switch from Emma doing her matchmaking to Miss Marple solving a mystery to James Bond going after Goldfinger, then return to Emma and her new boyfriend.

5. The Kindle and other eReaders are designed to make reading easy on your eyes.

6. I don’t need to look for large print books. If it is on Kindle, I can adjust the font size and the margins.

7. Out-of-print books and books I could not find previously are now available.

8. Easy access to a dictionary. I click on a word in an eBook and the definition pops up.

9. eBooks are often less expensive.

10. For a writer, an eBook is a great way to send your work out into the world initially. Once a writer has built a readership, then that writer has some negotiating power.

11. For a publisher, an eBook is an opportunity to find out if a writer will have a readership. Before heavily investing in print costs.

12. Publishers can easily correct mistakes without having to create a new edition. Even reference book editors make mistakes or facts change. For instance, it could be that astronauts discover the world is truly flat or half round and flat on the bottom. Updating the facts in eBooks are as simple as upgrading to accommodate that information.

13. If you are upset over poor formatting by established publishers, I am too. I also get upset over some publishers throwing together physical books and having them fall apart after one or two reads.

14. And I have all that shelf space I used for books now available for other things like DVDs, plastic flowers, etc. I know I have way too many et ceteras. My closet is bursting with them.

Disclosure: Amazon did not make any contribution to me for these words.