Author's Note: This is just a random story I wrote for English class freshman year. I love to read, so I kicked this little ditty out. I got an A, if that helps you any :) I have read all of these books except for The Princess Bride and War and Peace. Seen the movie of the former, though.
For all the beloved librarians (and English teachers ) in my life
Don't you hate it when you've just figured out the local library, up to the point where you can just head to a stack and know exactly what you're going to find, and then you move and have a whole new library to figure out? I know I did. My family moved all the way from Colorado to Annapolis, Maryland, and my first stop was Open Page Library, a privately-funded library two blocks from my house. That was the place's first point. No more having to scale hills on my ten-speed!
As I stood on the concrete steps, the first thing that popped into my head was what I always pictured the Herman W. Block Memorial Library from Because of Winn-Dixie looked like. Actually, the library from How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found came to mind too. Both weren't exactly universities. The Open Page was not a mansion, simply a house that begged for someone to come through the door. This was the kind of challenge that I took without even thinking about it. That sometimes got me into trouble.
I was standing in front of the prominently labeled children's section, looking at all the familiar titles, when a lady came up behind me and placed a hand on my shoulder. I started, and turned.
Her nametag was one of those stickers that said "Hello, my name is…" and purple permanent marker spelled out "Nancy Read".
What an appropriate last name, I thought.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"Yeah." I said, but before I could explain what I needed help with or before I could even tell her my name, she was off among the books, leaving me dumbfounded and even more confused than before.
Mrs. Nancy Read eventually came back, holding two books. She handed them to me. I looked at the titles. The top one, and the thickest, was one of my favorites, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume. This I handed back to her. The second, though, I hadn't read and looked promising. It was The Wanderer by Sharon Creech.
"I love her!" I squealed. "Walk Two Moons is one of my favorites."
"I like her too." Mrs. Read smiled. "How much do you know about sailing?"
I shrugged, and she told me that if I wanted to know more, this was the book to read. I held the paperback to my chest while Mrs. Read went scurrying back for more. I definitely liked this lady.
Next came two new faces. One was Silent to the Bone. I hadn't read much E.L. Konigsburg, so I was game. It was partnered with Things Not Seen.
"Have I met you somewhere before?" I asked.
Mrs. Read looked puzzled. "I don't think so. Why?"
"It's like you're reading my mind! How could you know what kind of books I like to read?"
"Why, just by looking at you. It's a talent us librarians are born with. Haven't you ever looked someone in the face and just known a little bit about them?"
"No, but I'll bite. If someone walked through that door and was merely thinking that she was in here to finally read…" I paused to think of a title. "Let's say The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, you would know that just by looking at her?" I wasn't expecting the answer I got.
Short, sweet, and to the point.
"Right. Now, I don't know about you, but I read pretty darn fast." I gave her a knowing look and one of those smiles overloaded with fake innocence.
Mrs. Read laughed. "Of course you do. Let's go!"
Although Nancy Read told me a lot over the four months we shared, she didn't happen to mention the one thing that would change our relationship forever. In fact, it would tear us apart.
Some days, Mrs. Read's daughter Gwen (named for Queen Guinevere) watched The Open Page for her mom. One such day, Gwen was on the phone when I came in and dumped my books in the wicker "return" basket. I was heading towards the now familiar shelves when I noticed Gwen's face. She was pale and her voice was low. She hung up and stared me down.
"Katy?" she asked, signaling me over.
"What, Gwen? Is everything okay?" I was genuinely concerned. She'd been in a lot more regularly lately.
"There's something I need to tell you about my mum."
"Is she okay?" Unfortunately, my head knew the answer but my heart didn't want it to be true.
Gwen sighed, and her body jumped with a small sob. "No, she's not, Katy." Another sob. "She's dying."
My heart hit my toes, and my insides twisted and scrunched. How could this be? Nancy Read was the most vibrant and funny woman I had ever met! I couldn't even picture life without her.
"She has brain cancer. At her last appointment, the doctor gave her a month."
A month! "Can I visit her?"
"Yes, but I have to warn you. She's not the same woman. You have to step carefully so as not to upset her. Can you do that?" I couldn't believe the tone Gwen was using with me. I nodded, and then walked out the door and purposefully down the street to the local hospital.
Gwen had not been kidding when she said her mother had changed. Nancy Read looked so tiny I was afraid the stark white bedding was going to swallow her up. The only scrap of her original vibrancy was glowing through her toothy grin. I froze in the doorway, unable to make my legs take another step.
"Hey, Katy. I thought you'd never come. I'll bet you've been hard at work on that book of yours. I told you it was good, did I not?" Even Mrs. Read's voice, hard as she seemed to try, was devoid of its usual spark.
"Yeah, you did, and it is." I'd gotten my legs to move, and now I pulled a chair up beside her bed and leaned forward to clasp her hand. I immediately pulled back. It was so cold; I hadn't expected that. She looked down as though she were an alien even to herself.
"This certainly is strange, isn't it, dear?"
"Well, I certainly never expected to visit you here, if that's what you're getting at." I looked at her bedside table. Her favorite bookmark was stuck in The Princess Bride. Another shared favorite. "Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't I read to you? That's what my mom always did when I wasn't feeling well. Worked every time."
She smiled as one did to a child who simply wasn't getting the point. "I think that would be a marvelous idea, but I'm not sure it's going to work the way it did with your mom. But, what the heck? If there's anyone's voice I want to remember, it's yours, Katy."
I sighed, opened and began to read.
Mrs. Nancy Read lasted for three whole months, and the doctors attributed some of that to my weekly visits. I couldn't seem to admit that maybe it was my voice reading The Princess Bride and later October Sky that had kept her going.
At her funeral, where most people who have sung some sappy country song, Gwen asked me to read. I chose Because of Winn-Dixie, and read the section where Miss Franny talks about the bear coming in and stealing War and Peace, a mutual laugh between both I, a lonely girl who lived for books, and the one lady who understood that, and the only one who encouraged me so much that sometimes I had to stop her mid-sentence and tell her……
"I don't read that fast!"
THANK YOU TO THE FOLLOWING AUTHORS FOR THEIR AMAZING WORKS OF LITERARY PROWESS
Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie
Sara Nickerson, How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found
Judy Blume, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
Sharon Creech, The Wanderer and Walk Two Moons
E.L. Konigsburg, Silent to the Bone
Andrew Clements, Things Not Seen
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
William Goldman, The Princess Bride
Homer H. Hickam Jr., October Sky
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace