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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)

TITLE: The Bookshelf
By Shannah Hogue


The date had gone well so far, and Carol hoped her luck would hold for another hour.

The light-hearted comedy was just right for a first date, and over dinner she had discovered that Jim was a gifted conversationalist. He was dropping her off at home when, without even meaning to, she had invited him in for coffee. The words had slipped out unexpectedly, and Carol hoped briefly that Jim would turn the offer down. To her chagrin, he didn’t.

So now she was standing in her kitchen, making coffee and cutting slices of pumpkin roll, and a man she barely knew was wandering around her living room. Shaking her head briskly, she pulled down two of her mother’s dainty china tea cups and went to the pantry to get the matching carafe.

This could turn out very badly, she thought to herself.

She began to pour the coffee into the carafe and place the pumpkin roll on plates. Jim was a stranger, really, and she was not the kind of woman whose invitation for coffee and dessert included anything more amorous than coffee and dessert. But with no other option, she picked up the tray and headed into the comfortable living room. Jim was standing at her bookshelf, his back to her and a book in his hand. She placed the tray on the coffee table.

“Do you prefer cream and sugar?”

“Yes, thank you.” He smiled at her. “You have some very interesting books here. Are you an avid reader?” Setting the book back on the shelf, Jim moved to sit down on the couch, accepting carefully the cup and saucer she offered.

“Yes, I guess you could say so. My father loved to read, and I guess I learned from him. What about you?”

“I love books. And pumpkin roll! That looks delicious!”

“Thank you.” She handed him a slice and took her own, seating herself on the chair across from the couch, her back to the kitchen door. They ate their dessert, chatting lightly about the movie they had seen. Carol put her empty plate on the tray, and Jim did the same.

“That was delicious.”

“I’m glad you like it.” She took a sip of coffee.

“I probably should be getting home.” He stood up. “I must admit that I was surprised when you invited me in.”

“To be honest, I wasn’t planning on it.” She laughed lightly. “I’m not sure what prompted me to do it.”

“Well, I’m very glad you did. Because I had a very nice time tonight...”

“So did I.” Carol stood up and went to the closet for his coat.

“But I have gone on a lot of first dates, and I’ve discovered something.”

“Really, what is that?”

Shrugging into his coat, Jim moved back towards the bookshelf. “I can learn more about a woman by seeing what’s on her bookshelves than from hours of conversation.”

“Really?” Carol laughed. “Well, what does my bookshelf say about me?”

Running his fingers over the spines, Jim reread the titles. “Pride and Prejudice. The Da Vinci Code. Paradise Lost. The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.”

“I haven’t actually read that one yet.”

“Well, it doesn’t really matter. It still tells me something important.”

“Like what?”

“It tells me,” Jim turned to face her, “that you have spent time in the company of great men and women, which means you are just the type of woman whose company I would like to keep again.”

“Are you asking me out on a second date?”

“That depends, are you busy next Friday?”

“No. But I will only see you again on one condition.”


“I would like to know what company you keep, as well.”

Jim smiled and nodded. “I think that can most certainly be arranged.”

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This article has been read 469 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 02/07/08
Clever piece. I like the idea of learning about someone from their bookshelf.

Some of the language sounded a bit unnatural - try reading your dialog, especially, aloud and see if it sounds just right to you.

I was worried about this woman - so glad it all turned out well.
Dee Yoder 02/07/08
A little slice of life story and good characterizations kept me reading this. I wish I could see what was on HIS bookshelf!
Debbie Wistrom02/08/08
Great idea here, so creative. I like looking at people's bookshelves as well, it is a tell!
Stephanie Bullard02/09/08
I like this guy...I always do the SAME thing...if I'm in someone's house, I look at their bookshelves.
Hanne Moon 02/09/08
I consider my books my friends as well! I enjoyed reading this - little worried about the woman at first, but glad it turned out okay! Good job, but you might lose points because you used part of the proverb in your last line!
Jacquelyn Horne02/09/08
This is good. A very good take on the topic.
Gregory Kane02/11/08
A clever take on the topic. I’m not sure that I would group Dan Brown in the same class as Jane Austen and John Milton. Then again, he’s sold a lot more books than I ever will!
As has been said, I also examine other people’s bookshelves. Mainly so I can see what I can beg and borrow!
Lynda Schultz 02/11/08
I love the twist with the books. How true, though, we can tell a lot about people from the books they read. Nicely done.