Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)
TITLE: Driving Books is My ĎFortayí
By Anita van der Elst
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At the railroad crossing, I look both ways down tracks carving an aisle between strawberry fields and acres of corn and then continue on towards the quiet crowd. They‚Äôve left enough space for me to maneuver my bulky vehicle under the tree.
I‚Äôm the driver of the summer bookmobile here in a small Pacific Northwest county in this year of our Lord 1965. Been doing this for a couple of summers now. During the rest of the year I teach high school English.
The groceries I buy are supplied by farming communities like this one. Agriculture may root these people to the earth but their souls sprout wings and fly via the pages of books. Most of them have precious little time to spend on the thirty-mile drive to the closest library. I feel privileged and honored to provide a means for their flight.
Opening the door I smile broadly at the freckled face of the young lady climbing up the steps.
‚ÄúHi, Mr. A,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúI finished all ten of my books. My grandma told me there was no way I could read all of ‚Äėem and shell the peas for canning at the same time. Well, I don‚Äôt need my eyes for shelling peas, for pete‚Äôs sake! Just my fingers! And I didn‚Äôt get any stains on the pages either!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúGood for you, Trudy. I knew you could do it.‚ÄĚ I take her stack of books and put them in a bin.
I hear snickering behind me. I know the source before I even see them.
‚ÄúDonny and Ronny, what‚Äôs going on?‚ÄĚ I ask.
Identical towheads duck down, pretending they don‚Äôt hear me.
‚ÄúGentlemen,‚ÄĚ I lean over them and pry the harlequin romance book from their eleven-year old hands. ‚ÄúI suggest you apply your attention to reading material more suited to your age and interest. And don‚Äôt tell me it was for your mom. I know your mother and her preference is more along the lines of the classics. Matter of fact, you guys are old enough for Charles Dickens.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúBut Mr. A.,‚ÄĚ they protest in duet.
‚ÄúNo buts. Here.‚ÄĚ I thrust Oliver Twist into Donny‚Äôs hands and David Copperfield into Ronny‚Äôs. ‚ÄúThat should keep you busy for the next two weeks.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúMr. A! I need help finding a book!‚ÄĚ Lilly, arms akimbo, glares at me through her thick glasses. Although she‚Äôs only ten she reminds me of my elderly aunt, always very serious and severe.
‚ÄúWhat kind of book?‚ÄĚ I ask.
‚ÄúOne that will keep me from getting in trouble next time my mom asks me to weed the garden!‚ÄĚ
I cock my head to one side. ‚ÄúOh, dear, Miss Lilly. What kind of trouble?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWell, I was supposed to pull out all the weeds from the rows of carrots. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job. Our garden has an awful lot of weeds, Mr. A. But when my mom came out to check on me she hollered at me somethin‚Äô fierce. She said I was pulling the carrots up instead! I really couldn‚Äôt see what was different between ‚Äėem. I felt so stoooopid. But then I figured you might have a book that will show me!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúCome right this way,‚ÄĚ I escort her to the shelf of gardening books. Crouching down beside her, I look into her face. ‚ÄúAnd you‚Äôre not stupid, Lilly. Maybe gardening just isn‚Äôt your forte.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs ‚Äėfortay‚Äô mean, Mr. A.?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYour specialty‚ÄĒwhat you do best and enjoy the most.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOh.‚ÄĚ She ponders for a moment, then, ‚ÄúDriving books around is your ‚Äėfortay‚Äô, huh, Mr. A.?‚ÄĚ
I chuckle and nod.
‚ÄúHow will I know what my ‚Äėfortay‚Äô is?‚ÄĚ she asks.
‚ÄúYou know, Lilly, I think you have a few more summers before you need to figure that one out. You keep on reading books, all kinds of books, and it will come to you. Maybe‚Ä¶it‚Äôll be to write books yourself someday.‚ÄĚ
It‚Äôs the first time I‚Äôve ever seen this child‚Äôs face light up in a smile.
This is what keeps me signing up for a bookmobile route every summer. I hope I‚Äôll still be driving it when Lilly‚Äôs books are on the shelves behind me.
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