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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It's a Colorful World (12/03/09)

TITLE: Highlights
By Anita van der Elst


In a back corner of a second-hand bookstore I sit at a computer five hours a day, four days a week. Color brightens my space.

People bring us books that they don’t want anymore. My job as a data enterer is to input into the computer the book information, such as title, author, publisher, and key words for the on-line user.

In the data entry form I also note the condition of the book, whether it has stains or tears or pieces missing. I’m astonished at the condition of some of them. Sprouting tufts of cat and dog hair, reeking with cigar smoke or worse, used as coffee cup coasters, coated with mildew stains that range in hue from pink to black. Older books have rusty spots called foxing caused by the chemical changes in the vintage paper. Other orangish-brown spotting, my boss says, is most likely cockroach or silverfish waste—bug poop, if you will.

Even more astonishing is what’s been stuck between the pages. On the wall is a large poster board I brought in, on which I pasted items I found during my first year working here.

Bookmarks—a green one with a worm on it and the phrase ‘I eat up good books’; another, red with a heart and ‘Bookmarks need love too!’ In plastic, paper, and leather—some with ribbons and some with fringe—a hodge-podge of blue, orange, floral, and multi-graphics, with kittens and puppies and skeletons, to mark a reading place. Playing cards, backed in orange and yellow, and plane ticket stubs in blue and yellow. Name tags, coupons, business cards and sports trading cards. There’s a bird feather, gray, tinged with blue, and a couple of dull red roses, dried and beginning to crumble.

Not to mention the color snapshots, among them a young woman and baby and another of a smiling lady in a blue dress. Who they are we’ll never know. On the lower left corner of the poster board I’ve attached a cloth hankie decorated with yellow flowers and green leaves. The other corner holds a clear plastic sleeve encasing a steamy love letter or two, one on an old style light blue aerogramme.

I’ve stopped adding things to the poster—its multi-layers threaten to succumb to gravity and slide down the wall.

I’ve no idea how I would’ve attached the dried dull-green lizard skin or the red acrylic fingernail to the poster anyway. And I didn’t even try to touch the little lime green worm that lifted one end blindly and waggled at me from the title page of a book one day. ‘Oscar’ went straight into the trashcan!

Greenbacks came as a pleasant surprise. I showed the three bills to my boss and he said, “Keep ‘em. Think of it as a bonus,” making me fifteen dollars richer. Other money has shown up as well, most recently a pretty bill from Brazil, in shades of orange, green, blue and purple. Unfortunately, according to my bank, it had no value at all having been removed from circulation some time ago. I gave it to my husband to use—as, what else? A bookmark.

Being a person who loves to read, it’s quite a challenge to not spend the time perusing a book’s contents instead of focusing on the task at hand. Sometimes I can’t help myself. Especially with books featuring photographs of far flung geographical locations. I’ve visited the emerald hills of Ireland and aqua surrounded Pacific Isles leafing through the pages of travel books. Been awed by the wonders of stone castles and marble cathedrals. Marveled at the golden jewel-encrusted artifacts discovered hidden away in Egyptian pyramids. Gone underwater and spied on fishes of vibrant hues. Admired and appreciated masterpieces of art represented through camera lens. Flown high over cities for a bird’s eye view. Pictorial coffee table books, although their size and weight often try my shoulder joints, are wonderful.

Pre-owned Bibles frequently come through too. Leather-bound, hard-backed, soft-covered, in every version and translation available. I’m sad that whoever owned them didn’t have someone special to pass them on to or decided God’s Word was no longer relevant for them. Or maybe, and this isn’t a bad thing, they just wanted a new Bible. What thrills me is when I see ‘colorized’ copies. The previous owner found something meaningful and valuable, marking verses and passages with pink, yellow, orange and green highlighters—a spiritual world of color for the next reader to ponder.

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This article has been read 564 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke12/10/09
Thank you for allowing us to peek into all those books right along side you. I thought the bulletin board collection very fun; maybe it's time to take some of the old down and add the new?

You did a great job using colorful descriptions (pun intended)

The only line that tripped me up is this one:
My job as a data enterer is to input into the computer the book information, such as title, author, publisher, and key words for the on-line user.

Very bulky.Even if Data Enterer is the correct title of your job I would hesitate to use it. followed by 'input into' slows the sentence down even more.

Other then that, your piece flowed nicely. And I rather envy your position of having all those books at your fingertips! Marvelous!
Lynda Schultz 12/11/09
I'll send you some of my "golden oldies" and you can add even more wonderful description to this piece. Very good.
Marita Vandertogt12/14/09
Okay - now I have to go check my book collection... especially after the Oscar visit. I really enjoyed reading this. Fascinating job - kind of like exploring for new treasure everyday. What are the chances of finding a pic of Washington, or Lincoln....
Lisa Keck12/14/09
I too tripped over the term "data enterer." I always thought it was data entry clerk or even data entry specialist. Other than that, good job. Since you call it highlights I did want one or two more sentences about the highlighted text. Was there a key to the different colors or maybe you just wondering what they meant.