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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Book Store/Library (06/03/10)

TITLE: Intoxicating
By Micheline Murray


It was a simpler time in the spring of 1969. Almost every mom was a “stay at home mom,” and families in rural Black River, New York had only one car. Jody couldn’t get her shoes on fast enough whenever her mother said they were walking to “the library!” On this day, it would also mean a stop at the post office right next door, and maybe a quick swing at the playground behind the two tiny buildings. On their way home, they would pick up milk, bread and other essentials at Brierton’s grocery. ( A lollipop, or, on hot days, an ice-pop were considered “essential” on these outings).

Spring and fall were better for enjoying the playground than summer, when hot sun parched the grass on the open field, making clouds of dust rise up from the ground if a rare breeze tiptoed through . The metal slide and black rubber swings burned into her skinny bare legs in the summertime. It was here that Jody broke her collarbone the year before, at the age of three. Running to chase after a ball, she ran right in front of her big sister, who was swinging too high and too fast to stop. While August meant less time on the playground, it meant more time in her favorite place of all, “the library.”

From the outside it sure didn’t look like much. The worn gray and black speckled shingles covering the small rectangular building sorely needed replacing. But that didn’t matter to Jody. She turned the glass knob, slowly pushed open that old door, and creaky hinges whispered, “Come in... we’ve been waiting just for you...”

Sunlight filtering through half-closed blinds, and lights turned off to keep out the heat only added to the hush of the room. Its slight mustiness was intoxicating. She knew all the books on her three readable shelves by heart, yet the anticipation of painstakingly selecting a few to take and savor for the week had grown all along the walk until she could hardly stand it.

What would it be this time? Little Blue and Little Yellow maybe? Or perhaps The Carrot Seed? Wait, there was the whole Dr. Seuss shelf! Oh no! Hop on Pop? Green Eggs and Ham? The Velveteen Rabbit almost always beckoned her to at least browse,perhaps sit down and read, its sweet pages that always touched her heart. What to pick? Much later, her choices finally made, she stood at the worn desk, waiting to be noticed. What a privilege to hand the librarian her very own library card,# 734, and be entrusted to carry it all the way home once her books were officially checked out.

Week after week Jody made the trek, going on Saturdays or on her way home from school once she turned five and joined the bigger kids. The librarian teased her about wearing out the two front steps. She was heartbroken, when, at the age of seven, her parents announced they were moving. Moving? To another town about ten miles away? How could she live ten miles away from her precious library? How would she get there? What was she going to do?

Amazingly, this new town had its own library! Once old enough to walk there herself, it became her home away from home. All through elementary, junior high and high school, Jody made her way through the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew series’ several times over. Realistic fiction and autobiographies stacked in her arms sometimes made the walk home interesting! She tried checking out a romance novel once when she was thirteen, but elderly Mrs. Shaw frowned as she peered over her glasses, “Would your mother let you read this book? I don’t think so!” and that was the end of that.

Frayed encyclopedias bore her fingerprints from years of offering information necessary for book reports. Hours spent at the one little round table copying facts on the Hoover Dam, various presidents, and once, a paper on Houdini ( changing each sentence just enough so it could honestly be said to be “her own words”) laid the foundation for her to major in journalism in college.

1992. Many years and many libraries later, Jody once again felt the excitement build as she carried her six-month old son through the automatic doors of the handsome, two-story library. “We’d better hurry; we don’t want to be late for story time, now do we?”

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Member Comments
Member Date
stanley Bednarz06/10/10
Black River NY.? Are you writing about your childhood. Loved the real feel you put to a time and place that I could feel in my past as a boy growing up in a rural town of NY..

Your writng flows like a river and all I had to do was drift into it with sweet joy.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/12/10
I too grow up in rural NY and it was a nice trip down memory lane. i could remember the smells you described like I was standing in the library itself.
Phee Paradise 06/15/10
You described my love for the library exactly. It's such a magical place. But I was surprised to find out Jody was only four. She seemed much older than that (10?).
Susan Montaperto06/16/10
Thanks for sharing your memories. I too thought the libraries were wonderful places to be when I was growing up. Keep writing.
Mona Purvis06/17/10
Micheline, you told this story so well. You are talented.
I loved the opening sentence and the power it invokes.
You are a great storyteller. I would have liked to see this entry place higher.
I would recommend you break up your paragragps a little more. They're perfectly correct as written, but there's something about reading shorter sentences with punch to be more effective as they can stand alone. This is excellent.