Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: BOOK(S) - Begins January 4 / Ends January 11 (01/04/18)
- TITLE: The Library
By Robin West
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The library’s quiet. You’re probably thinking libraries are always quiet, but after hours, when it’s empty, even the children’s corner is whisper-less. The squeaky wheel on my cleaning cart makes the only sound.
Each evening, after dropping my kids at Nana’s, while staff and patrons leave the community library, I pull my cart from the custodial closet and start cleaning. By 1 a.m., the vast room sparkles. I park the cart in its closet and drive home. Not wanting to disturb my kids’ sleep, I leave them at Nana’s on work nights. I don’t know if this arrangement is harder on the kids or me.
Tonight, before grabbing my duster, I need to return a book. Don’t tell anyone, I borrowed it without checking it out. I head for the nonfiction side of the room, slip the book from my bag and run my fingers along its gold letters stamped into the cover, HOLY BIBLE. To think one week ago this volume disgusted me. I don’t believe in censorship, but if I did, I would’ve banned this book. As a woman, I didn’t want anything to do with a god who tells wives to obey their husbands. The Bible was about a male god of a man’s religion. That’s how I felt before last Friday.
I was extra tired that night, and Amber, my kindergartener, cried when I dropped her off at Nana’s, so even with all the library’s lights on, the world seemed extra dark. I was dusting shelves as I’ve done a hundred times before, when the book dropped from its Dewey Decimal designation and fell onto the floor. That seemed strange, but I figured there must be a logical explanation. I picked it up between thumb and forefinger, as if it might contaminate me, and re-shelved it.
Later, while vacuuming, I turned the corner in the 200’s section, and there it was, on the floor again. I approached the bookcase and examined the space where I’d shelved it earlier, as if maybe the empty spot between the other religious volumes could explain this phenomenon.
I’d heard a TV preacher call it the living word, but I didn’t think that meant the book could jump off the shelf. I stood over the symbol of hate lying on the floor. I stared at it and wondered. Everything I knew about the book was hearsay. I’d never read it. I’m an avid reader, a proponent of primary source evidence, yet I’d denied my own principals concerning the Bible.
I started to reach for it and stopped, remembering the last time my ex put me in the hospital. I returned to my vacuum, shaking my head.
Throughout the night, my cleaning duties circled me around that book on the floor. With each round, I wrestled with an urge to pick it up and open it. By midnight, I’d completed my daily tasks and was debating on whether or not to start a cleaning project, when the book caught my attention. It seemed to pull me like it was the North Pole and I was a magnet. My misgivings surrendered to curiosity, and by 1 a.m. I sat in an armchair by the fake fireplace lost in the book’s pages. I don’t know which page numbers, chapters, or passages I read. I’d just flopped the book open and the random page I landed on started talking to me. Actually, at times, I felt more like the book was reading me. No, not the book, the spirit of the book. It entered hidden rooms of my heart and filled them with new warmth, light, and safeness. The weariness that usually hung over me vaporized.
It was time to go home. A time I usually anticipated, but that night, quitting time came too soon. I didn’t want to leave the book behind, so I took it home and spent every spare hour of my weekend getting to know the Spirit of the Book.
Now I look again at the black hardcover with gold-lettered title. I’d thought it was all harsh restrictions. I still can’t reconcile the criticisms with the Spirit of the book, but I no longer believe the critics understand better than I do. I’ve met the Spirit and know its benevolent power.
I kiss the book I once despised and return it to the 220 location for others to find. I’ll buy my own copy.
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