Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: QUESTION (S) (05/30/19)
TITLE: More Than Vitamin Deficient
By Karlene Jacobsen
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The speck distracted me. In part, I wanted to tell him. I also wanted to look away, but thought this would be rude. I wanted to ask, “Sir, could you brush your teeth before we talk—maybe even floss?” But this wasn’t all-to-nice either. He was, after all, trying to ensure my shopping experience was all I needed it to be. How could I be so nitpicky?
Rather than bring his attention to his faulty hygiene, I forced a smile and insisted my mind stay on task. I had questions. Many questions. I mean, here I was in the middle of a bookstore and had no idea where to find what I needed to help me understand why I felt so exhausted lately. My doctor said I might be experiencing a vitamin deficiency, but had nothing to give me and zero literature. Until I can get the lab work done that she suggested, I need to find something to help me through. “Do you have any nutrition books on vitamin deficiencies?”
“We sure do.” His grin widened, making the corners of his eyes crinkle. With the shiny spot peeking through his thinning white hair and the scruffy white beard, he was rather endearing, sans specks in the teeth. “Follow me.”
He was a quick little man, too. With my 5’7” stride, I could barely keep up with his 5’2” pace. “What kind of vitamin deficiency are we looking for?” he began to scan the spines of books on a shelf. “I have plenty in the back too. No room out here.” He glanced at me with a look that broke my heart. “No one wants books anymore. Kindle. Digital. ‘It’s the wave of the future,’ my grandkids say.” He grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket and scrubbed his nose. “I just don’t understand it. Why would anyone want to toss aside a book for something they can’t touch?”
“I have no idea.” This was something I hadn’t thought about much. I guess I hadn’t questioned the convenience and weightlessness of a digital library. “Have you asked them what they think?”
“I’m old, they say.” He shook his head. “I’ve been to more places, seen more things, heard more stories, than any of them have in their combined lifetimes. But they’re not interested, unless it’s digitized.” It was then that I noticed the pictures on the wall behind the cash register, and sporadically placed around the quaint little shop. This man likely had more answers than I had questions having served in the military, met at least two of our US Presidents, and traveled across the globe as a foreign correspondent for several newspapers.
I couldn’t help myself now. “Why don’t you write about your stories, then? If they won’t listen to you tell them, maybe you could digitize and spread what you’ve seen and heard.”
“Would anyone care?” he would likely take some convincing. “What would I have to say that would interest anyone of them?”
I looked down, noticing a book on vitamin D deficiency, as well as iron deficient anemia. Picking up one of the books, I said, “These books probably are filled with information on how to tell you have a deficiency and how to overcome it, or at least manage it. Stories you could tell might help to show what was good, and what didn’t work. Perhaps, through your stories, your grandchildren, and anyone else who will listen, might learn how to avoid the pitfalls of history and grow.”
As I talked to him, I’d forgotten about the food stuck in his teeth and learned about the man. My heart began to question why he felt brushed aside, why he felt no one would want to hear what he had to say. I was saddened to realize, even in my initial distaste for his dental impurities, I truly didn’t want him to talk to me, but rather to leave me be—alone in my own little world.
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