Chapter 38

(Scholastic Silver Key Recipient)

I had been sitting for three hundred and forty two days. My spine needed cracking and I was too close to Bradbury and Brinkley. They were squished into me and I could feel the dust trapped between us and on top of us and underneath us. It was suffocating. The sun was warm on me, for now. Soon it would be moving down to the Cs. I must have dozed off, because I was woken up by the sighs and shudders of the As responding to the feel of fingers on spines. I perked up as the feeling rippled over to the Bs. I couldn’t help but let my hopes lift as Beattie, Blume, Boo and Boyle sighed. The finger was slowing down. It drifted down my spine and I would have squirmed if we weren’t all so tightly packed together. The finger rested on top of me and tilted me backward. Freedom! The others sagged in disappointment as I was freed. I took a deep breath as my pages fluttered; the air was cold and fresh and welcome.

I was shuffled around and changed from one hand to the other. Then a plastic bag was trying to withstand the sharpness of my corners; I fought against it for air. I swung around in that bag for thirteen minutes before I could feel the air, and something else very peculiar. There was a jagged scratching on my shoulder. Beth Rodham had been written there. Beth, it is nice to meet you.

Her hands were soft, but the tips of her fingers were hard like she had been playing the guitar for a long time. Her fingers were long and I hoped that she played the piano, too. I longed to hear the piano again. Her hands were more gentle than Brian’s. They reminded me of Sharon’s from many years ago. She opened me carefully. My pages did not have to hang on for dear life when they felt her hands. She placed me gently on the table rather than into an overcrowded bag full of wayward, uncapped pens.

She had been reading for only a few minutes when she made her first comment, “this will be important,” in the margin. How right you are, Beth. In the second chapter she made another mark, “the butler did it.” I had to laugh at that. It’s never the butler.

I was comfortable arched on the arm of the couch and flattened on the floor and held up in midair like I was flying. It had been a long time since I’d been anything but cramped. Every once in a while, Beth would mark a couple of my lines and when they were good I would sigh.  I loved all of the sentences and words and even each letter inside of me, but of course I had my favorites. Here is an example: “She shook a feather from her boa, and I waited for her to watch it drift into the canal.”

Beth was reading too slowly. I itched for her to turn the pages faster, to discover what was next, and to guess what would happen. So far, she wasn’t sure, and she was falling for the ruse. If only she could read a little faster. She was getting to the good part, the part with the gun and the warehouse of feather boas.

Her pace picked up a little. She was flying through the chapter; but my heart fell as I realized she was nearly to the end. I cursed myself for tricking her earlier. By now I should know not to make them read so fast toward the end. She would finish soon and I would once again be cramped onto a shelf. I urged her to slow, but she continued to read at a steady pace. My last page made a hollow sound and she thumped the cover shut and sighed with me. Then my front cover opened again and I felt the scratching of a pen. “Julia, your love of mysteries will be satisfied here—you’ll never guess who it was! Love, Beth.” My heart soared.

The gentle notes of a piano floated past me—Steinway, baby grand, 1958. Slightly flat, but it would do.

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