Saturday, April 25, 2015

Trunks Full of Them (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge)

  "Why did your family commit you?" asked the psychiatrist. 
  His patient replied, "My family thinks I'm nuts because I love pancakes." 
  "Well, that doesn't make you crazy," his startled doctor told him. "I am quite fond of them myself!"
  "Great!" His patient enthused, "Come on over to my place sometimeI have trunks full of them in the attic!"

When I was eight or nine years old, I had read all the Tom Swift and Hardy Boys mysteries on the "children's side" of our old-fashioned Carnegie Library, frequently taking them to the "adults side" of the library to read at the big wooden tables in the quieter space there. I began making inroads on the other series, but there were a limited number: Nancy Drew and the Oz books come to mind.

So what would I do when the summer reading program rolled around? I began to check out the shelves of adult literature, guided by a sympathetic librarian. Morris West, Carson McCullers, Taylor Caldwell, Zane Grey, Howard Fast, Lloyd C. Douglas, Sigrid Undsetthese were all deemed too challenging for children to read, but I dug into them anyway. When I met the adult-level reading challenge (I think it was 12 books read and "reported" on during the summer), I won a book of my own. I chose Taylor Caldwell's A Prologue to Love, which I hadn't read yet.

With this book, a cheaply hard-bound volume that I had "bought myself" through my summer reading efforts, a light went on in the back of my brain that no amount of packing up to move, no change in my reading tastes, nor even a transition to Kindle has been able to quite extinguish. I must own the books I read. 

My baby-sitting and lawn-mowing earnings purchased paperback books from the local Rexall Drug. When I got an afternoon-and-weekend job at the Duckwall's Five-and-Dime, I budgeted a chunk of my paycheck to purchase books. I began storing my "library" in shoe-boxes under my bed. By the time I graduated and went off to the School of Mines, two milk-crates of books went along with me.

Flash forward to 2001, and a move from southern to northern California. A full third of the moving truck contents were book-boxes, which we unloaded into the new house's basement garage. The hand-built shelving went into storage as well; there was no room for them in the house we were sharing with my father-in-law.

Piled in 5-foot-high rows, those book crates rest there today, mute testimony to my vice of collecting books. Oh, I occasionally go down there and dig through the boxes to find a specific book I simply must read again. Often, it is because there is no Kindle version available; many of the boxed volumes now exist on my Kindle (or in its Cloud) as well. There is no dust on the eBooks.

So I knew exactly which vice I would write about in response to this week's Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge:

April 22, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a vice. It can be part of a character or a part of the story. The vice can be the focus or it can be subtle. Think of ways to use a vice (or multiples, if you are so daring) to create a compelling flash fiction.

My trunks full of secret vice are stashed in my basement rather than the attic, but the truth is they are just as useful as the crazy man's pancakesand probably no more dry and dusty!

Trunks Full of Them

The movers wheeled the piles of book boxes out to the truck as I looked around at the empty shelves. I had built them to fit this space. How would they suit the new house?

Removing earthquake strapping that kept 8-foot-tall shelving from toppling onto our bed, I worked the bed-head shelf away from the wall. Behind the headboard, I found Hilbert Schenk's Steam Bird. Panic brought chill sweat: what if it had been left behind? 

Halfway to the new house, too late to return, I remembered the boxes of Destroyer novels left behind in the attic crawl space.