Tsundoku #atozchallenge

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Tsundoku; buying books and not reading them then allowing unread books to pile up together.

I entered my granddad’s house and my heart filled with panic. I was surrounded by piles and piles of books. They reached from floor to ceiling and were stacked everywhere. Narrow passageways lead to each room and you had to sideways step through. I held my breath as I squeezed down the hallway into the living room.

Four walls of books met my eyes. They must have been stacked three or four deep! In the centre was an old, comfy armchair and a reading lamp, but that was all the furniture there. I looked around, titles and book spines flashing before me.

Maybe further inside the house wouldn’t be as bad?

I was wrong! There were books filling the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom. It was as if a large library had been packed into a two down to up terrace house, only someone hadn’t realised there wasn’t enough space.

What was I going to do with it all?

I sank on to the armchair and looked around. My head began to come up with ideas; from the simple – getting a skip- to the more extreme – opening my own bookshop or library.

I knew my granddad had been a hoarder of books, but I could never have imagined this.

The Bookworm

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I don’t know what was going through Kim’s mind that day. Only that she wanted to be left alone. My old gran would’ve said that girl was away with the clouds and why couldn’t I find someone normal to have as a girlfriend?

I didn’t want normal though. I wanted the unexpected and unusual. I wanted more excitement then a cheerleader – who were way out of my zone anyway and more beautiful then the geeks and nerd girls. Saying that though, Kim was a bit of a geek. Though she always denied it.

We were meant to have a date that evening. But as we left school, Kim told me it was off then left without another word. I pondered as I walked home if that meant we had broken up, but Kim would have said that. She was a girl of few words and when she spoke it was only to say what she meant.

The late afternoon was pleasant enough, for the end of March. There’d been a lot of rain recently, but it was a mostly dry and sunny day. I didn’t much feel like going home. But I was feeling stuffy in my uniform. So, I headed there to get changed.

There was plenty of things I could do, like homework or playing on my Xbox, maybe seeing if anyone else was up for hanging out. I wasn’t in the mood though. Kim had put me off and my thoughts were fixed on her.

What was her reason? She’d never cancelled on me before and we’d been dating for five months or so now. Yes, I wanted to sleep with her, but I was willing to wait. If she’d been ill or busy with something else, why didn’t she just say? It had been simply, ‘I can’t meet tonight. Sorry.’

I could text or call her, but Kim wasn’t one for phones. Instead, I decided to go and see if I could just find her by wondering about. A crazy, long shot of an idea, but it had worked before.

Grabbing a jacket, I left and walked around our small town. I checked Kim’s house, but there was no one home. I checked the school, but it was now locked for the night. I searched shops, the library, the little parks. Finally, I walked out to the woods.

There were a handful of dog walkers, a jogger and some school kids from the other high school dotted around. I was about to give up, maybe she’d gone out of town? Some emergency she couldn’t tell me about? Other ideas popped into my head and my feet came to a stop.

I was facing the river. The water was flowing gently, causing the grass and tree branches which dipped in to move also. It was a pretty spot. I looked further to my right watching the river moving past me. Something caught my eyes. There was a large branch stretching over the river and laying on it was Kim!

She still had her uniform on, but she had let down her long black hair. There was a book covering her face and her school bag was hanging up close by. She seemed to be asleep.

I walked over and lent around the tree. It was easy enough to climb up and walk over, but I didn’t want to. Instead, I said Kim’s name gently and tried to wake her. It took a few attempts.

‘Go away, Dustin,’ Kim said.

‘Why? What are you doing?’ I asked.

‘Communicating with this book,’ she replied.

I frowned, ‘why?’

‘Because it’s hard and I’m trying to understand it. Now go away!’

‘Is that why you cancelled our date?’ I asked.

‘No,’ Kim answered.

I waited, but she didn’t say any more. I rubbed my fingers over the bark of the tree and felt how rough and dry it was. Kim just lay there, book still over her face.

‘Then, why?’ I pressed.

‘Because I wasn’t in the mood,’

‘Oh.’

I put cheek to the tree trunk and stared at her. Kim had really nice legs. She wasn’t wearing tights or leggings today, a sure sign the weather was getting warmer. Her skirt was knee length though and give her the cover she needed. Her blouse was still tucked in and I could see it swelling around her chest when she breathed in. Even though I hadn’t seen them yet, Kim had small boobs.

I couldn’t decided what to do. From her demeanour it was clear I should go, but I didn’t want to. There was enough room on the branch for me if I wanted to sit close to her feet. Or, I could sit at the foot of the tree. What was the point in waiting for her when she’d made it clear she didn’t want me though?

‘I guess, I should go,’ I said, a little too loudly.

Kim finally took the book off her face and looked at me.

I lent off the tree and got ready to make a move.

‘You don’t have,’ Kim said, ‘I’m bored anyway.’

She sat up and shuffled along the branch. She put the book in her bag, tugged it down and put the strap over her head. The she clung on to the tree trunk and slowly climbed down. I helped her over the last bit then give her a hug.

‘What’s the book about?’ I asked.

‘Seventeen century witches’ plays,’ she added.

‘Witch plays?’

Kim held my hand and we began walking.

‘Yeah, because people in the sixteen hundreds loved witches.’

I nodded, noticing the sarcasm in her voice. Kim swung our hands and we headed down a quiet little path.

‘Maybe, you can help me figure it out later?’ she said.

‘Sure. Does this mean we get to have our date after all?’ I asked.

‘I guess…You’re going to pay for dinner, right?’

I shook my head, unbelieving that and Kim laughed at me.

The Hub

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I had no idea what the person next to me was doing. In fact, I had no idea what anyone in this office or even building was doing. It was a strange thought and one that had not even dawned on me before.

I looked around, taking in the long rows of desks, the tops of computers and stacks of papers. Someone was sat at every desk, typing or writing away, their heads mainly down. There was a low murmur of voices, tapping keys, scrabbling of phones and churning of machinery. Around the walls of the room rose the bookcases. They were packed with multi-colored book covers and contained all the knowledge of the world, from start to finish.

How long had I been working here now? Five, six, seven years? And not once had I thought to find out what this company was and what the other workers did. There had never seem to be any need though. I had always known my job and just got on with it. The awareness of everyone else had been there, but I guess I had never really noticed.

I peered over at the person to my right. It was a woman and she was busy tapping on a laptop. There were books, paper and pens scattered on her desk. She ignored me, either not realising I was watching or not caring. She was working on a research piece about monkeys, something which I could link to my own work.

I turned to the left and looked at the man there. His desk seemed the same as the woman’s, only he had no laptop and busy handwriting notes. There were many large books open before him. He was writing about monkeys in films. Once again, he didn’t seem to care I was watching him.

I got up and slowly made my way around the room. Everyone was researching and writing about something different and yet it all connected together. Finally, I concluded that we were working on a complete history of Earth’s animals. Each person had been given a different animal and subject matter which at first seemed a little out of place, but was actually a piece of the jigsaw we were creating.

I went back to my desk. My thoughts really awake for the first time.

Dear Diary #31

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Dear Diary,

Work has been so stressful these last few weeks. I’m so in need of a holiday but no luck! My hours have changed, so they are longer now and due to there still be staff shortages, no one can really have time off. Of course, if I did ask for a few days or a week off I would get it, though my supervisor might not like it!

I’m meant to be training like four volunteers to do my job which would be really useful, but none of them turned up this week. Hopefully, they might next week. I don’t mind training as it means less work for me but it just takes time away from other things.

Everyone thinks being on reception is a cushy job but it’s not! You get rushed off your feet answering the phone and greeting visitors. I don’t mind answering and sending emails though because at least you have longer to deal with them. I’ve always been a happy friendly person, but work expects you to be like that all the time!

My face feels numb from smiling and I’m so weary of being cheerful even when I totally don’t feel like it.

I shouldn’t complain. I like my job and the money is great, but sometimes it just gets too much. I think everyone feels like that sometimes. We get grind down like wood in a sanding machine. Everyday we lose more of ourselves and we can never get it back.

I’ve been reading too many morbid books!

I need to get some more sleep too. That would really help. Maybe trying to get sometime off work wouldn’t be that bad an idea.

 

Bridge

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The troll had lived under the bridge for a long time, however he had finally decided it was time to move. The river was too polluted and the smell was making him sick. Every morning, the troll would sit at the edge of the river and watch rubbish floating by. Sometimes he would pull things out; a bent bike, a rusting shopping trolley, a dead dog. He would add all these things to his collections and in the afternoon he would make art.

The troll enjoyed bending metal, snapping wood and breaking other things up to constructed his sculptures. Then he would leave his art in random places so that passersby would see them. His favorite pieces were; the owl made out of wire netting and car parts. The horse made out of shopping trolleys, bikes and wood. The armless mannequin who’s dress was made out of plastic bags and coat hangers.

That morning, instead of sitting by the river and collecting things, the troll began packing. He dug out two huge suitcases he had dragged from the water and ponder what he would take with him. He emptied the broken wardrobe of his clothes, – he enjoyed being fashionable- the cupboards of his kitchen equipment, – he liked cooking tasty meals- his shelves of books, – the troll was a great reader- his chest of drawers full of trinkets, – he liked shinny things- and finally he took his paintings from the wall, – the troll enjoyed experimenting with different mediums.

Putting on his huge coat and large hat, the troll picked up the suitcases and left home. Waves of sadness washed over him as he left the bridge and sculptures behind. Of course, he hadn’t been able to take any of them with him for they were all far too big. Trying not to think any more about it, the troll walked and walked.

Hours later, he arrived at the seaside. He took in deep lungfuls of fresh salty air and decided he liked it here.

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/02/23/thursday-photo-prompt-bridge-writephoto with thanks)

Book Tunnel

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We hadn’t been walking in the forest for long when we came across it. In a small clearing, jutting out of the ground was a metal framed window.

‘You go look,’ my girlfriend whispered.

She had hooked her fingers in the straps of her hiking rucksack and was looking so cute in blue shorts and a cream vest top.

‘I don’t know…’ I trailed, casting my eyes over the strange structure.

‘It could be a secret hatch to an old war bunker or a nuclear shelter. There might be something interesting down there,’ she spoke.

‘Then you go look,’ I suggested.

She shook her head and turned away, looking at the trees that surrounded us. The forest was just awakening after being a sleep all winter. Leaves were budding on branches and flower shoots were coming up. Birds were singing and calling to each other in the distance.

Sighing, I walked forward to the edge of the metal frame and looked though the window. Straight down into a walled hole I stared. Then slowly, I saw that the walls were made of books! Books and books stacked in a spiral going down into the darkness.

‘What is it?’ my girlfriend called.

‘Come see,’ I answered, ‘it’s strange. Nothing scary.’

‘I’m not scared,’ she snapped back then came over.

She came to my side and looked through the window.

‘Oh! It’s books!’ she cried.

‘Yep. Must be some art project or something,’ I added.

‘Wondered where they go. Does this open?’ my girlfriend asked.

We both looked around the edge of the metal frame but found no way to open it.

‘Guess not,’ I said.

My girlfriend pouted, ‘but I want to see the books.’

I rolled my eyes hearing the childish tone of her words.

‘You can see them,’ I pointed out, ‘here I’ll take a few photos.’

I dug out my camera and began taking photos from different angles. Some images included my girlfriend and two of the photos I took with me next to her looking down the window hatch. Most though showed the books spiralling into the darkness.

‘It looks like the hole to Wonderland,’ my girlfriend announced afterwards.

‘Huh?’

‘You know, the book; Alice In Wonderland. Alice fell down a hole lined with all kinds of things. This reminds me of that story,’ she explained.

‘Oh. I guess so,’ I replied.

We give the book tunnel one last look then left to carry on our hike, both of us wondering about the window.

Library

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In the library, she could lose herself for hours or even days. The books whispered to her, telling of tales to be discovered and friends to be made.

Fridays

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Friday evenings, she decided were made for reading a good book,  drinking nice wine and indulging in a box of fancy chocolates.

Monday Depression

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Harley didn’t feel like getting up this morning but she had done so anyway. Dragging herself out of her cosy warm bed, she headed straight for the bathroom, her stomach growling like an angry bear. Sitting down on the loo, she wondered how many times she had got up in the night to come into here driven by an IBS flare up as punishment of eating too much ice cream. She counted to four before the ringing of the house phone interrupted.

I’m not going to get it. It’s only going to be a cold caller, she thought.

Trying to ignore it, Harley yawed and wondered if she could go back to bed even though it was three minutes past eleven am.

A little dog’s yowling broke though her thoughts and with a growl, she sorted herself out and went to answer the phone.

‘Hello?’

‘Is that the bus station? I’ve left my library books on the seventeen bus,’ an elderly man’s voice spoke out.

Harley rolled her eyes before answering, ‘I’m sorry but it’s not. You have the wrong number.’

‘There were five books,’ the man continued, ‘The Queen’s Slave, Goldfish Keeping For All, Weave Looming And You, -‘

‘I’m sorry but-‘ Harley tried to cut in but the man carried on speaking over her.

London Werewolves and Whenever The Rain Falls Think Of Me,’ the man concluded.

‘What?’

‘They were in a bag for life. You know, the yellow ones with orange elephants on?’

‘This isn’t the bus station!’ Harley shouted, ‘you have the wrong number!’

‘Oh. I’m sorry….Do you know the right number?’ the man asked.

‘No. I don’t,’ Harley snapped and hung up.

Placing the phone down, she wondered what was going on with the crossed over numbers. A cold wet nose and a small licking tongue touched her bare toes and Harley jumped with a cry. She looked down and saw the tiny Yorkshire terrier give a startled yip and jumped back too.

‘Sorry, Yogi,’ Harley spoke and scooped the dog up, ‘just some people…’

Carrying the Yorkie upstairs, Harley set him down on her single bed then went to her wardrobe. Just as she had selected her clothes for the day; old blue jeans, black long sleeved top with a painted wolf angel on it, her Five Finger Death Punch hoodie and boot slippers, the phone rang again. Tutting, she left it to ring until Yogi pulled his head up and let out a mournful yowl.

Racing downstairs, Harley snatched the phone up again.

‘Hello?’

‘Is that the bus station? I’ve lost my library books,’ the same man’s voice from before came though the phone.

‘You have the wrong number again,’ Harley said.

‘Oh…’

‘I’m sorry but I really can’t help you. Try ringing a different number,’ she added then hung up.

Heading up to her room, she finished off getting dressed then picked up Yogi again. The tiny dog had been making a nest in her bedding. Going downstairs, Harley set him down on his own bed and went into the kitchen. There was a large puddle of water on the floor with a white scum on top of it.

‘Yogi! Did you do this?’ Harley called, ‘bad dog!’

Grabbing a tea towel, she began to mop the floor. Then though she noticed the far spread of the puddle because it filled the square space between the fridge-freezer, dishwasher, sink of the narrow kitchen. Also it was very close to Yogi’s bowls.

Puzzling and no longer thinking the dog had done this, Harley inspected the fridge-freezer, sink and dishwasher. Everything seemed okay. She went upstairs and got an old towel from the cupboard. Setting it on the floor, she saw drips coming out of the corner of the dishwasher.

‘Great,’ she mumbled then added, ‘I’m sorry Yogi. It wasn’t you!’

Getting up, she went to find the dog but the phone rang. Throwing her hands up, Harley went to answer it.

‘Hello?’

‘Hello dear. My husband his left some books on the bus. I was wondering if you could help us?’ an elderly woman’s voice asked.

Harley sighed deeply and brushed her hair back, ‘I’m sorry,’ she said trying to stay calm, ‘but this isn’t the bus station. You have the wrong number. This is a private house.’

‘Ah, I’m terribly sorry about that. Goodbye,’ the old woman said.

The phone clicked and Harley hung it up again. Going into the living room, she give some reassurance to Yogi then went into the kitchen and made some toast with jam on. Sitting down, she watched some TV, channel flicking between a house D.I.Y show and a famous courtroom drama. Though she had to get up a couple of times to use the bathroom.

Taking her breakfast things into the kitchen, Harley noticed that the dishwasher was leaking badly. The towel she had set down had a large half circle ring across it. Opening the door and breaking off the washing cycle, she looked inside and move a few plates and pans around. Dirty water fell out of the corner like a small waterfall.

Closing the door again, she waited as the dishwasher started again. However, water still dripped from the corner.

‘Dad will have to fix that,’ Harley spoke.

Leaving it and going to her computer, she pressed the on button and also turned the monitor on. Whilst she waited, she looked at a calendar on her desk. Under today, she had written; write chapter 23. working at shop- 5-11pm. 

Harley’s face fell, she had forgotten she was working. She doubled checked on the calendar in her phone and confirmed it. Sighing, she noticed the computer was done loading and clicked open the draft of her novel. She had barely started reading the last few pages when the phone rang.

‘I’m not answer it!’ she called.

Yogi began howling in the living room.

‘I mean it,’ she growled.

Letting the phone ring off and Yogi’s long yowling faded away, Harley got back to her novel. She reached the last page with writing on it and tapped down to the blank one underneath. Looking at the page, she tried hard to think.

The phone rang.

‘Seriously!’ she cried.

Harley got up and answered the phone.

‘Hello?’

‘Is that the bus station? My parents have lost some books,’a young man’s voice asked.

‘No. It’s not and I don’t know why they keep ringing my phone number,’ Harley moaned.

‘I’m sorry. There must be a problem with the line. It’s fine. I’ll go down to the bus station and sorted it. Thanks, bye.’

Harley set the phone down and rubbed her eyes.

‘That’s it! I’m going back to bed!’ Harley declared.

In A Corner Of The World

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I’ve no idea how I ended up walking through this field. But here I am surrounded by long grass, wild flowers and the calling of birds. It’s a warm afternoon, but I can’t see the sun above me and the sky is a strange off blue color.

There’s a cottage ahead. The yellow thatch roof rising through the green leafy trees and tall bushes. There’s nothing else to do but go over and see if anybody is home. The field leads me to a small brown fence over which is a short carpet of grass. Bright flowers dot around the cottage and a wire washing line is stretched in the garden.

I go to climb over then stop. There’s an old woman beating a green rug on the washing line with a wooden tennis racket looking thing. Her white hair is piled up on top of her head and she’s wearing many skirts, a grey blouse and a pale blue apron. I can just about hear the thwacking sounds.

Climbing the fence, I walk slowly over, hoping that she spots me before I have to call out. Luckily, she does and she stops her work long before I reach her.

‘Hallo!’ she calls out and waves the tennis racket thing.

‘Hi,’ I answer back with a wave too.

‘Nice day for a walk,’ she adds.

‘Yes,’ I reply.

I come to the end of the washing line and look up. There are many green rugs hanging down…actually….they are strips of grass….

Puzzled, I look across the garden and see strips of dirt close by. There’s also a small red wheelbarrow, a spade and a large black bucket.

‘I’m just dusting my lawn,’ the old woman says, cheerily and as if that’s a perfectly normal thing to do.

I open my mouth, questions popping, but no words come out.

‘It can get quite dusty you know. And yes, there are other ways to do it but I prefer the good old fashioned method!’

She shows me how by beating a strip of grass. Only, she does it lighter then before.

I nod and slowly say, ‘how does it get dusty?’

‘Oh! Heaven knows!’ she cries and throws her hands up to the sky.

I glance up, half expecting to see a pig flying by.

‘Do you some time to spare? I’d be ever so grateful if you could help me,’ she asks and nods towards the dirt strips.

I look around, shrug and reply, ‘why not?’

‘Good. Then start digging, deary!’

Still puzzled, I walk to where the last dirt strip is as the old woman takes up beating the grass again. Looking down, I see how she’s cut the strips out and then I pick up the spade and start with the next one.

It’s actually easier then it seems as it appears the grass is use to being cut up. I slice the spade in and make my way around. It’s like a knife through butter. The smell of fresh cut grass and unearthed soil floods my nose. The grass strip comes up and I put it into the wheelbarrow. I start on another and quickly cut that strip loose too.

I look up as I place it into the wheelbarrow and I see the old woman taking down the first strip of grass. I watch her replace it into the lawn then return for the second piece.

‘This is so weird,’ I mumble.

Returning to my task, I dig up more pieces of grass and when the wheelbarrow is full I drive it over. I help the old woman take them out and hang them up. She begins beating the first one and dust raises off it.

‘How long does this take you?’ I ask her.

‘A few days,’ she answers.

‘And how many times do you do this?’

‘Oh, three or four times a year!’

‘Really?’

‘Grass gets very dusty in the summer, deary,’ she explains.

I look at her, but her face is just that of a plain woman in her early seventies. Her cheeks are fat and wrinkled like the rest of her skin. Her eyes are a warm blue, shinning with knowledge and happiness. Her white hair is long and tightly held back in a bun. Around her neck is a string of white pearls and there’s an old wedding ring on her finger.

‘Don’t you have anyone to help you?’ I ask aloud.

‘Sometimes, I do,’ she replies with a mysterious tone to her words, ‘it’s mostly just me though. I don’t mind. Keeps me busy.’

I nod and hear a shrill whistle sounding. Looking, it seems to be coming from the cottage and there’s smoke now rising out of the chimney.

‘It’s time for tea. Do you want to join me?’ the old woman asks.

‘Okay…’

She hurries off, leaving the grass strips on the washing line but taking the tennis racket with her. I follow and go through the small blue door after her. It leads straight into a kitchen. I stand in the doorway and look around.

It’s a very old fashioned farmer’s wife like kitchen. There’s a huge black wood burning stove against the far wall. A large oak table and chairs in the middle, a metal sink and draining board under a netted curtain window. Sky blue cupboards and work surfaces line another wall.

The old woman rattles around cups and things. Humming to herself. I pull out a chair and look down to see a fat old ginger cat curled up on it. I pull out another chair instead and sit down. I hear a clock ticking somewhere and the warmth of the kitchen hugging me like a old friend.

‘Here we are,’ the old woman says and sets down a tea tray.

There’s a tea pot wearing a tea cosy, milk jug, sugar cube bowl, a plate of biscuits, two pattern flower china cups and matching saucers.

‘Thanks,’ I reply.

We have tea and it’s good. I nibble at a biscuit and look around the kitchen. There’s not much else to see though. I want to talk, but I don’t really know what to say. Finally, the old woman breaks the silence.

‘I must get back to keeping my corner of the world tidied now and you should be getting home.’

‘Home?’ I say aloud.

‘Yes. It’ll be dark soon and the woods can be a dangerous place. Even for yourself.’

She pats my arm and gets up.

‘But….I don’t know the way…I found myself in that field. I don’t even know where I am!’ I cry.

The old woman tuts at me, ‘just head back the way you came, deary.’

I move my tea cup away and get up.

‘Goodbye,’ she says and gives me a little wave.

I don’t wave back, but go straight out the door, too confused to speak.

In the garden, the grass is still hanging on the washing line and there are dirt strips in the lawn. The sky is turning a dark blue and the birds are still singing. I walk off, feeling like that’s the only thing I can do. I go back over the fence and through the field. I look back at the cottage, smoke is still coming out of the chimney and the old woman has gone back to beating the grass again.

I turn, take a step and stumble. My legs go out from under me and I land face first in the grass. My eyes shut. I take a deep breath and open then again…And I am no longer in the field.

My study comes to life before my eyes. I blink and the rest of the long grass is gone, replaced by the bookcases, my desk and a fire crackling of the fireplace. I sit up in the deep plush chair, disturbing the book that’s slipped down on to my lap. I pick it up and read the title; Maps Of The Old Worlds.