The Library: Part 1

An old man sits at a desk in the middle of a room filled with thousands of books.  They are his life–he never could connect with anything more than them.  He thought he did, once, with his wife, but she’s been dead now, ten years.

His son appears at the door and lingers outside.  He’s tall, wan, with a thick head of blond hair.  He leans against the frame and glowers at the person inside.

The father makes no move, no indication that he is aware of the boy’s presence. It’s been like this forever.  The son hates it.  He’s seen his other friends as they’ve grown up around him – they all with their fathers, learning trades, about women, about life – and he, alone. At seven his mother gone, his other parent absent-though right down the hall-inaccessible, unwilling, always with his books.  His precious tomes, which he smiled at, acknowledged, as if they were his offspring.  And he, the real one, left to fend for himself.  Only the maids would interact with him, pityingly.  Poor little one, they always said, Poor child.

The old man looks up, finally, at the figure in the doorway.  “What is it, boy?”

The son opens his mouth, pauses, shuts it again.  He wants to ask something, anything, but the gray eyes that glare at him from under thick brows scare him.  They always have.  He hates this too.  “I–”

“If you’ve nothing to say, stop wasting my time.”

Bitter, silenced, the youth turns and stalks out of the doorway and down the hall. Seventeen years of this, he thinks, Seventeen years of disdain, of being looked at like I am worthless.  And yet those books… a slight chuckle here, a choke, a change of thought …Those books are all the man loves.

In his room, he lies on his bed, facing the ceiling, thoughts racing through his mind. He feels a heat rising in his chest, burning and growing with every breath.  He closes his eyes, squeezes them shut, and clenches his fists.  How he hates his father, how he hates those books.  Why should he be invisible?  What had he ever done to deserve this?

And then he remembers his mother.

She had coddled him; given him toys, kisses, chocolates.  He’d found it smothering sometimes, found it embarrassing to be hanging around with her at six years old, when his friends would brag about learning to fish or catch a ball…. He asked his mother, once, if his father would perhaps teach him–?

“Just leave him to his books.” She had answered. “Just leave him to his books.”

He had toddled into his father’s library at three years old with a cup of milk and dropped it on the floor, just close enough to the shelves.  It splashed, ran into the crevices of the wood floor, and speckled a large novel with white froth.

How his father had screamed, how he’d leapt from his chair, how he’d fumbled for his pocket square, grabbed the book, wiped it off, and cradled it.  The son began to cry – his mother appeared out of nowhere, scooped him up, swept him out of the room.  He’d not been allowed back until he was ten.

His chest hurt more.  Tears burned his eyes, and he opened them again and stared at blurred nothingness.  Teeth clenched, the boy resolved he would do something.  He would hurt the old man the way he’d been​ hurt, year after year, day after day.

He awaited midnight.  Once the clock struck, he knew his father would finally retire from the library.  He would shut the door, put his hand on it, pausing, thinking how he didn’t want to leave, and then turn and slowly walk to his room and be sleeping within an hour.

As soon as he was sure his father was asleep, the boy crept from his room and down the hall. Slowly, carefully, he turned the knob on the door and slipped into the library. It was dark within, and the boy fumbled in his pocket for a flashlight. He clicked it on and headed straight to his father’s desk, where he turned on a dim lamp.

By the hazy light coming from the fixture, the boy was able to make out some of his surroundings. Up and down the walls were books, each leather bound and old, filed carefully away on their shelves. Turning, the boy faced the tall windows, covered by thick red velvet drapes. He smiled – his mother had made these curtains long ago, when he was five. Sighing, he turned again to his father’s desk, made from burnished oak–a solid, elegant piece. The chair was black leather, well worn. He sat down, shut off his flashlight, returned it to his pocket, and looked out to the doorway.

At two years old he had sat on the ground in front of the desk, playing with trains. He wheeled them across the floor, making chugga chugga sounds, and his father had watched silently.

“You like trains, do you?” His voice, deep and quiet, had asked.

“Yes, sir!” The boy had looked up then and smiled.

His father had nodded and, without a word, walked to the side of the room and pulled a large book from one of the shelves. He weighed it in his hands for a bit, as if questioning his motives, then turned and brought it over to his son.

The boy remembered snippets of what followed. His father, sitting on the floor, his suit wrinkling – his lips twitched a frown at this… The book, opened, filled with huge pictures of trains for the boy to see. Gazing at the intricate details, at the colors… His mouth agape… Looking up at his father after he’d asked which was his favorite….. “The red one!”…. The gray eyes, intense and unreadable, narrowing ever so slightly at his answer… The thing that ended the moment, when he reached to touch the page….. His father had slammed the book shut and stood up quickly…. The boy, surprised and scared, began to cry.

The rest of that day was a blur. His mother had come immediately and whisked him into the nursery.

Shaking his head to clear himself of the memory, the young man looked at the shelf that the train book was on. He’d found it once more, at ten, when he was no longer banned, but had never asked his father to look again. The spine glared out at him now – a dark navy blue, the words​ “STEAM ENGINES” embossed in gold across it. He bit his lip.

A sudden clang came from behind and the youth jumped and turned, eyes wide. The sound came again and he relaxed, realizing it was only an ebony grandfather clock. Two strikes – he’d been in the library an hour now. He turned back to the train book – it still glared at him with its lettering, and he felt his anger rising. Quickly, he stood and marched over to it, then ripped it off the shelf. It was lighter than he imagined it would be, and he grinned at its lack of heft. It is weak, he thought, and I always believed these things to be so much more.

Chuckling quietly, the youth opened the tome. The pictures were still colorful; he remembered them well. After flipping through a few pages, he found the red train he had chosen as his favorite. He grimaced, and in one deft movement, tore the page from the book.

-MC

On Tea: Earl #1

The Tea: Earl Grey Tea, Typhoo.
Caffeinated: Yes
Water Temperature: 212° (boiling)
Milk/Sugar: I put in milk, others can put in sugar (alone or in addition) or neither.
Aroma: If you’ve ever had Earl Grey tea before, you know the smell. A sweet, citrusy aroma specific to this type of black tea.
Taste: Tangy, slightly bitter citrus flavor as is typical with Earl Grey (go bergamot!). A fragrant cup.
Would I venture to buy a whole box?: I would, mostly because of the dapper fellow on it. This isn’t the best Earl Grey I’ve had, but it is a decent tea to drink in the morning.
Overall score: 3.5/5 stars

-MC

Investigation

The scene is entered at the beginning of a white concrete sidewalk.  Along the right are bushes with bright orange and pink blossoms, and along the left is a long and straight road.  Ahead, past the flowers, a blue house with dark, ominous windows stands. In front of it, a crowd has formed.  The faces within it are concerned; some are sad, but not many.  Conversation is passing between the members of the group–various comments, such as “What a shame.” and “This is the second one this year!” are among the many statements made. People turn away as they are passed, leaning in towards their neighbors and whispering more quietly.  There has been a murder.

Moving through the throng, one man makes eye contact.  His hair is a dark shade of brown and partially covers his eyes, which are an intense blue-hazel.  He shakes his head, as if asked “Who?” and points toward the entrance of the house, his hands gloved in black leather. Then, turning, he puts them in his coat pockets and walks away, disappearing into the crowd.

The entrance to the house is genial, except for an old black dog which moves shiftlessly about the yard. White roses bloom on both sides of a cobblestone path, and emerald green vines crawl up the tresses at the side of the door, which is a dark polished wood with a myriad of colors twining together to form its stained glass window. The doorknob is bronze, round, and squeaks just slightly as it is turned.  The hinges make no noise, and the door swings open easily.

The scene then changes drastically.  A jade colored vase has been thrown to the floor; pieces of sharp glass have been strewn about the entryway.  To the left, the door to a room has been broken in.  Red droplets trail on the floor and pool outside of it.

Inside this room, the scene worsens.  A green velvet chair has been tipped over—the wooden leg on the right front side has been cracked.  One of the blue and green floral curtains has been torn off the rod and now lies in a heap upon the floor.  A mahogany desk stands in the right corner of the room, its contents knocked about its surface.  From it, an ink bottle has fallen, spilling its dark contents onto the wooden floor.

Within the disarray of the room, a shoe can be seen sticking out from behind the chair. The pants are grey, wrinkled; the brown sweater vest is wet with gore, but the monogram on the left breast still shines—the initials SB stand out in silver. Blood has spread out from around the victim’s head and chest and touched the edge of the ink spill, forming smoky red and black swirls. A slight draft ripples the surface of the pool, and it glistens as it clashes with the lighter, almond-colored ground.

The face of the victim contains an odd expression.  The eyes are open—they are bright blue and hold a nebulous expression, unseeing.  A smile is present but faded, as if the victim tried to ingratiate himself with Death before it took him but could not.  The blonde pompadour is no longer perfect; stray locks have become encrusted with blood and frayed. The cause of death is explicable, a knife blow to the chest and neck.

Over the body, a breeze continues to blow into the room.  About three feet above the floor, a large, rectangular window stands open.  The killer escaped elusively through, jumping over the ledge and into the backyard.

The window swings gently back and forth, almost languid in its movements as each glass pane catches the sunlight.  To the left, strands of dark brown hair blow softly, kept safe by a splinter in the windowpane.

-MC

Morning Godsend

There was a tiny puppy on the T this morning while I was commuting to work: tan in color, with white speckled paws and big chocolate colored eyes. The poor thing was terribly nervous, but not enough to inhibit it from being curious.

The puppy sniffed at every person around it, eventually receiving a gentle pat on the head from a man who was reading a Kindle book. Its owner kept making kissy noises at it, as if calling a cat, but the dog wanted simply to explore, though its tucked tail highlighted its wariness.

At one point the leash came off its harness. The owner was quick to replace it, and the puppy had no idea anything went awry.

My neighbor was jumped on – they froze slightly, gave the dog a quick pat, and moved soon afterwards.

Curious as ever, the puppy squeezed itself between the seats and sniffed my bag. I reached down slowly (since I did not wish to scare the baby – after all, when you are so small, everyone else is a scary giant) and let it sniff my hand before petting it and scratching behind its ears. The puppy immediately jumped up and put its feet on the empty seat next to mine – the owner apologized, but I responded that it was OK, I have four, and I looked back at the puppy and continued to stroke it, asking it if it was going to get all the way up on the seat, if it was being good… All the while the puppy looked at me with those big brown eyes.

My stop came too soon.

-MC

On Tea: Autumn Flavors

The Tea: Maple Apple Cider, Stash.
Caffeinated: No
Water Temperature: 212° (boiling)
Steep Time: 3-5 minutes
Milk/Sugar: Neither – others can add sugar if they are so inclined.
Ingredients: Rooibos, hibiscus, cinnamon, maple flavor, nutmeg, apple flavor, caramel flavor
~100% Natural Ingredients~
Aroma: Maple caramel appley goodness!
Taste: Sweet caramel and maple followed closely by a distinct apple flavor. Though the former two tastes are sweet, the apple adds a tartness that balances the cup nicely. The cinnamon brings out the tea’s fall essence, and the rooibos does not overpower the other flavors but instead compliments them, which makes the tea quite enjoyable.
Would I venture to buy a whole box?: I would consider, as I liked the smoothness of it.
Overall score: 4/5 stars
-MC

Talent

Today I got crumbs from a breakfast bar in my eyeball.

“How the heck??” you may ask.

Well, the answer is: I’m truly a smooth human being.

Can’t recommend it though. 0/10 stars: causes irritation and headache.

-MC