Jennifer E. Miller
The bookcase stood against the wall in the waiting room. It was small, only two shelves, and coated with a chestnut stain. There was an aluminum monogram letter C mounted on the wall above it. On the floor to its left was a pottery urn with branches of pussy willows pointing up like spears. A single vase with artificial hydrangeas adorned the top shelf, along with a sign that said “A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear.” Only the bookcase didn’t feel pretty. It couldn’t smile. It was empty.
The bookcase longed for books. In its last home, it was crammed with magnificent stories. Their pages telling tantalizing tales of far off places, adventures, biographies, and even children’s stories. Thousands of pages of excitement lined up, to be read over and over again. Oh how the bookcase loved when the people came to it! Their warm hands over its wood, the oil from their skins smearing the chestnut stain along the edges, the creak in the floor as they walked away with a new adventure in hand. It brought the bookcase immense joy to hold the wonders that unlocked imaginations.
People surrounded the bookcase, squatting down to study the available options, selecting the right one to suit their moods. “Which one shall I read today?” “Oh! This is my favorite!” “I’ve heard of this title.” The reader gently ran their hand over the line of books, waiting for the energy to stop their index finger over the one, tapping it with anticipation. They leaned the top corner out first, then finished sliding the book from its resting place. Disturbed dust swirled and sparkled in the afternoon sunrays that filtered in through the window’s sheer curtains. A vertical empty shadow remained on the shelf. If a thick book was removed, sometimes the adjacent books fell over, tapping their neighbor. When more than one book was removed, the bookcase was left with empty spaces, like missing teeth. But it didn’t mind because this was the bookcase’s purpose; to house books and stories for all to enjoy.
Unread books intrigued people to return. The satisfied readers replaced the finished books and selected another. Sometimes they took a break, leaving the books to sit and enjoy each other’s company. It was rare all the books sat on the bookcase at once. When they gathered together, it was like a party. Each book talking to one another and altering their story. When the reader picked up a book a second time, it wouldn’t be quite the same story as before.
Soon the number of books increased and no room was left for them to stand side by side. They were placed on their sides, over the top of the vertical ones. They were placed on top of the bookcase. They piled on the floor next to the bookcase, hugging it. They overflowed, but the bookcase was happy with its growing family. It was more joy to bring the people.
One day, the books were taken away. Voices, belonging to the readers, chimed excitement of a larger space to hold their personal library. The bookcase was wiped clean and moved aside. The bookcase watched, heartbroken, as a new larger shelf unit was the replacement. It was sturdy, stark white, and clean. The bookcase wondered how long before the new unit was covered in finger stains or rings of coffee. The sun filtered through the sheer curtains onto its bottom two shelves, which occupied the same space as the bookcase. The shelf unit now had the job the bookcase loved and cherished.
The novels, nurtured by the bookcase all those years, were placed in their new home. Their tears of homesickness couldn’t be seen by the people, but the bookcase noticed. It desperately wanted to comfort them, but was helpless. It shed some tears of its own. The separation was difficult.
And so the bookcase was transplanted to its new location; an office waiting room. The decorations and adornments were pretty, but they didn’t satisfy the bookcase. Many people, potential readers, walked past but never stopped. It sat empty with nothing to offer. Flimsy reading materials sat on a low table in front of chairs; the bookcase longed for volumes of any story to hold and nurture once again. To bring wide-eyed joy to many more readers. To collect dust, be scuffed, and touched. It hoped that happened soon. It wanted to wear a smile and be pretty.
Copyrighted 2016 by Jennifer E. Miller