Writing Stuff

Take Me, Please

I feel sorry for used books. More specifically, I feel sorry for the authors of those used books.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore book sales – the sea of books, the pleasantly blank faces of browsing patrons, the dusty, moist aroma of old pages. I love these slightly new, slightly read, slightly treasured books. I love the atmosphere, the smells, the sheer overwhelming urge to take all of my clothes off and dive into the middle of a huge pile of books and wallow around like a walrus amongst the dusty book jackets and yellowed pages.

Okay fine, I’m the only one with that urge.

And yet, I can’t help but feel sorry for the little guys. There they sit, all perfectly lined up, all hoping that some avid reader will pick them, take them home, read their fine print, and caress their pages. These poor, pathetic, slightly damaged little books all hope that someday, somehow, their dreams of being placed in the coveted, and much-loved bookcase will come true.

Used books are like skinny, pathetic, mature dogs at animal shelters whose eyes are bigger than their whole bodies. It just breaks my heart to see so many of them passed by. People prefer puppies because they are small, they are full of promising entertainment, and of course they’re cute.

New books are cute, too. See their shiny covers? Do you hear how the spines moan and creak when you part the pages? Have you noticed how the fluorescent glow of the bookstores’ lights bounce off the glossy jackets? They are tempting, true. The thought of buying a book that no one else has likely touched – the pages have not been sullied with the oils from another human finger. The pages are crisp; they crackle with pleasure as you turn them. New books are like a new puppy; they are exciting, fun, and hold so much promise of many entertaining hours ahead.

But alas, new books are expensive. And they quickly depreciate in value once you’ve stepped over the threshold of the bookstore. They grow old quickly, their pages yellowing, the ink fading from rich oil blackness to the dull, matte like finish of weathered asphalt.

And then no one wants them. And then they end up in a used bookstore. The most they can hope for at this point is some old woman with missing teeth snatching them from their wire bins, gutting their innards, ripping their pages out, one by one, and lining her shopping basket with them to protect the cans and bottles she collects for their recyclable value.

Book enthusiasts must unite. We must form an organization to save “mature” books. They didn’t ask for this treatment; they were born to please, to entertain, to illustrate dreams and provide a backdrop for the imagination to freely paint a picture.

And how do you think the authors of these books feel? Do you think they ever pore over the books in a used bookstore and gasp with surprise when they see their baby, forgotten and abandoned, among so many other orphans? All of their hard work has been reduced to bargain bin prices. What must they think?

I often wonder what my reaction would be, to see my work offered for the low, low price of .10 cents. Would it bother me? Would I feel cheapened, perhaps even used in some discarded bookish way? I’ve thought long and hard about this, weighing realistic reactions to fantasies of saving the books and carrying them out of the store like Richard Gere carried Debra Winger out of the factory in the movie, An Officer and a Gentlemen.

Would I cringe when I watched people pick my book up, lightly scan the blurb on the back and then promptly slip it back into its slot? Or would it be worse to watch them carry it around for a bit, weighing the entertainment possibilities, and then deciding it wasn’t worth their time, to toss it haphazardly down, the book sticking out like a white puppy surrounded by black canines because now it’s sitting in the wrong genre bin. Would my heart lurch with pain? Would I hyperventilate with sorrow?

It’s hard to answer that with certainty. I’m sure I would feel a measure of disappointment, sure; I’m human after all. However, I don’t think it would crush me. I don’t think I would take it personally. Because you see, I’m not writing for fame and fortune, though that is certainly a sideline perk, but rather, I write because I enjoy it. It releases some sort of unseen, indeed, unknown, tension deep inside my soul and I feel satisfied that I was able to extract it before it spoiled and turned to rot, distorting my outlook on life in general. I write because I want to leave a small part of me behind. I write because of the personal satisfaction and the knowledge that my words might very well jump start someone else’s imagination – for creativity seems to be a dying art in today’s world. And last, but not least, I write in the hopes that the reader closes my book feeling better about themselves specifically and the world in the general.

Tell me, why do you write?

This was originally published on Write Anything, April 28, 2006.

Fiction Fix

Fiction: Eve’s Empathy

It takes great courage to faithfully follow what we know to be true. – Sara Anderson

“Hey Eve,” a man in a tight turtleneck sweater said while rushing past. “Piper can’t make it in tonight, can you cover?” He continued his fast pace and didn’t wait for her to answer. “Thanks! I owe you!”

Eve sighed and watched the head of Human Resources make his way back to his wonderfully posh, and sweet smelling, office. She’d love to hole up in his office sometime, just to get away from all of the musty hospital smells she was forced to endure on a daily basis. She wouldn’t do much, just sleep. Was that too much to ask?

“Think he’ll ever pay up?” Vicki, Eve’s best friend, said practically in her ear.

The emergency room was hopping for a Thursday night and between the crying, the groans and the general loud talking over the equally loud television, it was sometimes necessary to get right up on someone’s ear in order to be heard.

She turned to her friend and gave her a weary smile. “It’s doubtful.”

“Why do you think Piper’s not coming in?”

Eve shrugged while replacing one chart and taking another. She gave it a quick once-over before answering her friend. “There’s no telling. Maybe she has a hangover. Or a hangnail. You never know with Piper. She’s such a wuss.”

“You can say that again,” Vicki nodded in agreement. “Oops, there goes my pager. Gotta go. Coffee later?”

“If not sooner!” Eve called after her friend as she scurried down the hall, the soft soles of her shoes squeaking slightly on the hard tile floor.

“Make way!” a man’s voice called and Eve looked toward the emergency room entrance. Her eyes widened in surprise when she recognized the man.

“Troy? Troy Wilson?” she asked while moving around the front desk.

Troy had his arm around a woman who was bent over with pain and obviously very pregnant.

“Eve Michaels?” he asked in surprise. “Wow. I didn’t know you went to med school.”

“Nursing school, actually,” she said and moved to grab a wheel chair. “Who’s your friend?” she asked while smiling at the woman and helping her into the chair.

“My wife,” Troy replied and Eve gave him a sharp look.

“Your wife?”

“Yeah, you got a problem with that?” the woman in the wheelchair growled between clenched teeth. Her growl quickly turned into a groan as a contraction ripped through her.

Eve laughed. “Not at all. Troy and I knew each other back in college. God, eons ago, right Troy?”

“Another lifetime ago,” Troy responded while making sure his wife was comfortable, or as comfortable as she could be, given the circumstances.

Eve helped them check in before taking hold of the wheelchair. “Let’s get you set up in your room, shall we?”

The woman opened her mouth to reply, but promptly closed it as every muscle in her body tightened with pain.

“How close are the contractions?” Eve asked.

“I’m clocking them about three minutes apart,” Troy said.

Eve nodded, suddenly all business. “Then we need to hustle.”

Together she and Troy moved his wife to the room and she left to give them privacy while his wife changed into a gown. After exactly five minutes, she re-entered the room and began taking the woman’s vitals while filling out her chart.

“You’ve called your doctor?” Eve asked, her eyes trained on the chart, her left hand busy making notes.

“Yeah. But he’s out of town, of course,” Troy grumbled. “I think they said that Dr. Lowe would be helping us?”

Eve smiled while she replaced the chart. “You’re in luck. She’s awesome.”

“Oh? The doctor is female?” the woman asked and sucked in a breath as another contraction hit. “Of course she is,” she ground out and grimaced with pain. “Troy will have her eating out of his hand in no time.”

Eve grinned at Troy. He hadn’t changed much, apparently. “The anesthesiologist should be along shortly,” she said while patting the woman’s hand, “hang in there.”

The woman snatched her hand away and gave Eve a dirty look. “Were you and Troy a couple in college?”

Troy sputtered an awkward chuckle while color flooded his cheeks. “Hardly. We were just friends.”

“I find that hard to believe,” the woman snapped and turned her back on the two of them as she tried to find a more comfortable position.

“Eve, I’m sorry about …” Troy helplessly gestured to his wife.

She held up a hand to silence him before he said something he might regret. “No need to apologize. She’s in pain and well … given your track record with women, I can understand her assumption.”

The woman laughed and turned her head to give Eve a good look. “I like you already. Thanks for your help.”

Eve patted the woman’s leg and nodded. “Any time. Good luck with the birth. I’ll check back in on you two later.”

Troy nodded, but only had eyes for his wife.

Eve re-read what she wrote on the woman’s chart and frowned. That wasn’t right, was it? She squinted down at what she wrote and then noticed her mistake. Correction, make that more than one mistake. Clenching her teeth in frustration, she erased her earlier notes and re-wrote fresh instructions before replacing the chart in the slot in the door.

She snuck a glance at Troy and his wife, but they were pre-occupied with getting through several contractions.

Eve unconsciously exhaled her relief. That was a close one.

She rubbed her eyes as she exited the room. It always got worse when she was tired, which was most of the time, quite frankly. She really should go see someone about her problem, but she was afraid that it would jeopardize her job. But at the same time, if she didn’t see someone about her problem, it could cost a patient his or her life.

Her heart jumped at the thought of being responsible for someone’s death all because she was too stubborn, and embarrassed, to do something about her Dyslexia.

“Did you get Mrs. Wilson settled in?” the head nurse asked Eve when she returned to the nurse’s station.

“Yep. She’s ready for her epidural. I hope they get there soon, her contractions are three minutes apart and she’s got that “look,” you know?”

“That look?” the head nurse repeated while raising her brows. “That’s a pretty technical diagnosis, Eve. I’ll have to remember that the next time I can’t be bothered with coming up with the correct technical term.”

Eve blushed and offered a small, apologetic smile. She knew the head nurse wasn’t exactly impressed with her. Especially since she had already discovered a few charts she had screwed up. She had been pretty diligent in making sure she double and triple checked her notations, but the head nurse had noticed them before she had.

That had been awkward to say the least. She was fast running out of excuses for her poor performance. Her stomach tightened at the stress of having to deal with her problem. She had worked so hard for this job and she loved it, she couldn’t imagine having to give it up because of her learning disability. But then again, how could she live with herself if it led to a misdiagnosis or worse, death?

Continue reading “Fiction: Eve’s Empathy”