Helga’s Post #26 — A fresh wind blew across our blog yesterday, just in time for the first day of spring.
A story! Not advice to up-and-coming scribes (guilty as charged), not a ‘Dear diary’ post or navel-gazing exercise, but a real blue-blood story. What a novel idea, writing an actual story on a writers’ blog! Thanks, Joe, for doing this. I will follow in your footsteps.
Now I am not saying that our previous posts deserve the dung heap. To the contrary. Collectively, our 130 or so posts make a pretty good read. And we did have a sprinkle of real-life stories buried between a plethora of musings and morsels of wisdom. Really, why not post the occasional story (as different from ‘story’). After all, storytelling is what we do, if not for a living, then at least for the sheer love of it.
I for one welcome the opportunity to write the odd ‘short-short’ story. A little reprieve from writing a novel where every detail has to be right, where inaccuracies are not permitted.
So here’s a little anecdote I want to share. (It’s brief, because today is a busy and important one for our group: We are meeting for the first time in the five months since we embarked on our online writing challenge.)
Most of us are known to go to great lengths to avoid embarrassment. Even if it means tilting the truth to help preserve our respectability. And as a result, often the best-laid plans backfire.
That happened to me a few months ago while reading Fifty Shades Darker.
I ended a busy day with a late night bubble bath, my favorite place for reading. An appropriate venue for the title, and a treat to reward myself for whatever I thought were my achievements of the day. It had been a challenging day, so I also needed a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, a great combo with the book and bubbles.
So far so good. Only two minor problems. First, I dropped Fifty Shades in the tub when I fell asleep for just a second. Yes, it sounds unlikely given the topic, but I did. Secondly, the book wasn’t mine, but property of none other than the West Vancouver Memorial Library. I woke the moment I dropped the book and fished it out of the water immediately, but anyone who has ever dunked one, knows the results.
Four hundred sodden pages. I put it overnight on a heating register. Next day, I ironed them, to no avail. The book quadrupled in thickness, pages damp and swollen. What to do?
When desperate, think outside of the box. Put on your thinking hat. Brilliant, whoever coined those phrases. A few years back, I had to do some tests to determine if I had what it takes for a senior level management job. One of the questions, to determine creativity, was “How many uses can you think of for a brick?”
Forty. Yes, there are forty. I only got to about thirty, still a good score. Admittedly, some were pretty exotic, like throwing it through a window if you forgot your house key. Or for drowning a cat (sorry, Silk).
But I digress. So how to apply this to drying a damp library book?
A microwave oven has many functions. Not quite forty, like the brick example, but more uses than for cooking or heating food. Like drying books.
So what’s wrong with that picture?
Nothing. Except if you are drying a library book. Because of the tiny metal security tag attached on the inside of the back cover. Metals and microwaves are not friends. Especially magnetic metals. They spark and do all sorts of nasty things to each other when some stupid human brings them into contact.
Fifty Shades Darker did not look pretty after I rescued it. There was this dark brown burn mark the size of a toonie, that not only had burnt through the back cover, but through half of the book – two hundreds pages or so. Like someone had put a burning cigar to each page.
Mortified, I returned the book to the library, trying to think of a story that allowed me to escape with a modicum of dignity. I reasoned, like the famous song by Patrick Sky, ‘Reality is bad enough, why must I tell the truth?’
The clerk looked at the book, shaking her head.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my thirty years on the job. What happened?”
“My 14-year old granddaughter dropped it in the bath by mistake,” I ventured. “And then she put it in the microwave when I was out. Stupid girl. Can you believe it?”
The clerk said nothing for a while. She shook her head again, leafing through the pages.
“I’m sorry,” I said, opening my wallet. “I will pay for the book, of course. How much do I owe the library?”
She looked at me with an expression like smelling a rotting fish. “You allowed your granddaughter to read this?”