Writing prompt: Envy Bookcase Pipe

Today’s writing prompt and my response.

Use these three words: Envy, Bookcase, Pipe

Today is one of those rare days we are required to go into the Learning Centre, physically. Mother tells me that when she was a child they used to go often. She thinks at least twice a month, and how it was hugely exciting to see her fellow learners  and talk in groups, away from the Knowledge Givers.

It’s hugely exciting for me also. I’m old enough to be allowed to ride the transit train by myself, trusted to alight at the right station and walk the 50 metre path to the Centre.

It’s a bright, hot day, as always, when I enter the turfed square where we are to gather. I’m early, and only one other learner is there. She has her back to me, her face to a high wall, which is odd. I approach her and see that it’s Zoe.

‘What are you doing?’

She jumps away from the wall, giggles. She can be strange, Zoe.

‘Look.’ She points to a split in the plastic sheeting.

I look. Beyond the wall is a construction site, or rather a demolition site. Nothing is happening there at the moment.

‘They’re pulling down the ancient building, from a time when it was called a school,’ Zoe says. She likes history.

Mother explaining a book to a child

She pushes me aside and gazes through again. ‘Well, fancy that.’

Zoe also has a tendency to talk in old-fashioned ways. It’s said her family is odd but not sufficiently odd to be taken as a threat.

‘If you squint hard,’ she says, ‘you can see what must have been the library, though there’s just one bookcase standing now.’

She moves away and pushes me towards the viewing point. ‘If you follow the end of that big pipe, the one cut in half and hanging down from the roof, you can see the bookcase to the left of it.’

‘Library? Bookcase? What are you talking about?’

Zoe explains, about books made of a material called paper. They didn’t need to be recharged, could be left on shelves – called bookcases – in rooms especially made for them – libraries – for decades, even centuries, and could still be read.

I gape at her. ‘How do you know this?’

She blushes, puts a finger to her lips. ‘Don’t tell anyone, ever, but … we have a bookcase at home, in the basemment, with books.’

I stare at her, and for a reason I don’t know I am filled with envy. I want to see these strange objects for myself, to handle them, to turn what Zoe calls pages. It would be what Mother says, with a soft longing in her voice, an organic experience.

‘Zoe, Michael.’ The Knowledge Giver’s voice carries across the square. ‘Away from there, time to join the others.’

‘One day, I’ll show you,’ Zoe whispers as we hurry across the turf.

And I am grateful.

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