Yesterday's Magazette

9 – Thanks To The Fearsome Book Lady

Thanks To The Fearsome Book Lady

By McClaren Malcolm

When she strode into our third-grade classroom like a continental soldier, my nine-year-old life shifted. My classmates and I, blond and blue eyed, paled in contrast to this dark-skinned intruder with her square face and red-stained lips.

Her voice, wind against tin, pinged in my ears. “Good morning. Are the boys and girls ready?”

Mrs. Olsen, our teacher, stepped back from her place in front of the class. “Girls and boys, this is the book lady. Please line up at the door.”

Book Lady said, “You will not talk. If you do, you will not borrow my books. No writing in the books. Wash your hands before you read. Is that clear?”

Silence. Most everyone’s mouth dropped.

She spoke again, louder. “Is that understood?”

I heard my voice creak out of my throat to join the murmurs of others. It must have been the right response because Book Lady said, “Follow me.”

A gray bus with no windows on the side, sat in the parking lot. I stretched my legs and bent double as I climbed the bus steps. When I looked up, shelves and shelves of books towered over me: thick books, tall and thin books, picture books, red, green, and blue books. I grabbed one that had a yellow duck on the cover. A whiff of printer’s ink tickled my nose.

As I left, Book Lady reached for my book. Her hands tipped with glass-red nails and cuffed in swirly gem colors, took it from me. She stamped a card and tucked it in an envelope inside the book’s cover. As she handed the book to my eager grasp, she held on and aimed her piercing eyes into mine.

“It’s due in two weeks.”

I fell back as she released the book. I was as excited as Jason must have been when he snatched the golden fleece from the dragon. Not till I was safely back at my desk did I look at the title, “The Ugly Duckling.”

That afternoon at home, I read the greatest story since “Dick, Jane, Sally and Puff.” They were history. I wanted to tell the author that I understood what he was saying, and I wanted to tell my story too. Inspired, I wrote the first of many stories, but I was timid and did not show them to anyone.

The writing was like tugging at a string coming from a powerful inner place much like a magician pulls a seemingly endless string from his mouth. The more I tugged the more came out, and the string curled, forming words and meaning that connected me with inner thoughts and feelings.

I wish I could thank Book Lady. She showed me a high regard for the written word and taught me what a serious privilege it is to read. I overcame my timidity, and now I want to fill shelves with children’s stories, ones that will inspire others to read and then write their own stories.

(In addition to writing short stories, McClaren is author of “Spirit of the Valley,” a spiritual history of N.E. Georgia’s National Historic Registry community, Sautee-Nacoochee in the Appalachian Mountains and “Drug-Net,” a quide for funding drug abuse prevention programs, Writer’s Digest awarded her national recognition for her children’s story, “Flat Out of Luck.” And she won a Yesterday’s Magazette short story contest with “Something Like a Thief.”)


1 Comment »

  1. I enjoyed reading this story. It is well written, descriptions pop, and the string metaphor is creative and memorable.

    Comment by Colette Sasina — April 7, 2008 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

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