Sit down, relax, make yourself comfortable, and lean in close. I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a very good story and it would be a terrible misfortune to spoil it with discomfort. I will picture you at first (as you won’t be that way long) snuggling warmly next to me by an evening fire, wrapped in a robe since you’ve just had a good bath, and eagerly awaiting each page as I turn it. I shall picture us this way because those are things that make me comfortable and I should like to be comfortable too.
In this story, there is a young boy, too young to be called a man, though not so young as to be called little. His name is not important because this boy could be any young boy; however he is one young boy in particular. The boy in this story is you, and so I will simply call him Boy.
Don’t be alarmed. This won’t be one of those Boy Meets Girl stories. Boy and Girl have already met. And don’t be alarmed either if you yourself are a girl. Each of us, whether by birth or by fancy, has been a young boy at one time or another, and so this story is still about you, and you’ll see, as the story goes on, why you are what makes it such a good story.
By now, you may have pictured me as your very favorite story-teller. I’m articulating it so, because for this story, it simply won’t do to have you picture me any other way. So scoot just a little bit closer… that’s better… and now, let us begin!
Boy was born on that day of that month. Of course that’s your birthday too and that’s quite by design. Whether you attribute it to astrology or not, everyone born on that day shares a natural curiosity, but more importantly, everyone born on that day is blessed with the most important of all human gifts. Many story-tellers… not your favorite, I should remind you… have misled you to believe that the greatest of human gifts is love, but I can assure you that is not true, because it says so right here. The gift everyone born on your birthday shares is the one from which love springs eternal. It is the gift of imagination!
Now, imagination is a troublesome thing. Indeed, Boy’s imagination got him into trouble, very deep trouble. Trouble could easily have begun on Boy’s sister’s bookshelf, or it could have begun under his mother’s pillow, or in a dusty box he’d discovered in the attic, or even a forgotten corner of the public library, because you see, whether by venture or by fancy, you’ve been all of those places. But Boy’s trouble did not begin in any of them. It began in the outstretched hand of his friend, a young girl. Her name is as unimportant as his, for very similar reasons, and she was holding a book.
“What’s this?” Boy asked.
Girl made a face with a wrinkly nose and scrunched up eyebrows. “What’s it look like?”
“It’s kind of thick,” he said dubiously.
“Just read it,” she sighed.
Boy thought Girl was very pretty. He liked her immensely, so much so that when he looked into her eyes it made his heart spin around in his chest like an excited puppy at the door. Even though he didn’t like to admit it, he wanted very much to impress her. So he took the book – feathers tickled him up his arm when her hand touched his – and as soon as he was alone with it, he sat down with the book in his lap. Very much enamored with the idea that the book belonged to Girl, he opened it up and he began to read.
It didn’t take very long, no more than a couple of paragraphs really, because it was her book, you see. Boy’s imagination caught a glimpse of Girl. Her pretty eyes looked up at him from the pages, his puppy spun around, and before he realized what he was doing, he dove headlong into the book beside her. The problem was that once locked inside of it, Boy found to his dismay that though the book was Girl’s, the story inside it was not. The opening paragraphs had lured him into a trap!
Girl giggled somewhat flirtatiously at finding Boy by her side. Her giggles danced around all inside of Boy making him wildly giddy. “It doesn’t look so thick anymore once you’re inside the book, does it?” she asked, looking around them.
“It’s hard to tell,” Boy answered, and it was true. Everywhere he looked, words, bunched together in schools of various sizes, swam about obscuring his view. “They all seem to be heading that way,” he said, pointing.
“I’ve read about that somewhere,” Girl said. “They’re driven by an unseen force called a formula.”
“Where does it lead them?” wondered Boy.
“I don’t know,” Girl answered. “It looks like it might be an overcoming-the-monster plot; too spooky and mysterious for a voyage-and-return. It probably ends in a big battle of words.”
“I think we should go back,” said Boy.
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid! Anyway, don’t be silly. We can’t go back.”
“Because the only way out of a story is into it,” Girl said triumphantly. “And besides,” she added, brushing close to Boy and sending whispered shivers through him, “it might be a romance!”
With that, she ran off down the story line, arms outstretched, causing ripples in the schools of words as she ran. “Come on!” she called. “It’ll be fun! Don’t trip over any fragments.”
© 2014 Anne Schilde