Opening a New Book for the First Time

Book Spine

Opening a New Book for the First Time

When I was in elementary school,

On our first visit as a class to the library

Each year,

The librarian showed us how to

Open a new book for the first time.

There was a method to it,

But I don’t know why we had to see it

Every year.

I at least remembered all the details

But

Strangely enough

No one objected to it.

It was the Age of Conformity

After all. Something different came later.

“Look,” the librarian said (every year).

“Carefully take the new book and stand it on end.

Now select about one-tenth of the pages,

Put the book back on its spine and

Carefully run your hand down the page

Close to the spine. Repeat this until you have

Done all the pages in this manner. Now you may

Open the book and begin reading.”

What a relief, I thought. Now we can go to recess,

But the librarian asked,

“Are there any questions?”

Naturally, Abigail Shaw raised her hand.

I hated Abigail Shaw, as did most of the boys

In the class. She always wore a fancy dress to school

And sat up front and always got good grades.

She regarded the boys in the class as savages

And she wasn’t too far wrong.

Anyhow, she said, “Would you show us that

Again, Miss Parsons? I want to make sure

I understand it.”

I could see doing this the first couple of years,

But she asked this every single year!

I felt like biting my desk, but that was exactly

The sort of savage behavior Abigail frowned upon.

So we sat there, hearing about something

We knew already, watching the precious minutes

Of recess tick away while Abigail Shaw made sure

Everyone knew what a good and careful person she was.

Somewhere along the line, books reformed themselves

And no longer had to open in a special way.

And I add that to my collection of useless skills

Like threading a classroom projector or running a

Mimeograph machine or using a slide rule.

I don’t know what happened to Abigail

(I know she did survive elementary school)

But I suppose enduring all this opening new book business

Was worth it after all:

It allowed me to read

And that has turned out to be better than

Recess.

 

Dan Verner

April 2, 2019

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