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81_ym_therightbook_cfawcett.jpg
Art by Cynthia Fawcett 2020

The Right Book

 

by Ben Newell

 

 

          Four DVDs per checkout was the maximum number allowed. Frank wanted five, but he knew this wasn’t happening. Miss Turnage enforced library policy like a ruthless dictator. 

He placed his movies on the circulation desk and proffered his well-worn library card. The aging librarian regarded his selections with a grimace. 

“Oh, Frank,” she said, shaking her head in dismay, “this stuff is going to rot your brain. . . .”

Frank liked crime movies, crime and horror. Of course, such lurid fare was frowned upon by Miss Turnage.   

“You’ve been coming here for a long time. Not once have I seen you borrow a book; just movies, and the occasional video game.”

Frank shrugged. “I like what I like.”

“We have a great fiction collection. You’re missing out.”

 “You know I’m not much of a reader,” Frank said. 

“Not true. Everyone is a reader. Some just haven’t found the right book, yet.” This was Miss Turnage’s favorite slogan. In fact, she had it printed on a poster, printed and laminated, and taped to the wall beside the copy machine. 

“Maybe,” Frank muttered. 

“Well, at least give it some thought. Reading is a wonderful adventure. It can truly change the trajectory of a person’s life. Who knows, you might even get motivated and go back to school.”

 

 

Miss Turnage knew that he had dropped out of junior college during his first semester, knew that he still lived with his mother and worked part-time at Pizza Hut. Such was life in a small town.    

Enough with the lecture, Frank thought. Just give me my movies, so I can get the hell out of here.

As if she had read his mind, Miss Turnage did just that, sliding the DVDs across the desk and into Frank’s awaiting hands. He turned to leave.  

 “And don’t forget. The late fine on those is a dollar per day. That can add up fast.”

Frank had heard it all before. He didn’t say a word. 

II

 

 

A month passed before Frank, book bag slung over his shoulder, returned to the library. This time, Miss Turnage was working with Mr. Sellers, a bespectacled beanpole with bad teeth. Frank handed over his DVDs.

Mr. Sellers scanned each bar code, frowning as he peered at his computer. “These are really late.”

“Sorry about that,” Frank said. “I’ve been busy.”

 This piqued Miss Turnage’s curiosity. “Busy doing what?”

“Well, I got to thinking about what you said. All that stuff about books, and reading, and how important it is.”

“And?”

“I actually bought one.”

“A book?”

“Yeah.”

          “Did you read it?”

“I did.”

“Good for you, Frank. That’s wonderful.”

“It was a long book. And I’m a slow reader. But I finally finished it last night.”

Mr. Sellers smiled at Miss Turnage. “Looks like you’ve done it again.  Yet another convert.” 

“I never knew reading could be so much fun,” Frank said. “It’s like I’ve been in a trance for the past month. But in a good way, you know.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Miss Turnage said. “The right book will do that.”

“The main character was great.”

“I’m dying to know what you read.”

Mr. Sellers regarded his colleague. “You and me both.”

Frank placed his book bag atop the desk, unzipped it, and reached inside. When his hand emerged, it was clutching a trade paperback of some 300 pages.   

American Psycho,” he said, tossing the book atop the desk. 

Then he pulled out the Ruger .22 target pistol and opened fire. 

 

 

Ben Newell works in the reference dept. at a public library. His first full-length collection of poetry, Fuzzball, was published by Epic Rites Press. His short fiction has appeared in Alien Buddha ZineHustler FantasiesShotgun Honey, and others. He taught high school English for one day. 


Cynthia Fawcett has been writing for fun or money since she was able to hold a pen. A Jersey Girl at heart, she got her journalism degree at Marquette University in Milwaukee and now writes mostly technical articles about hydraulics and an occasional short story or poem on any other subject.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020