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.”
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
“I actually bought one.”
“Did you read it?”
“Good for you, Frank. That’s
“It was a long book. And
I’m a slow reader. But I finally finished it last
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
“The main character was
“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.
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 Zine, Hustler
Fantasies, Shotgun Honey, and others. He taught high
school English for one day.
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.