Prologue to ‘The Book-Less Library’
An Ode to Chaucer’s Canterbury tales
Daybreak dew on the shaved lawn outside
The library; a behemoth standing
Tall, among dwarf-like trees. Five stories high,
Two stories low (and a thousand inside),
Golden brass brandished the name of the place:
“Hasselton Public Library”, open
Seven-thirty to ten, weekdays only.
It was a ripe Saturday, my day off
Work, which always left me stiff to the bone,
And I was to find a specific book
Of Chaucer’s, title written on a list
Of books, ranging from ‘Classic’ to ‘Modern’.
Canterbury Tales, shoved between Voltaire
And Dostoyevsky; my list lacked in
Shuffling around the eight-two-ohs, my eyes
Landed square on a battered book with a
Magenta-coloured cover, embellished
With embossed gold block letters (Old Gothic).
Pulling the hard-bound copy off the shelf,
I noticed it bore an enormous weight,
Unbecoming of a book of its size.
I brought the book to one of the old wood
Tables that populated the building,
And the old table wobbled at the mere
Presence of a book. I sat, noticing
Another visitor, diagonal
From where I had seated myself. Quiet,
I opened the book, which appeared to be
Older, or of a similar age, as
The tables. I started to read, and each
Page released of dust, which quickly
Dissipated into the murky air
Which sat just below the ceiling. Barely
Halfway through the general prologue, a
Voice pierced the thick air, “Please follow me, guests,
This is not an emergency. Follow me.”
Time chose this moment to blink, and we stood
Suddenly in a plain white room, which sat
Beneath the community library.
I played the observer (kept to my book)
Sometimes glancing up at my neighbours.
The first of my fellows was a woman
High in stature; she held a document
Tightly in her arms, protecting it from
Whatever enemy she saw us as.
Her rectangular glasses rested on
A sharp beak of a nose, and hid sharp eyes.
She would not talk to one in our lobby,
Instead muttering nonsense under breath.
The second made herself quite known to us,
She spoke fast and frightened, her eyes darting
All over the room, I had first guessed fear
Was the cause of her fret, but corrected
Myself when she opened her mouth and spoke.
Her crimson hair was coarse, she played with it
Almost non-stop. She spoke of the voices
She heard in her head: a schizophrenic.
The third of us attempted to calm her.
He, a third year psychology student
In books, attended to her not long, for
He grew tired of her, increasing in
Frustration (there was no answer found in
The issue of Playboy, clenched in his hand).
I guessed he wore contacts, by the number
Of blinks he achieved within a second.
His trials were fair, but his patience short,
His abundance of good will exhausted,
he stormed away far as he could manage,
Due to the room being far less than large.
The last, bar myself, was an elder man,
I estimated his age was sixty,
Or so, I dared not ask. He was the sole
Member of our group that looked jolly;
I chatted with him for a while. Wiry
And stubborn, his eyes were bare of glasses,
Though he really needed them. He talked
Of his nephews, aged twelve and four, showing
Each of their pictures stored in his wallet.
His spring of stories gave me an idea.
“Why not,” I suggested, “hold a contest
To pass the time while we are settled here?
Each of us shall tell stories to the rest,
And whoever tells the best story wins.”
Even the troubled girl paused to ponder;
The old man was the first to answer me.
“That sounds like a fun game to me,” he said.
The room grew quiet, but slowly each man
(and woman) in the room agreed to play.
We produced five pencils, and each drew one.
The student pulled the shortest, and started.