She never made it past midday. Every afternoon her head would start to nod and eventually it would slump forward onto her desk. It was just a matter of minutes until she was purring contentedly with drool drizzling from the corner of her mouth. As a child I attended a one room school with five other girls and thirty-five rowdy boys. Amidst all the chaos that this unreeled energy could produce our teacher dozed on. I was too timid to join in the revelry while our teacher slept so each afternoon I reached into my desk, pulled out a novel and was soon swept to some far off land, engaged in some adventure that made the tumult around me pale in comparison.
Our school was sparsely equipped; a pull down map, a globe and the occasional math textbook with yellowed pages - certainly nothing as frivolous as a novel. So each Saturday our family would make the weekly pilgrimage to the nearest town, reverently ascend the steps and pass through the double doors into the hallowed halls of the public library. I would tiptoe quietly on the creaky pine floors in search of my next week’s stash of diversion while I breathed in the aroma that can only be found in place steeped with books.
School was not the only place I abandoned myself to these books. In the evening the cows had to be milked, the pigs had to be slopped and lunches had to be made in preparation for the next day but when the chores were done our family huddled around the wood stove while our mother read to us. Soon we had lost all consciousness of life’s worries and were swept up in the perplexity of some fictional character’s life - characters like Heidi or Anne Shirley - characters who would give me hope that with courage and stamina I too could rise above the obstacles of life and emerge, a better person.
A friend recently said that she had made a decision not to waste any more of her time on fiction. Could I do the same? I don’t think so. As I age the art of fiction continues to hold me in its grip and I continue to become more than I am as I play out my life through the characters and go places I might never otherwise see through the pages of a well-written book.