Tiny wisps of paper drifted in the wind, the miniscule inked letters oblivious of their fate. Like so many leaves falling in autumn, the snippets of prose gathered in the only way shredded paper could: haphazardly. The source of this textual confetti lie upon the wooden bench, sunlight glinting off the now-torn cover.
I saw this through horrified eyes. Nearly dropping my glass of still-cool Kool-Aid, I rushed over to the book’s carcass, grasping desperately at the ripped pages in a futile attempt to keep all parts intact. Tears flooded my eyes.
My mother’s dog stood nearby, panting, eyes upon me. A small piece of book cover was caught in the fur of her chin.
I had never liked that dog. God rest her soul, her mind was somehow…missing a piece. In that moment, had I not been so concerned about the book before me, I would have—
Well, let’s not dwell on that. What matters is that she had destroyed the very object I held most dear. And it wasn’t simply about that particular book either. (Can you guess the title?) It was the fact that she had decided to obliterate writing, a passion I had cultivated since my two eyes had connected the words upon the page with the speech I was familiar with. Riots break out when sacrilegious acts occur; this dog had desecrated what I worshipped above all.
There we were, the dog staring at her work and me blubbering like a woman keening after her dead child. Kool-Aid forgotten, I rushed inside to show my mother what her demon-spawn had done. To add insult to injury, I had checked the book out from my school library; the book wasn’t even mine. Money was never in abundance in my life at that time, so to not only have the dog rip up this library book, but to have to make my mother pay for a replacement . . . a small part of me sneered at my mother, unkind thoughts circling my head. She was the one who’d bought the dog after all. Karma is a female dog with an aversion to reading, I was convinced.
A Harry Potter paperback at that time was a pretty common thing, so it only took a trip to the bookstore to find a replacement. After recounting my ordeal to the school librarian, I presented her with the new book, free of teeth marks. I don’t remember the librarian very clearly, but I do remember that she was kind and gracious in accepting my offering. Perhaps the distraught look upon my face was enough proof to her that my story held water.
To this day, I remember the feeling of seeing something you love torn apart in front of you. I still own that ripped-up book and I’m not sure I’ll ever give it up. I’ll never know what prompted my mother’s dog to lay into the book as if it were prime rib, but suffice it to say I watched everything I set down while she was in the room.
My furious weeping seems dramatic now, but imagine having your favorite toy torn to pieces before your eyes, for no apparent reason! That Hot Wheels car you got for Christmas? Yup, it’s missing a wheel and the paint’s pretty much flaked off. Or how about your first Barbie doll, the one you made clothes for with your grandmother—someone has bent her fingers and her hair is shorn close to her squishy head. We’re all told not to invest value in material things, but when you’re growing up, your possessions define you in a way. They’re a part of you.
In telling this story, I like to stress that while I strongly disliked that dog for quite some time and I couldn’t look at the scotch-taped book without lowering my eyes in shame, I learned a lot about myself that day. I knew then that books would be a part of my life; in fact, a rather large part. You see, authors tell their publishers to crank out copy after copy, but it is the single one that comes into a young person’s life that makes all the difference. I want to write a book that someone else will cry over, or incite such strong feelings as were evoked in me. It’s not about Harry Potter or the success story of J.K. Rowling; it’s about knowing the value of a book.
The value placed between the covers of a book; that’s what matters most to me.
Rebecca Henderson holds a Master’s in German and a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. Best expressing herself through the written word, she enjoys the smell of burning rubber and can recite the ABC’s of the automotive world upon command. Rebecca hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.