...there's a girl I know, lives down the street. I'd guess her to be fourteen, perhaps a bit older, but too young to drive. As it turns out, she was grounded for the majority of her summer break by her stepmother, a most common result for many teenagers following an errant decision, some risky adventure gone awry.
The cause of this girl's dilemma however, has left many of us shaking our heads in dismay. Her crime? The reason behind her having to remain imprisoned while her friends spent July and August at the pool?
Her stepmother accused her of reading too much.
As my son, (who happens to be pals with the girl's older brother) explained it to me the other day, the girl is an avid bookworm, no doubt more so than many, if not all of her peers. On this particular afternoon, she was in the process of finishing up a YA novel, my son seems to think it was "Mockingjay," by Suzanne Collins, when her stepmother stormed into her room and demanded for her to go outside and enjoy the day. She responded with a nod, and quietly left her room for the great outdoors...cradling the book under her arm. Minutes later, her stepmother found her lying under the shade of a mature elm, her face buried in the story.
Stepmother yanked the book from her grasp and proceeded to ground the girl from reading anything for the remainder of the summer.
Considering how, with every breath we exhale, somewhere on this planet there's a girl of the same age, bent over the edge of a stained mattress within the bowels of an apartment complex sagging from the wear and tear of cruelty and neglect. Her expression a blank, a pair of eyes the color of aged chestnuts, dilated and distant, she's shoving a needle into her arm as her next door neighbor, a man twice her age, stands behind her, feeding his needs, as she feeds hers.
And meanwhile, there's a girl down the street who simply wants to finish reading her book...and yet she can't.
On a brighter note, per my editor's request, I stopped by the local library the other day, a copy of "South of Charm," in hand. Feeling a bit nervous, I approached the librarian in charge, a thirty-something brunette who was all but entrenched in whatever was displayed on her computer monitor, and quietly asked if she would be at all interested in accepting a copy of my recent release as a donation for their shelves.
She glanced up, then back down, then hesitated, the wrinkles of her brow quenching. Her gaze settled on my cover, a pair of thin fingers gliding over the matte finish. Then her eyes widened, her mouth opening as if on the verge of releasing a yelp. I stepped back, fearing the worst, when she said, "It's you."
Not sure how to answer, I hesitated, then asked, "It is?"
"You're him," she continued, her forefinger now tapping upon the story's cover. "You did this. I recognize you from that review in the paper."
The hand left my cover and extended, offering me a congratulatory shake. I accepted.
"It's an honor," she said.
I glanced around, feeling the weight of more than a few passerby, their heads tilted, gazes straining.
"Really, it's no big deal," I mumbled. "I just thought maybe you'd like a copy of my book."
I watched as my story was lifted off the counter, wielded as if it were Arthur's famed sword, and then clutched to her side. "If you don't mind, I'd like to keep this one, and we'll buy a few for circulation."
I swallowed. "Okay. That would be fine."
"Thank you so much."
"Um...yeah. Thank you too."
Come to think of it, there's a girl down the street. Rumor has it, she enjoys a healthy story now and then. Perhaps one of these days when she checks her mail box, she'll find a book inside addressed to her. An anonymous package wrapped in brown paper, a good read for a youngster who savors the written word. And if lucky, perhaps her stepmother will give it a look-see as well.
Thanks for reading,