Some Light Reading For The End Of The World

I’m scared of everything; the dark, being home alone, bugs, ninjas that use trampolines to bounce onto my room. Everything.

A decade ago, my sister suggested that we go to Halloween Night at our local theme park. It was a fun idea. For Diana. For me, it was an exercise it trying not to wet my pants. I clung tight to my sister all evening, as a comfort, or a shield, and if necessary an offering. Although, a bigger, fatter person would have made a much better shield, but scaredy cats take what they can get.

I spent the whole evening being terrified out of my skin, at points throwing myself and Diana sideways with the intensity of my reactions. That was until we got to the pig-man. He wasn’t a person, or at least from the chest down he might have been, but up top, he was a pig. Or sort of a pig.

Pigs share an awful lot of our genetic code which is why they get used in science a lot. This creature looked like he had come out of the wrong end of an experiment. He was making these tortured, animalistic sounds. While I spent the entire night feeling like I was going to die, when I met the pig-man, I was certain my time had come.

I bolted for the exit, throwing Diana backwards towards the pig-man as a sacrifice. “I’m sorry she’s not bigger or fatter,” I called over my shoulder.

That last part isn’t true. The only thing that came out of my mouth was the strangled howl of a person escaping death. I ran the rest of the way through the house, shoving the other tourists out of the way in my bid for salvation.

When Diana emerged from the haunted house, she was furious. “You threw me at the pig man! There was ONE scary thing in this entire park and you threw me at it!”

There may have been one scary thing to her, but for me, the entire park was scary, while the pig-man was the harbinger of my death.

I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”. Diana recommended it. “It’s really good, you’ll love it.”

I was so scared after reading the book last night that I couldn’t go downstairs to brush my teeth. My son has been sleeping in my bed and not for his comfort, for mine. There have been a couple of times, after closing the book this past week, when I’ve felt like leaning over and shaking my four year old awake. “C’mon buddy, Mommy has to go to the bathroom. You have to come with me. Wake up, wake up; I do this for you in the morning.”

There’s nothing quite like reading about the end of the world, when it feels like you’re living through the end of the world.

Finally, I called my sister on it. “That was a really scary book you wanted me to read.”

“Really? Was it?” The skeptical note in her voice nearly killed me.

“You don’t remember the hemorrhagic plague that killed everyone? And the genetically-altered, murderous pigs?” My mind went back to the night of the pig-man.

“Oh yeah, I guess it was scary.” This admission came out like I had corrected her on the colour of our childhood dollhouse.

And then it came to me, this was her revenge for offering her up to the pig-man. Life is long. But sibling rivalry is longer. I’m scared for what she has planned for the afterlife.

Highway Robbery in the Fiction Section

I was mugged last week. The criminal stole all the books in my backpack and tossed a couple of dollars over his shoulder as he ran off laughing.

Ok, that might not have been exactly how it went, but that’s how it felt. Previously my used book dealer and I had a marvelous relationship; every so often I would stop by his store with a stack of new, popular, fiction books and ask for store credit in exchange. PT* would eagerly look the stack up and down, contemplating the titles and how much he could charge, then quickly spit out an unreasonably high sum of store credit while wearing a guilty expression as though he felt he was cheating me. The number he offered was always overly generous and I would cheerfully reply “Sold!” and push the stack towards PT. Then one of PT’s teeth would fall out of his mouth onto the counter because he hadn’t been able to afford dental coverage in ten years due to his habit of giving out far too much store credit in exchange for new stock.

To say PT’s store was crowded is like stating that “a couple of people live in New York”, the store was stuffed full of bookcases; they lined the walls and the aisles, there were even bookcases in tiny closets. The biography and the gardening section were stored there, the one organizational choice I understood; scandals grow in the dark and make for good biographies but plants don’t. This always puzzled me as I would pull the string to turn off the light over the jolly green flower pictures and close the door to what was likely a broom closet before the store was PT’s shop. At first glance all the bookcases looked shallow, until you realized that PT had stacked the shelves three titles deep, so any true second hand book shopper had to labouriously add to the already tall piles of books in the aisles of the store to search and find a title.

This was where the exciting, dangerous element of shopping at PT’s came in. Books are notoriously heavy and stacking them three rows deep had meant some of the shelves had begun to buckle. Instead of replacing a shelf, PT would haphazardly nail two by fours to the cracking sections of the shelves. So reaching your upper body halfway into the shelves to read the spines of the books at the very back was an exercise in faith and an adventure as you prayed for the shelf to stay up and kept your back low to prevent your clothing and skin from catching on any nails.

I loved PT’s. The bus would drop me just outside his door, after work I would browse the aisles for a couple of minutes, breathing in the heady scent of ink and aging paper while looking for literary gold. Though our relationship benefited me far more than PT, I thought it was a good one. Alas, last fall, PT wearily announced that he would be closing his doors. I was bereft. But not terribly as there was another second hand book store down the street, I had chosen PTs over the other store because it was seventy feet closer to my house. When carrying forty some odd pounds of books to be exchanged in my backpack, that short distance somehow stretched into miles and so I would gratefully drop my heavy pack at PTs doorstep and drag it in over the threshold to be exchanged.

Now of course I take my books to Tyler** my new second hand book dealer, who robs me blind and hands back pennies in exchange for mountains of literature. Though the store is always well organized, and I’ve never come close to having a near death experience in the shelves, I still miss PT’s dearly.

*Names have not been changed because PT is still selling books, and I’d like it if everyone hunted him down and bought out all his stock so he could finally go to the dentist.

**Names of new store owners have not been changed because he should be hunted down but instead of buying his books Tyler should be shaken upside down so that all the change in his pockets that he hasn’t given me for store credit can be collected.