“Remember to Live.” ~ Goethe ~
Book, Tall, Attic
Clara Bell came up the steps slowly. She carried a box of clothes which she sat down on an old chair. Right now it was dusty and hot up here, and she could hear the children playing on the swing set just below. Clara walked over to the window and pulled back the drapes, noticing as she did so that it needed cleaning badly. Looking around Clara saw a cloth on the arm of a chair and used it to wipe the windowpane. Huh, that’s better. The sun shone in for the first time in years and she could see most of the attic.
There was a large rag rug in the center of the room, its multi-colors faded with time. A wooden table sat nearby, with the childrens’s old record player and some 45’s on it. A box of junk, half unpacked. That’s right; I was going to put that stuff away and never finished. A huge old Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary sat by the box, all 13 ½ pounds of it, with an inch of dust on top.
To the left of the window was her old sewing dress form from France, how proud her girls had been to wear the dresses she sewed for them with this. She brushed the dust from it. The old fabric had darkened with age and there was some fraying of the cloth here and there, but she could still read the writing on the torso stating that it was from Mme. Descartes from Paris.
Next to the dress form was an old vacuum, her first Kirby. It was leaning on a bookshelf that held several sets of books from her childhood. Well imagine that, she thought as she touched the spines of the books in the “Five Little Peppers” Series. She turned and took one last look before going downstairs. Her grandchildren were here and supper, after all, wouldn’t cook itself.
Silence. The dust settled in the sunlight that now penetrated the room. The only sound was the children’s voices outside and below the window. It was a hot, lazy afternoon and even the spiders and mice that so busily went about their lives were napping. After a few minutes of this there came suddenly and quite unexpectedly, a big fat yawn! It was quickly matched by another, and then someone cleared their throat. A bit of paper rustled as someone stretched.
Webster woke slowly from his slumber, groggy and a little cranky, to tell you the truth. What’s going on here? What’s this, sunlight?
“Marie? Marie wake up!” He called out, “Kirby! Are you there?”
“Who is that?” A little voice called out, “Mother, whoever is that calling?”
“Shush now Phronsie, you mustn’t overexcite yourself.” Mother Pepper replied. “Webster?”
“It is I, Madame Pepper.”
“Ees that Monsieur Webster?” Marie, the French dress form called out.
“Unabridged.” Replied the dictionary. “Are you quite awake now?”
“Ah Webster!” Marie creaked. “I am… how you say, sleepy.”
More voices only added to the general mumblings and groans. The sunlight had awakened most everyone and before long there was a lot of chatter going around. Everyone was excited to be awake and in the sun once again.
“Oh yes,” Mrs. Pepper, mother of the five little Pepper children was saying. “The sunlight is so good for their growth you know, absolutely essential.”
“Mmm but of course Madame Pepper,” Marie answered with a lovely French accent. “Zees things are good for everyone, no?” Mrs. Pepper nodded and Marie slowly rolled herself around the perimeter of the room, quietly checking out various shelves and boxes.
“Good day everyone!” Frank and Joe, the Hardy boys called out. “Have you seen a red-haired man driving a yellow jalopy? We really must catch him, he nearly ran us down!”
“Really? Well!” Said Kirby. “Are you sure you didn’t imagine it boys?”
“Of course not, Mr. Kirby,” said Joe, the younger Hardy boy. “Why it just now happened.”
“Wait, wait, I can help!” Said a titian-haired young lady. Everyone moaned.
“It seems to me, that we have a mystery here!” She scratched her chin and pointed at the dusty floor. “A clue! I see some footprints.”
“Miss Nancy Drew,” said Kirby, the old vacuum cleaner. “Of course they’re footprints. The owner of the house just walked through here.”
“Oh you can call me Nancy,” the young woman responded, unperturbed, “and we’ll just see about that!” She proceeded to examine the footprints as best she could. “I’m afraid it really is hard to see…”
“That’s because you’re six feet away from it Miss Drew,” said Webster. “You must understand – you are not a sixteen year old sleuth.”
“Well of course I am, Mr. Webster.” She said, and laughed.
“You are a book Miss Drew, a mystery book. If you look to your left you will find another one that looks just like you. To your right are the Hardy Boys mysteries. We are all… books.” He ruffled his pages a little, “and Marie,” he addressed the dress form, “you are not a French spy.” A collective gasp was issued and then everyone tried to talk at once.
“But my children!”
“Mother? Oh Mother I’m afraid!” said little Phronsie Pepper.
“Oh now look, you’ve gone and scared the little ones!” Clucked Mother Goose, “that won’t do at all!”
“Settle down, settle down!” The Unabridged Webster’s Dictionary called them to order. “It’s been many years since we gathered. Think now, think! We all at one time enjoyed life downstairs with the family. One by one the children got older; the adults picked us up from the floor and put us into bookshelves. From there we ended up in boxes, and eventually up here to the attic. Is it coming back now?”
“Ven-choo-lee?” said Phronsie, “what does that mean Mother?”
“Even-tu-al-ly. Adverb. At an unspecified later time.” Webster answered her.
“Thank you Mr. Webster,” said Phronsie‘s mother.
“Not at all Mrs. Pepper.” He replied.
“Un-un-sefied?” Said Phronsie, even more confused.
“Unspecified. Adjective. Not referred to or stated specifically.”
“Ref-refr..” Phronsie started, but her mother cut her off.
“Oh dear, I see this could take all day. Off you go now sweetie, why don’t you wake your brothers and sisters, and see if they want to make breakfast?” Phronsie clapped her hands excitedly and ran back into the book, looking for its other characters.
While little Phronsie Pepper ran back inside her pages to find her brothers and sisters, the other books had a meeting right there on the attic table. The newfound sunlight had awakened in them a desire to find a way out of the attic. Books are meant to be read after all, and who can read a book if it’s packed away ? Several ideas were passed around and rejected, but all agreed that if they didn’t do something soon, no one would ever read them again.
“The children are outside,” said Nancy Drew of Blackmoor Manor. She was tiring of the arguement. “So what do we do now? There must be a way out.”
“Out? Why I never heard of such a thing.” Kirby the vacuum scoffed. “All you books can do is ruffle your pages a little, it’s not like you can get up and walk away now is it?”
“Oh you’d be surprised at what we can do Mr. Kirby.” Nancy replied. “Just you watch!” With that she flipped to the end of her story and opened to that last little blank page. With great difficulty (and not without a good bit of crying out) she tore her last page out. Ripped it right out of the spine! Oh my goodness if you don’t think that caused a stir!
Mother Pepper immediately went to fuss over the courageous young sleuth, being only a few books away in the bookshelf it was no problem to jump over and hold her hand. “There there dear!” Cried Mrs. Pepper as she helped Nancy sit again on the bookshelf. “Such bravery!” The Hardy Boys took the paper and set it in front of Mr. Webster, the Unabridged Dictionary.
“What should we write on it?”
“Yes, what should it say?”
“How about ‘help’?”
“Well we don’t want to scare anyone now, do we?”
“Ahem,” said Webster. “I think, in light of Nancy’s most admirable gesture, that we should let her decide what it should say. Nancy?”
“Let’s write…let’s just put the word ‘HI’ on it. That’s the first thing we say when we meet someone, if I saw that on a sign I would want to see who it was.”
“What do you think?” Said Webster, “I believe it’s just the thing. Indubitably.”
“Hush Phronsie!” They all called together.
It was a good idea, and so in the end that is what they did. A box of crayons was located, and a bright color picked. They wrote the word and Kirby helped Marie pin the note to her shoulder. She went over to the window, turning this way and that, to wave the paper a little. Nothing. No one saw. After a while Kirby had to ask.
“Nothing yet Marie?”
“Ah no, I am afraid not.” She replied, still looking out the window. “No wait!” She called out. “A leetle girl, she ees looking up!”
Indeed, outside the window little Carly Bell had been swinging away happily until she saw something flutter in the attic window. She called her brother Charlie over to look.
“What do you think it is?” She asked him.
“I dunno, let’s go ask.” They ran in to the kitchen. “Grandma, what’s that in the attic window upstairs?”
Now Clara Bell, who had just been upstairs knew that there was nothing in the window but the drapes because she had just cleared it away.
“Why there’s nothing up there but a bunch of old books and junk.” She answered. “Go on up and see for yourselves, but be careful!” The old mother in her cautioned them. Up the stairs they ran, a wonderful air of adventure had been added to the afternoon and they couldn’t wait to see!
Upstairs, the books and old clothes, the dress form as well as the old vacuum, everyone could hear the children come into the house.
“How egg-citing this is!” Cackled Mother Goose.
“Alright, quiet now, everyone quiet!” Called Mr. Webster.
“Mother, will the little girl want to play with me?” Asked little Phronsie Pepper.
“I’m sure she will darling,” her mother replied.
Marie moved back from the window, quite pleased.
“We did it, all of us, toge-ser!” She exclaimed happily.
“Marie,” said Kirby with feeling, “I think you would have been an excellent spy.”
“Why Monsieur Kirby, I do believe that you are a tall vacuum sir. Eet ees true,” she said, nodding. Kirby puffed up his collection bag and made a show of moving his vacuum head around a little.
“Yea, well…” he was embarrassed.
“Ah yes, well, good job everyone,” Mr. Webster allowed.
In the entire attic such an air of festivity had not been felt in some time. They were about to have children again! Someone to hold them; to read their dust jackets and introductions. Soon all would hear the delicious sound of a page being turned and the melodious tones a reader chose when reading parts aloud in their mind. The hopes and dreams of the little lives that read them would now be caught up in their own. Each one that was read this summer, would now go on to live a new life. As long as these children remembered this summer in their Grandma Bell’s attic, each of these books would live on.