Mack sat quietly on the shelf day after day with his 19 copies. The Word Master, the man who had spent long nights to move the words from his mind to a page Mack carried had lain inert for several cycles of sun reaching and retracting across the wooden floor.
Soon after, others arrived and saw the Word Master in the chair. They shuffled around, never thinking to choose a book to read. A big man, aggression clear in his black eyes held a box to our shelf and scowled. What reason would he have to make such unkind faces at us? If only he would touch one of us, we could connect with him, teach him things.
The horrid man raised a mighty paw and swept all 20 copies into a box. No reverent touch, he seemed afraid to make much contact at all. Jumbled with his brothers in the corrugated coffin, Mack thought back to the Word Master’s prophecy: “No one will read these, I wasted by life. I should take them to the dump and jump in with them.” The kind Word Master would caress each spine; Mack loved his calloused fingers tracing the letters A. Macquarie. As the oaf handled the box as if to bust each book into pulp, Mack felt the communal consensus. They and the Word Master were headed for the dump.
A stranger grabbed a brother and shook him, frightening Mack. Why had the oaf brought them to this disorderly cavern? He heard a woman say, “This not a set of encyclopedias, this is what Abel had left over from peddling this science stuff to the schools in the lower 48.” She dropped the copy carelessly, making the covers pop apart and the pages splay and curl as in death.
“I gotta get to work. Do something with them, okay?”
The woman calmed the situation somewhat by lifting and examining the covers of each of us. She stacked us neatly in the box and carried us to a far part of the cavern, to a door with ‘Goodwill’ written in red on it.
“Hey, you have room for this one more box?”
The door vanished upward with a rumble, then rumbled back down with a loud click. Rough motion and new noises. Mack and his brothers went for a long ride.
Mack had thought the previous room a cavern, but this immense space dwarfed it. People and machines roamed here and there, busy like the tiny black ants the Word Master would mash with his bare feet. Why someone thought he and his kin should travel with toasters and bundles of multicolored cloth items, he could not say. They all arrived at a smaller area and were handled without any attempt at comprehension yet again. Oh no, a shelf should not be alive! How long would they languish in the alcove of mites and tiny spiders?
The odd woman drove a chair, amazing. He could see it because she held him her dainty hand. She riffled his pages. She read the page with the proud proclamation that Abel Macquarie had written those words in 2000. Mack reveled; it was first time any of his words had been read! Then GLORY! She put the box on her lap, took us to a person standing AND PAID MONEY. The Word Master said he’d not sold one copy, not one red cent. Now 20 copies sold at once!
The sweet woman took us to her cabin and the wooden floors made us all so homesick. What had they done with the Word Master? As he wondered, she began wiping each of our covers and placing us on a crowded shelf.
The heady hope and excitement ebbed. Day after day passed with the sun filling the room and leaving the room.
She woke him by wiping his covers again, and flashing him with something. She opened the cover and made tapping noises on the brightly lit tray on her table. Warily, he was determined not to fall for the siren call again. As giddy as we all had been, she never had the need to consult his graphs, and never became a treasured READER. She placed him back on the shelf to wait in limbo.
One sunny day as she tapped away at the bright tray, she clapped her little hands. Her chair whirred and she laid out papers and odd things. She took me from the shelf and wrapped me in the paper. NOBODY COULD SEE ME! How would anybody ever read me if they could not see me? What had I done to deserve being bound this way? Darkness, noises, thumping and bumping, despair!
The lady that ripped the paper away riveted his attention. She had the same energetic, probing aura the Word Master had. She bathed his fiber soul in joy with the words, “Permafrost Cores and Analyses from 1949 to 1999! EXACTLY what I needed!”