The Eating Book

‘Let’s be done reading, Dad.  Let’s tell stories.’

So I begin…

‘Ok, this one starts in a tiny library in a tiny town.  And the library is so small it fits in a trailer which is great because the librarian has a big truck and sometimes he’ll hitch up the library and take it on the road to other communities on the island that don’t have libraries.  

It’s not just a bookmobile its a librarymobile.  So the librarymobile had been parked for years in this tiny town which wasn’t much more than a clearing in the forests that covered the islands up and down the coast, thick and insistent especially in the places where the people had tried to clear the trees away as the second growth only came back thicker and brushier.

And the tiny library in the tiny town was a favorite place for the children in the town and they would wait impatiently for its door to open the three days of the week that they did open.  They waited in the gravelly yard, going back and forth on the rusty pair of swings, telling their own stories, imagining worlds far away from theirs yet somehow populated by the people and ways of life that were all they knew, fishing and gathering and putting up food for the inevitableness of hunger that would set in during the winter.  A hunger that made its way through the bellies of everyone on the island.  A hunger for the return of the light, the return of the fish, the return of the welcoming waters which allowed passage in small boats if only for select days in the summer months, but were cherished like the treasures they were.  Sunny days with water like glass.  Those were days to forget about hunger and winter and the times when the library was closed.  But when the doors were open and the librarian Mr. Hobart introduced light and sustenance despite the season or the hunger.

But there was a problem.’

‘What was the problem dad, it sounds like a nice place why does their have to be a problem?’

‘Every story has to have a problem, Finn, it’s just the story of stories, it’s in their bones, their blood, their shape.’

‘Stories have bones?’

‘The problem had something to do with the librarian. You see he was relatively new to this tiny town having lived before coming here in another tiny town on the southern part of the island. You see he had to move his library every few years because children kept going missing from the tiny towns and they are last seen at the library but nobody really suspects the librarian Mr. Hobart of evil, but the coincidence is too unsettling and he is forced by the awkwardness of the unspoken suspicion within the community to take his library, to the next town.

And the suspicion was not unwarranted as Mr Hobart was aware of a book which he could not remove from the collection (he doesn’t believe in banning books), a picture book adorned with a wide open mouth, sharp teeth and a curled up tongue which intrigued readers to open its covers only to find themselves devoured in one quick, silent gulp, leaving the fallen book on the floor and a missing child.

And Mr. Hobart would reshelve the book knowing it will likely happen again but the book is a talisman of his daughter who was cursed because she did not properly attribute a story which she had learned to the people who had taught her the story and one day, in the middle of telling the story to a crowd of people so precariously balanced on the tip of their seats that they all fell out of their chairs when suddenly in a puff of smoke she was transformed into the strange hungry book with the mouth on the cover.

Mr. Hobart didn’t know where the kids went once they went the way of the Eating Book. He refused to think that they went to their death but preferred to imagine a comfortable, small library, where his daughter sat on a round rug reading the story of the Eating Book to all the children who had been so curious to discover what was inside the strangely illustrated picture book in Mr. Hobart’s librarymobile library.

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