Summary: Adam’s first love is different from what one would expect – or is it?
Word Count: 700
It was love at first sight. Thick brown leather bound a lavish amount of gilt edged sheets, the richly tooled cover promising an enthralling tale captured on countless pages.
And it was new.
It was the most intriguing thing he’d ever seen, the most beautiful and desirable item. It just lay there, on the counter of Mr. Barnes’ small mercantile, as if placed only to be found by him.
It was a sacred artifact, and Adam approached it with the utmost respect, one halting step after another, until it finally was only a tentative movement of his hand away.
“The Phantom Ship,” he read, his voice nothing more than a reverent whisper. A cautious finger brushed over the golden letters, caressed the embossed square-rigger, trailed over the border of meandering tendrils. “By Captain Frederick Marryat.”
Adam closed his eyes and imagined how it had to feel to open the book, how the pages might look, how the words would flow and carry him over the sea and onto a phantom ship. Imagined how he would sit in front of the cabin he and Pa had built, in the shadow of the big Ponderosa Pine, his back leant against the wide trunk, his hands carrying the heavy tome, his mind getting lost in a world of ghosts and pirates, sea and storm, mysteries and wonders.
He tried to imagine the smell of the virgin pages—and couldn’t. He’d never had the privilege of ravishing a book. Had never been the first to open one.
All the books he owned had been read by someone else first. There were Pa’s old books, some hand-overs from people they’d met on their journey; two much cherished novels Mama had read to improve her English—his heritage of that one golden year with Inger—and a handful of pre-owned copies Pa had bought after he’d made a particularly good deal with fur last winter.
New books, Adam knew, were ridiculously expensive, a frivolous outlay. Other things were more important, other things like food, and tools, and clothes for Hoss.
And yet, if Adam had a say in it, he would gladly pass on food and tools and clothes—no, not on clothes. Hoss couldn’t go without proper pants and shirt, could he, and Adam himself grew faster than weed and needed something new every once in a while, too. And tools, no, he reckoned there was no way to carry on without tools, either. Food was another thing. Pa needed food to stay strong and Hoss needed food like other people needed air, but Adam…yes, he’d definitely go without food for a time for the pleasure of owning the beauty on the counter. He had no say in it, though, and he knew that Pa wouldn’t allow him to starve anyway. Not now that they’d finally gotten over it. Not now, not ever again.
With a sigh, Adam tore his fingers from the book, resisting the almost overwhelming temptation to just open and take a smell at it. It was an alluring idea—but no. Not yet.
He jangled the two cents Pa had given him for candies in his trouser pocket, then balled his fist around them, and, with a merry “Bye, Mr. Barnes,” left the store.
Those two cents were the first to be stored away in a small wooden box he kept under his bed. When he finally laid two years’ worth of savings on Mr. Barnes’ counter, he briefly wondered if perhaps Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym might appeal more to him, but found he could do nothing but stay loyal to his first love.
Back home in the shade of the big pine tree, just as he’d always imagined it, he opened his new treasure, attentively, almost devoutly, and inhaled, deeply. He would never forget that singular moment and the unique scent of paper and ink, and aspiration.
The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. ~ Dr. Seuss