To Be Read – Built – Shared 

This little bit of fiction was created for the “TBR Pile Challenge” from D. Wallace Peach. Writing fiction on demand, as it were, is not easy for me. However, I do enjoy it when I have a subject that suits me. I have been working on some serious fiction projects, and I am finding it easier to dig in when challenged. Thanks to Diana for a prompt that bounces between two things I enjoy – reading and woodworking.

On Top of the Basket

After a loud knock to let me know she was coming, in case I was using a power tool, she enter the shop. She had brought me a new cup of coffee, but her expression told me there was more to this visit.

“Here, I figured your coffee was gone or cold…” She blew a small pile of sawdust off the top of my to-go cup. “…or worse. I thought you finished the project you were working on, what are you working on now?”

The question was valid, but I wasn’t eager to explain because I wanted this to be a surprise. Not a gift, just a surprise.

“I’m building a bookcase.”

“Oooh, nice. I can always use another bookcase.”

Sigh. That didn’t go well. My fear was being ridiculed for continuing the futile effort of corralling the piles of books I had stashed all over the house. Now I had to explain that this bookcase was for me. 

“Well, if you want another bookcase, you have to design it yourself. This one is a custom job and will only fit in one place.”

Her curiosity was piqued. “And what place is that?”

“The open area along the wall next to my side of the bed.”

“In front of your nightstand?”

“Yes.”

I could see the gears turning. Shared spaces, including the perimeter of the bed were no place for unilateral design decisions. I had been hoping to build this and install it without any discussion. Once met with the inevitable “where did that come from?” it would be too late to derail the project.

“But you already have a bookcase on that wall, in front of your nightstand.”

“Not really in front…”

“OK, in front of your waste basket which is in front of your nightstand.”

“Exactly! The waste basket I can’t empty because there’s a pile of books on it.”

I was trying to move this conversation along a simple direct path, with no logical offramps or other such costly detours.”

“Well, if you’re planning to replace the waste basket with a bookcase, I have to tell you, I’m happier looking at a pile of books on a waste basket than a pile of used Kleenex on a bookcase.”

The project at this point was merely a collection of boards, nothing I could use as a visual aid. I picked up a pad of quadrille lined paper.

“You’re not going to draw, are you?”

“I thought an illustration would help.”

“An illustration would. Lines, erasures and cross-outs overlaid on something barely resembling a box isn’t going to help as much as you hope.”

That was fair, albeit a bit of an exaggeration. My illustrations do require an active imagination. She was way ahead of me. Before I could sketch a meaningful shape, she countered.

“You know, there’s an easier solution.”

“Pray tell.”

“Put the books away. We have other bookcases. Most are full, but some have a little open space.”

I had to make her understand. These weren’t ordinary books. At least these weren’t books that go on ordinary shelves.

“This is my to-be-read pile. I move books to my other bookcases after I read them.”

“To-be-read? You have like forty books on that waste basket. When are you expecting to read them?”

“Soon. In fact, I’m currently reading several books in the pile.”

“Well, there’s your problem. You should read one book at a time. When you’re finished, put it away on a different bookcase. Work the pile down.”

This was going off the rails. Instead of a discussion of the bookcase design, now we were beginning to argue over how to read. 

“I don’t read like that. I like having options.”

“Options?”

“I might be in the mood for fantasy, or historical fiction, or perhaps something funny. Then again, I might want to read some non-fiction…”

She interrupted. “Like that two-inch thick tome chronicling the history of the Jeep?”

“You mean ‘Warbaby?’ You bought me that book. It’s fascinating. Did you know the first prototype of the Jeep was built in Pittsburgh? Not that far from where I grew up?”

“No, but I know the book is a foot wide and four hundred pages. I mean, how much can you say about the history of one car?”

I never see the warning signs telling me to ignore rhetorical questions. 

“First off, the subject of the book isn’t a car. It’s the Jeep used during World War Two. Second, it went through a long period of development. Third, and perhaps most important, the width and thickness of the book makes it the ideal bottom book for the pile.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I wanted them back.

“Which means you’ll never finish it! In order to read that book, you have to get out of bed, move all the other books, at which point you’d realize you should empty the waste basket. By the time you’d be ready to read the book, I’d want the lights off.”

“That’s why I’m building this bookcase.” I decided to reinforce my plans by moving the project into the present tense. “I need to be able to access any book – and the waste basket – any time I want.”

She looked confused. I think I had her logic on the run.

“Wait. The bookcase is going to incorporate the waste basket. Or are you sliding everything down?”

The bookcase is going to stand over the waste basket. I’ll be able to slip it in and out to use or empty. Then three simple shelves for books.”

“Three shelves? How tall is this thing going to be?”

“Not that tall. The bottom shelf will be for wide books, like ‘Warbaby’ and Brad Lewis’ coffee table books. The next…”

She was regaining her focus. “You already read all four of Brad’s coffee table books. Why don’t you move them to a different bookcase?”

“They’re fun to reread. Now, If I can continue…”

“You’re drawing again. Why are you drawing? It’s not going to help.”

“If I can continue, it might. See, the bottom shelf is wide, but not very tall. The next shelf is for nine-inch books I buy from Amazon.”

TeaganJohn HowellRobbie and the other usual suspects.”

“Correct. And Brad’s non-coffee table books.”

She rolled her eyes. “How many times are you going to read Celebrity Gangster?”

“If I can continue. The top shelf will be a little shorter, for those random books I pick up at tag sales.”

“Where does the box of Kleenex go?”

“On top, with my iPad.”

Again, as soon as the word escaped my lips, I realized the mistake I had made.

“Speaking of which, except for the stuff you pick up at tag sales, you can read all of those books on your iPad – you have the Kindle App, right?”

“It’s not the same.”

“Right, it’s thin and light and there’s no danger of it falling over and crushing the cat when she tries to jump up. I see your point.”

This was getting out of hand. I only had one argument left.

“Don’t you have an identical waste basket on your side of the bed?”

“I do.”

“So, how ’bout I make two of these?”

“Can I have a drawer in mine?”

The conversation is fiction. The books and the authors are real and worth reading and following. As are the books by our host D. Wallace Peach. A healthy to-be-read pile just means you’re the kind of person who plans for the future. When I was searching for the books, I stumbled on the bunny from summer.

93 comments

  1. Well done Dan! Fiction or not, I think a similar conversation takes place in many homes! Lol. I love the unexpected ending, 🤗

    Love the first sunrise shot. Beautiful. I don’t think that bunny would be sitting out there today like that!

    I imagine you’ll be out with the snowblower. My husband says we got more than 12” . I’ll take his word for it and stay inside!
    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ginger. I do have a to-be-read pile, but no plans for a bookcase…yet.

      We got mostly rain (still raining hard) I might have to push some gop around with a squeegee, but nothing to shovel. We have several good size lakes in the back yard. The ground is froze, and there’s no place for the water to go.

      I hope you dig/get dug out quickly. Have a nice week.

      Like

  2. 👏🏻 You did good, Dan! I enjoyed reading this, but there was a lot of reality interspersed in this fiction. For instance, there is the male/female conversation and the visual/analytical thought process. The top issue is the need to own and reread books versus the idea of reading and returning to a library. I had numerous book cases full of books before we decided to make a cross country move and would need to pay by the pound to move them. Even after moving we still bought books, and I recycled them with people I worked with. When I retired, and I knew my daughter had zero interest in our mysteries, I embraced our local library and have been in reading heaven ever since. Thanks again for the short story, it was very enjoyable to read. Sorry about the game last night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Judy. I will be clearing some room on a few bookshelves by getting rid of technical books that are obsolete, but it’s hard for me to get rid of a book I enjoyed. It’s like we became friends. Often, when I start out to clear a shelf, I find something I want to reread. I’m hopeless.

      I could see this conversation playing out, although my wife would NEVER recommend reading on a Kindle.

      The game ended as we expected. It was sad, but we had one opportunity to get together, share some beer, some food and some conversation. It was a good night.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a double stack to be read pile as well, but I work through it one at a time and then the books move along the life cycle. There’s a pile to share with friends, a pile to shelve and a bag destined for donation or the yard sale we’ve been sputtering about having for 10 years. I rarely read a book twice but I do have to keep a few hundred just in case. 😉
    Most excellent bunny shot today!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your comment about the tag sale. I can see you putting items out and your hubs bringing them back. We have books we could part with, but not many, not yet. Sometimes, I feel bad rereading a book when I have so many waiting to be read, but that’s the way it is/

      The bunny was a leftover, but I figured you wouldn’t mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am unpersuaded that this is fiction. It is hilarious and has the ring of real life to it, but it is also a great vehicle for your messages about books and what makes them so personal to us. I loved the humor in the whole thing, and I thank you for this start to the week.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This conversation sounds all too familiar. I empathize about the books. Thinning the collection was hard for me. Now I only have enough to fill a tall single file book rack and steal cubbies in several open shelves around the house. My books are like a treasure collection. Each one has meant something to me along the way, like friends.If I want to blow my nose, I go the bathroom. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Old bookstores call out to me if I walk by them… I have two boxes of books in my office just waiting to be read–then they either go on the bookshelf, or in the charity box for someone else to enjoy. We have a Little Library just down the street, so it’s fun to swap out books there, too. But I can only read one at a time. Good story, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the squirrel and the bunny and all the books. I chuckled reading your piece but also realised that you’re quite naughty. Of course I was reading it from her point of view. :D

    Oh, I have my mighty book pile too. Behind it are my e-reader and my phone, both of which get much more reading action than my books. The book pile is great for protecting me from my phone’s vibrations though. It tends to fall over a lot, especially in a storm since bestia is climbing furniture then. And then one day the internet connection died and I had nothing to do. So I tried reading not one but two books from the pile. Guess what. The letters were too small. :(

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well done, Dan! Brought a chuckle and while I don’t usually like first person, you do it well. Hubby and I share a love of books, so we’ve lots of bookcases; although he’s moving more to “get it on Kindle” and I can always find room for another book on the shelves. Looking forward to a longer fiction work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Carole. I just finished your post on writing, so I appreciate this comment very much. Lots of bookcases decorate our walls and small spaces, but I don’t think we’d have it any other way.

      Like

  9. I’ve gotten so much poetry, Dan, that it was a delight to get a story. And the ramble through the logic of a book reader was just perfect! We have our own methods of reading and books have to be in the right proximity for retrieval. And a great ending solution. Loved it and can’t wait to share. :-)

    Like

    • Thanks Jan. I wanted this to sound real, so I added the people in my current pile. Of course there are more, but I had to stop somewhere. I enjoyed the challenge and I’m pleased that you Iiked the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. LOL, I like that the project turned into twin bookcases. I’m happy you took the challenge. Although, I wasn’t expecting the shoutout plus photo, Dan. Heartfelt thanks. Imagining conversations like this one is the beginning of storytelling. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Teagan, and thanks for encouraging me to take this challenge. I had fun thinking about a story that hadn’t happened, but might have. The shoutout was easy, those books have been in my TBR pile.

      I hope you have a nice week.

      Like

  11. I can build a matching book case for you and yes adding a drawer would be no problem. Young man you may have future in sales! And a part part time job in construction. Good story Dan. And no Warbaby does not fit into a Kindle !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Warbaby is also a hard book to read in bed, John. I have to prop it on a pillow to prevent it from crushing the air out of my lungs. When I owned a cabinet shop, I was pretty good at sales (I just wasn’t good at pricing).

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I can relate, Dan. We have books teetering on almost every flat surface. And if course, I also have quite a collection on my Kindle app as well. Let me know when you start taking bookcase orders from fellow bloggers. I won’t even make you work around a waste basket.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha – I wish I had had blogging and the blogging community back when I had my cabinet shop, Maggie. I did make a few bookcases for people who wanted to fully utilized a space. Things like 38″ wide instead of only 36″

      Like

  13. In your photos you have Jim sitting on a power pole. We have unfortunately been adopted by a crow. He lives around the outside of our house and if we do not feed him, or give him some attention he becomes very loud and naughty, He tips over pot plants a does his many daily droppings on the outside furniture. The old grump guy across our street says Claude eats one of his chicken’s eggs every morning. This guy is lonely I wish he would start to feed claude and have him for company.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wonderful Dan – great story-post … as you say: to be read; built; shared or doubled up with a drawer … congratulations on another satisfactory TBR range of shelves … excellent – loved it – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  15. My mother was fussing for a few weeks that I should put my books in my uncle’s bookcase. It took a few weeks to get out some of his books he had in that bookcase. They were dusty and some were really damaged. A few weeks ago I finally put my books in that bookcase. I have my not-read-yet books on the top shelf and my read/want to keep books on the other shelves. I also put some old school books my uncle had on the bottom shelf. I even decided to get rid of some books I had read. Today my mother mentioned about putting away my college books, but I am going to put them on another bookshelf in another room until I read my not-read books which I hope to read sometime this year. Pretty pictures.

    Like

    • I actually still have some of my college textbooks. I’ve moved them cross-country twice. They were so expensive when I bought them, I’ve never been able to part with them. Plus, they remind me of a significant accomplishment.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This felt a little too close to home, Dan. Well apart from me building a bookcase. That would be pure fiction. Sadly I have a very unsatisfactory relationship with wood and the one time I tried to build a bookcase ending badly though not as badly as the shelves over my bed…
    A delightfully told story though.
    Geoff

    Liked by 2 people

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