Previous excerpts of To Dust…
He shook himself awake from the narrative of the Joad family. They were so rawly familiar that he had difficulty cutting himself off with just the thud of the books cover closing shut. He blinked slowly then looked down at Daisy who had fallen asleep.
“How long have we been here?”
“I’m not sure.”
Job got up to put the book back but before he found it’s place the librarian was back.
“You two have been here quite a while.”
“You seemed to really enjoy that book.”
“I liked the story.”
Daisy’s unexpected voice worked its way from the corner. The librarian looked over at her surprised.
“Oh, yes? I’m glad you liked it. Wouldn’t you like to finish it?”
“Can we be back tomorrow?”
“Of course. But would you like to take it home with you?”
“I can do that?”
Job looked over at Daisy, asking silently for her permission to continue on without her.
“I’d still read it to you tomorrow. From where we left off and everything.”
She smiled to signal her acceptance of the offer.
It wasn’t until he had the book clutched tightly in his arms while he descended from the lofty heights of his literary trek back down into the tunnels that he realized Daisy and his trouble. Not only had they been gone for an unknown length of time, but they had made it to the library practically by the impulse of their eager curiosity.
Time kept moving past them like the dust. Though it had seemed to float easily in the library, outside it rushed past them, pushing forward with frightening urgency.
“What do we do now?”
Job didn’t know exactly. He just knew they needed to find home. Like the Joad’s he took a moment to reflect. They too desperately sought home, not knowing where to go.
“Come on Daisy. Let’s try this way.”
Job thought of the book now.
Father had made him return it the next day after finding it snuggled under the corner of Job’s pillow. Sitting down to kiss his son’s forehead before bed, his hand had slipped under the pillow to support his weight and had stubbed itself on the sharp corner of the books spine. Disconcerted, he withdrew his hand, swiftly. As if he had touched something unsavory, like a cockroach, something foreign.
“Son, what’s this?”
“I borrowed it.”
“Borrowed? Son, what does Grandma Hutto tell us about borrowing?”
Job had remained silent, then, as he did now at Sunday prayer, hoping that if he left the question unanswered gravity would eventually pull it downward to settle on the floor.
But it didn’t.
“She says that men, men of God, should neither a borrower nor a lender be. Yes, son?”
Job had looked up at his father’s eyes. They seemed to float interminably when they looked down on him. Slowly Job nodded, pulling the book out from under his head.
“Might I keep reading it? Just for tonight? I can’t return it until tomorrow anyways.”
“No, son. That would be like a reward. And we are not rewarded for our sins, are we?”
“Thank you, son.”
He had left, the book dangling precariously between his thumb and forefinger like a dirty rag about to be thrown in the wash, or perhaps, beyond further use, the bin.
Job had lain awake all night, asking himself what became of the family in the book, wondering if the plan was successful and how it would all turn out for them.
If only he could be there now, Job thought. If only it were the beautiful sunlight illuminating the dry thin skin of an old book, rather than the papery wrinkles of their faces. He sighed, knowing how mean it felt even to think it. But he could help it.
The words on the page, starkly black against the cream colored paper, so defined, resisted the hazy air’s tendency to blur. Job found it magical.
He shook his head from the reverie over books to look up at his mother’s indistinct face frowning slightly at him from across the room.
“Help me with the dishes, sweetie.”
She was worried. He could tell. After his father had taken the book that night, he had heard them discussing his behavior that day. Late home from school, covered in Dirt! and he had lied to them. Lying in bed, Job could picture his father, lifting the book to his mother’s eyes, proving to her his duplicitousness. He could picture his mother’s hurt, confused watery eyed gaze on the other side of the wall. He could imagine his father, getting angrier in response to his wife’s disappointment.