Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Original Nook

I had a nook when I was a kid.  And it wasn't electronic.

I found my nook the summer after I turned twelve. That summer was a tough one.

My dad had gotten himself in trouble, and with it came financial and legal issues. Our family was a mess. Mom had gone back to work. One big brother was in Italy, serving a mission for our church, and the other was as far from home as he could be as a teenager. My sister got married and moved. My younger brother managed to get into all kinds of trouble. Friends were no longer allowed to 'play with those kids'. And the house was cloaked in tension and sadness.

In an effort to help, I took on as much responsibility as I could. During the day I'd clean, do laundry, take care of my younger brother, and start dinner.

But evenings were all mine, and I had a bike. And a library card.

The local library wasn't very big, but it had a pretty good selection of books. I started with the entire Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, and worked my way up to and through every Ray Bradbury novel. I even learned to love Shakespeare that summer. And I'd stay, looking through the stacks for hours, finding my next adventure.

Then one day I found my nook.

It was at the edge of the library, nestled between two windows, hidden by the shelves of magazines. A small padded seat, deep enough to curl up and read, big enough for a couple of people. But it was mine alone that summer.

It was the launching pad of dreams, the gateway to imagination, and the best friend a bookworm could have.

I spent hours there, reading the books I loved, away from the stress and turmoil of  my home life. I'd try new authors, choose books I thought I might like and take a small taste before checking them out, and exist in wonderful worlds outside of my own. I consumed the books, and they consumed me.

I'd ride my bike home with several books each time, only to return for more within a few days.

The librarians would smile and wave when I walked in. They knew I'd be there for a while.

But the summer couldn't last forever, and school took priority over the nook. I'd still stop and get books on my way home from junior high school, but I couldn't stay. The early darkness of winter made it impossible.

I introduced some friends to the nook during those years. Had a few sweet kisses there. Studied there when I could.

And as life got easier at home, and I moved on to high school, I lost touch with my secret hide-away.

I didn't need the quiet and peace of the nook anymore.

But I've never forgotten the feeling of having a place of my own in the library. I've never lost the love of the books that carried me away from my troubled mind. I've never stopped enjoying the feel of the pages in my hands, the smell of the paper.

And now when I hear someone talk about reading on their Nook, I smile.

I had a nook long before they ever did.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


This is my entry in a short-short story writing contest (1500 words or less). Unfortunately, I didn't beat out the other 7000 entrants.  So, I'm sharing it here. Enjoy!  

I find her lying on the floor in her office.

Her skin is grey, her lips an alarming color of blue, her eyes glazed over and dull. The laptop she loves is open in her grip, her fingers wrapped around the bottom, unyielding as I tug. The screen is lit, and I hope this means I found her quickly enough.

The only indication she’s alive is the slight rise and fall of her chest and the faint beating of her heart as I press my ear over it.

She is cold to the touch.

Grabbing the phone, I dial 9-1-1, and take a deep breath to gather myself so I can speak to the operator, who answers with a glib, “9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

“My wife,” I say.  “She’s not responding to me. She’s grey.”

The woman gets serious, verifying who I am and where we are. Then she asks, “Is she breathing?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Can you see anything in the room that could have caused an injury?”

Frantic, I look around, noting that there is nothing in the vicinity except her office chair.

“She may have fallen,” I surmise.

“How far?”

“Just out of her chair. She was working. Writing. She’s a writer.”

Soon, a knock at the front door signals the arrival of the EMTs, and the operator allows me to hang up so I can answer their questions amidst the rush of activity.

They examine her, looking for trauma. There is none.

They listen to her heart, check her vitals, and try to remove the N-SLV laptop from her grasp.

She doesn’t let go.

The screen is still glowing.

Giving up, they load her on the gurney – laptop bouncing against her stomach as they move her - and I follow them to the back doors of their rig. They allow me to ride along, and I watch as they treat her.
She doesn’t look different as they attach oxygen below her nose and start an IV on top of her wrist. I wait for improvement.

Agonizing, I think over the last few weeks.

I knew this would happen. Her hours were too long, her incessant writing too much for her. The dark circles aren’t new. The pallor is normal. The weight loss expected.

But she swore she was writing another best-seller. The third in her series. So I bit my tongue. And she promised to take care of herself.

The ambulance stops with a jerk, and I nearly fall.

An EMT slaps my shoulder, steadying me.

“Let’s get her inside,” he says. “She’ll be in good hands here.”

I nod and move out of the way, following the gurney through the automatic doors.

A nurse points to the Trauma Room. “Dr. Belus will be right down. Fill us in on her vitals.”

One EMT explains the situation, using terms that are unfamiliar. The nurse nods, and makes notes on the chart.

Stepping into a corner, I notice the screen of the laptop. It’s dimmer. Fading.

Dr. Belus, I assume, walks in. He holds the chart, scanning top to bottom as he looks at my wife. I hear a hum and a tsk. Finally, he places the chart at the end of the gurney and examines her.

His expression gives nothing away.

He shines a light into her eyes, and the laptop dims further.  The heart monitor makes a shrill noise.

“She’s crashing,” he says, and the team jumps into action.

They pull the laptop from her grasp and the screen goes black. The monitor flat lines. An alarm is screaming.

I think I am, too.

They push me into the hall, and shove the N-SLV into my chest.

I’m in shock.  This can’t be happening.

Not to her.

She finally found the success she was working for with her writing. The Lost Soul series is everything she said it could be.

I look at the laptop in my hands, remembering.

“He said it will make my dreams come true,” she said, smiling. The salesman had promised. She believed.

It was just months after she bought it that she received an offer of representation. Eight months after that, her first book hit the shelves – an unheard of turnaround, according to her agent.

The second was written by then, and they offered big money and a contract for two more.

She’d never been happier.

And now, a doctor bounces over her body, doing chest compressions.

Time stills. It’s forever and no time at all.

My eyes do not shift, so I see when he steps away, shaking his head.

I shake mine in response.

He turns and sees me, and I watch as he says something to the nurse. She nods.

As he opens the door, he addresses me, “Mr. Ames?”

“Yes,” I whisper.

His fingers wrap around my elbow, and he directs me into a small waiting room. I sit, and he finds a chair directly in front of me, pulling it closer.

“I’m really sorry Mr. Ames, but your wife’s heart stopped, and we weren’t able to get it going again. I’m afraid she’s dead.”

I look down, staring at the laptop in my hands. I hate it.

He asks, “Did she have any health issues?”

“No,” I say.

“Has she been to a doctor lately?”


He continues to question, and I mumble responses. I hear the words autopsy and investigation, and the tears start.

This can’t be real.

An officer steps into the room, and the questions begin again. Just to find out what happened, they assure me over and over.

“She was just tired,” I explain.

 He looks at me sadly and pats my hand.

“You should go home,” he says, and I agree.

As I stand, I realize I’m dizzy. My fingers are wrapped around the laptop. They’re numb.

So am I.


Two weeks after the funeral, I give in and pick up the phone when her agent calls.

“Have you checked to see if the book was complete?” she asks without greeting me.

I sigh. “No. I haven’t even opened her laptop. I don’t know if I can.”

I want to. It’s calling to me, the red letters that spell out N-SLV flashing each time I walk past.

“The publisher is anxious. They gave her an advance. I don’t want them to cause you trouble,” she says.

I know it’s more than that – she doesn’t want to lose her commission. The Lost Soul series had promised to make her wealthy and well-known.

“I’ll call you back,” I say, and hang up without waiting for an answer.

The laptop is right where I left it that day.

I approach it cautiously, lifting the lid. It can’t have any battery life. I watched it fade in the ER, and I can’t find the cord.

But when I hit the power button, the screen glows bright, and the story she was writing appears.

Scrolling to the beginning, I read. Hours pass, but I’m engrossed in the tale she was weaving.

I realize that she was near the end when she – when it happened - and I’m disappointed. I need to call her agent and tell her it’s not complete.

But as I move the computer back to her desk, I hit a key, and words start to form on the screen.

My fingers tingle as I stroke the keyboard. More words appear.  I type a few letters, and the page fills.

My heart stutters slightly.

“Morgan?” I call out. Is it her?

The computer pulls me in again, and I realize it isn’t.

I give a little as I type a word or two, and the N-SLV gives a lot, finishing the next page. I’m tired, but can’t stop.

It’s dark when the words ‘The End’ appear, and I’m drained.

Before I call her agent, I need to test something.  Her outlines are on the desk. I open a new file, type a few words, and Book Four appears at the top of the screen.

Her agent is thrilled to hear there are more books.

When I close the laptop, I flinch.

The large, red letters have changed.

It now says N-SLV2.


The host of the morning show asks me questions, and I answer. As her widower, I’m doing the book tour for Searching for Heaven.

“I hear this won’t be the last book,” he says.

“Morgan was a very prolific writer, and there are a few more books to be published,” I lie. “She gave everything to this series.” That part is true.

 I shudder, and he consoles me as we go to commercial.

Later, as I get into the car that will take me back to my hotel, I reach into my bag for the laptop. 

I don’t understand how it works, but I need to finish her series.

I’m strong enough.

My fingers touch the keys, and I give another piece of my soul to the story – and the N-SLV2.