"The Golden Sentence"
Again, I present an entry to Wendy Strain's WOW555 writing contest. The theme is "buried."
The Golden Sentence
Local libraries grant cards, not immortality—there is little resource for someone who’s greatest fear is dying without having read all of the books. But, despite this fact, she continued to apply for new cards at new libraries as if the next one would be able to bestow upon her eternal life. So, at any given time, our literary Cortez would have about a dozen books out from half a dozen libraries, half of which would be overdue (fortunately, she was happy to fund her local library system). And, because reading some of most of the books is better than nothing, she would subsidize the reading of these volumes by visits to the bookstore which was a three minute walk from where she worked. This is where she would spend her lunch, everyday, choosing one lucky book to be looked over while she had her coffee (when you only have an hour, you choose reading over eating).
This particular day, having already settled on an appropriate lunchtime skim, she sat at one of the bookstore cafe's round tables (she disliked the square ones—they were a little lower, which made for bad elbow-propping), while she waited for her espresso. In continuation of her midday ritual, she held the book's spine in right hand while rifling through any afterwards with her left thumb until she reached the last page of the actual novel. Then, after reading the last page, she made guesses at the book's possible openings while she retrieved her coffee. She would then read the first page to the novel before realizing that she had let her espresso cool down too much.
After having her coffee, in accordance with her liturgy in worship of the written word, she proceeded to flick to random pages and read until she felt the urge to flick again. Her ex-boyfriend hated this. He insisted that books were written to be read linearly, that she was breaking the rules, that she was spoiling the ending for herself. Usually, this lead to argument; once, it lead to the only conversation she had with him that she could now recall fondly.
“Everyone knows the endings to, at least, all the classics anyway—there’s no surprise to ruin.”
“No. You really think so?”
“Yes! Like Anna Karenina…”
“She throws herself in front of a train, right?”
“See, and you’ve never read it. Moby Dick…”
“Mr. Dick wins.”
“Yup. And that’s something everyone knows despite, at best, barely skimming through all of those pointless whale facts. OK, Last of the Mohicans…”
In unison they had declared, “There are no more Mohicans!”
This was an aberration, a brief comical divergence from their otherwise tense relationship.
What he had not understood was that one did not read for the ending, nor did one really read for the story. The story was simply a vehicle for excavating the actual gems. Buried beneath the pages, nestled below the mantle of the chapter and the paragraph, were to be found the golden core of the novel—those select phrases which one must savor, underline, and reread. She recalled the quote “We are too civil to books. For a few golden sentences we will turn over and actually read a volume of four or five hundred pages,” but could not remember the author. (Emerson, perhaps.)
It was of no matter; she had flicked pages once more, uncovering a perfect sentence. She closed her eyes and tasted the spoils of her lunch hour.