Michael J. Vaughn

The Woman Who Loved Books

There once was a woman who loved books. She lived alone in a house with fourteen rooms, and she lined each and every one with bookshelves. The guest room had leather-bound books. The solarium had red books. The bathroom had books with laminated pages, so she could read in the shower.

Her favorite was the rumpus room, which contained books with that old-book smell. Whenever the woman felt sad, she would go to the rumpus room and take a deep sniff. She always felt better.

But even this huge collection was not enough, so the woman borrowed books from seven different libraries. She kept them in her breakfast nook, where a set of rotating shelves kept them moving until, on their due date, they were dropped into a box on the porch. After breakfast, the woman would carry the box to her van (a bookmobile purchased at auction from the local school district) and spend the day driving from one library to the next in search of new titles.

In order to maximize her reading time, the woman equipped the house with ninety-two lamps. But the constant turning of switches played havoc with her arthritis, so she had a computer chip installed in her forehead. The lamps came on whenever she was within ten feet, creating a cloud of light that followed her around the house.

The woman decided she should pay a special tribute to her pastime, so she commissioned an artist to build a fountain in the shape of Gutenberg’s press. He surrounded the fountain with statues of the woman’s twelve favorite authors. When you pressed a statue’s hand, it recited excerpts from the author’s work in a replication of the author’s voice. The final touch was the tilework in the fountain pool, which was inscribed with the entire text of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” her favorite book of all.

On the night of the fountain’s completion, the woman went to her room and read a book. When at last she felt drowsy, she used a remote to turn off the chip in her forehead, sending the room into darkness. She settled her head on a pillow stuffed with shredded pages from the sonnets of Shakespeare, and drifted off to dream of books. Later that night, there was an earthquake, and the books fell from their shelves, killing the woman.

The Woman Who Loved Cats

There once was a woman who loved cats.


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