We always held that books contain ideas, and ideas need air to survive.
I come from a long line of wandering tinker/librarians. We roamed from town to town in our horse-drawn wagons full of books, bringing the mysteries of life to all who needed them. It was a non-agrarian life, but we were well-versed in the ways of machinery, and each village we stopped in was delighted to see us. They brought their small appliances that needed repair, and we were also provided with ample food and drink, not only for our stays, but to tide us over on the road. In the evenings we put on shows and readings, and hosted great conversations on the meaning of life.
We operated our library on a one-in, one-out policy, so we had an ever-rotating supply of books, and people competed to tell the most compelling story about the book they had just contributed. We kept these stories on file to share with the next reader, and those files provided threads of connection all throughout the land. Sometimes when we stopped in a city we would pick up 20 copies of the same book, knowing it was wanted in many places. We tried not to leave too many copies in one place, so that neighbours would move the books around rather than leaving them to gather dust. We always held that books contain ideas, and ideas need air to survive.
The hardest part of growing up was having to leave. Our tribe had a strict policy of sending its young people into the world to explore and try other things before we were permitted to take up a permanent position in the tribe. (I realized later that this was partly to bring in new blood… there were remarkably many people in the broader world who were enchanted enough to marry into this way of life.)
I couldn’t quite bring myself to settle down, so I signed on with an ocean-going exploration as a kitchen assistant. When they discovered that I had the ability to “talk to” machines (really, I could just read mechanisms the same way I could read a book), I was quickly moved out of the kitchen and into the mechanics’ crew. It was grand, except for the fact that I became seasick one day in three, and the sleep schedule disagreed with me. Bu the end of three months, I was desperate to get back ashore, and since my “job” was to see-the-world, I allowed myself to be put ashore in a far-off sandy realm where I did not speak the language.
No matter; the laws of machines are unvarying even if their forms are diverse, and I could negotiate repairs-for-food (and housing!) even if I didn’t get a lot of choice in what I ate while starting out. My sojourn in the sandy lands was longer than I planned; by the time five years had passed, I found myself once again literate enough (in my new tongue) to be known as a writer of some repute… People took great pride in having their machines repaired by the author of, “Seven Weeks Lost, Ten Years Found.”
I’ve always intended to return to the tribe of my youth, but the warm, dry land agrees with me, and I haven’t yet steeled myself against the months of illness. Perhaps I shall send them a contribution for their libraries by merchant ship. And one of these cunning machines as a gift…
This is an exercise from Barbara Sher’s year-long club for Scanners. I liked the outcome so much I decided to share it. Any resemblance etc.