Stop laughing, Jennifer. We all know you knew this already. Rachael--don't think I didn't notice that look you're giving me. The one that you get right before you start laughing. I see all.
Life lately has been a downer. And by lately, I mean since Memorial Day. Which is actually a downer holiday, if you think about it.
I would like to blame the problem on Excess of Family and Lack of Blondie on said holiday, but that is not the case. Too bad, because if eating more blondies cured all strife in the universe, I would be happy.
So I thought to myself on Tuesday as I ate my blondie at Applebees--Hey, a girl can try, right?--I said, "Self, what you really need is a good book. A fun book. A book that will make you Happy to be Alive."
And because Huntington doesn't have a real bookstore (to my knowledge), I went to Walmart to kill the hour prior to Knit Night. I wandered through the magazines, looked at hair styles that would make my head look like a Q-tip, and then I saw one of Ally Carter's amazing Gallagher Girls books.
This is perfect, I thought. This is fabulous. This is just the little touch of escapism I need, the thing I need to make me feel better about the unpleasantness my family is immersed in at the moment.
I picked it up. It was lovely.
The new book will be out soon, I said to myself. Maybe I said it out loud. That's been happening lately. And I can read this first; it's the third bo--
But the cover was wrong. The title was wrong. This was not Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover. It was Only the Good Spy Young which meant Christmas Day Had Arrived!
Yes, without realizing it, the release date for GG4 had come! This had to be true, because yesterday was Tuesday, which Book People know means New Book Day. Now, instead of just having another day of the week, every Tuesday is New Book Tuesday, a day that makes me skip down hallways and causes all the library patrons to think I'm 12 and not 25.
I was so happy. Happier than I could say. So I bought the book. I took it to the coffee shop, and I read.
Before that, though, I opened it as I walked out of Walmart's sliding doors, and read as I walked across the parking lot.
Then I got hit by a car.
It really hurt.
I admit it. The car wasn't exactly in motion when it hit me. And there wasn't anyone in the car. Because it was parked.
Yeah. I walked into a parked car.
But it did hurt! I have a giant bruise! Right on my knee, and in my defense, the car was totally the same color as pavement and I do read and walk at the same time, so it had to be the car, not me. I have mad reading-while-walking skills. It is like a martial art for me.
I went to knit night. We laughed.
I went home. I made up a family tree for characters in a book so I could give it to a patron at the library. See, I'm a nice librarian. I do good things for my Library Friends.
Then I closed my laptop, took my allergy meds, and curled up with my book.
But something in my sleepy head let a signal pass from the Math part of my brain (atrophied as it is) to the part of my brain that gets the most use, the Book Center.
See, my brain (as I see it) is divided into four major parts: 1. The Book Center, which thinks about books, the plots of books, the book I am reading, the books I want to read, and the books I want to make other people read, 2. the Knit Center, which is telling me to pet yarn and knit and start lots of projects, 3. the Physical Self Center, which is telling me what hurts (my knee), that I am hungry, that I am thirsty, that I am sleepy, and that I want to eat even though I'm not hungry because Oreos and blondies are tasty treats, and 4. The Math Center, which is consistently ignored and often wrong.
At any rate, the Book Center made contact with the Math Center, and I sat straight up in bed, grabbed my laptop, and looked up the book sitting on my nightstand. This is what I saw:
The countdown hadn't ended. It still hasn't ended. It was, at that moment, 13 days from ended, and since it was already Wednesday morning, I had bought it a full two weeks early.
A chill struck me. I put down the book. I Googled the phone number for the Walmart I'd gone to. I walked over to the house phone. I called them.
Now, at this time, my sleepy-time Tylenol PM had already kicked in. So I wasn't walking very straight. I was wobbly. I walked into a wall.
I called Walmart. It's open 24 hours.
"I bought a book today. And I shouldn't have been able to buy it," I told the Walmart Phone Woman. I could already tell she'd stopped listening. And caring. "It's supposed to be released on June 29th, and it's the 15th. Well, the 16th. But it was the 15th when I bought it."
"Wait. What?" Phone Woman asked.
"You need to take the books off the shelf and put them aside and hold them until the 29th so your store doesn't get sued," I informed her. "A sheet of paper was in the box the books came in that told you to hold them until the 29th and--"
"Would you like to talk to a manager?" Phone Woman didn't wait for an answer before she put me on hold. I waited.
Fifteen Minutes Later
"Thank you for calling Walmart, how may I direct your call?"
"Yes. I was just on the phone with you about some books. But the manager wasn't picking up. I kind of need to go to sleep, so can I just leave a message with you?"
"I just work here," Angry Phone Woman snapped. "We'll try the manager again."
This time, the manager picked right up.
"Hello," I said. "I was in your store earlier..." I detailed the issue. She wrote down the title. We hung up the phone. I went to sleep.
6:45 a.m. On the Dot
I snapped up in bed.
I had bought a book. Before its release date. It had crossed my mind earlier that I might have been involved in something sketchy. I mean, I had no idea what the legal ramifications of my buying the book early were.
But now I was remembering some stuff. Like how when Harry Potter came out (this would be #6, I think), some people bought it at a Walgreens or something, then they were harassed by Scholastic, who wanted them to give the books back.
There might have been a gag order involved.
A chill passed over me.
No. I thought. Not my fault. Walmart did the Bad. I just bought a book. And I didn't know.
But my brain didn't let it go. I knew I couldn't say anything about the book. I mean, that would be mean. It would be a Spoiler, and I don't do that. That's ruining the Good Surprise. That's EVIL.
At work later that morning, I logged on to Twitter, and checked to see if anyone out there had any idea what kind of trouble I may or may not have been in. I Googled the problem. I hunted for laws, but all I could find was records of Scholastic and Harry Potter.
Then I Googled Book Prison, which was an idea I'd just come up with.
Then I thought about what a Book Prison would entail.
This is what Book Prison would be like:
Leg irons, damp stone, rusted bars blocking the door to my cell with dripping torches hissing as water trickled too close to the flames. There would be no blondies in Book Prison. Not even as a Last Meal.
In Book Prison, you would only be allowed to read the Worst Books of All Time, including Twilight and Theodore Dreiser's collected works. I picked those titles because Twilight has made me so angry lately what with it's parasitic consumption of young adult literature and because Theodore Dreiser, or Mr. Clunky Sentence Guy, made me so bored that when I finished Sister Carrie I drop-kicked it across the Mall at MC.
When your torment has gone on long enough, you die. I would die LOTR-style, like Gollum. This is because that's how Saint Laura died, buy being dipped into a vat of boiling-hot, molten lead by her captors back in Spain circa 900-ish AD. That would be my death, I thought. Molten lead. I would dissolve like the ring of power, except I would actually feel pain, what with me being alive and all, not just infused with the Soul of Pure Evil like the ring was.
As I pondered this, I began to almost-believe it. I think I tweeted about it a lot.
Finally, I confessed completely to my crimes, calling on Twitter's various occupants for punishment, or, possibly, absolution. I think I phrased it that way. "Twitter, absolve me," I said. Mostly I asked this of Clio Ford. She is the one who calmed me in my terror at 1:00 a.m. Clio comes to my rescue during Twitter-Freak-Outs. She calms me.
The revelation of what had happened, the book I had, made it around the YA world, finally landing within arm's reach of Someone Who Knew.
Apparently, this book didn't have a Cut-Your-Hand-Off-for-Touching-This-Early Punishment Clause built in, like the Harry Potter books did. Instead, if the books happened to reach a store, they could be put on the shelf.
No one had done anything wrong.
However, the fact that I had found a store with the books was kind of an anomaly. See, Ally Carter (the author-extraordinaire of Heist Society and all the Gallagher Girls books) said, "...it's possible there are books out there. Unlikely but possible."
So I am kind of blessed by the gods.
Still, I could not let it go. I had to tell Ally what had happened, and await her instructions.
I should mention at this point that I had not read a word of the book after I discovered that it wasn't supposed to be released.
Originally, I'd found a Ziploc bag and put the book inside it. Then I'd concealed it.
Except that made me think Evil Book Thieves might break into my house using information gathered using Twitter, and I became concerned.
Luckily, I had If I Stay close at hand, which was about the same size, so I switched dust jackets and hid the new GG4/If I Stay hybrid in plain sight. The GG4 dust-jacketed If I Stay was then hidden. So if a Book Thief came for GG4, they would find it and grab it, only to discover the hidden copy wasn't actually the book. The book was safe somewhere else. Keep it secret, keep it safe.
I confessed to Ally Carter. I had to do it. I told her I was keeping the book protected. That I was defending it With My Life. Which I will do. Because I am now a Book Guardian, not just a reader. I am keeping Secrets secret, and I will do it well. I am a Friend to all things Bookish.
And, you know what? Ally was okay with it. She didn't freak out. This is because she is a Wonderful Human Being. But then again, when she reads this, she might change her mind about being kind to me and advise me to consult a mental health professional. But then again, that advice would be a kindness too. The mean thing to do would be to get a restraining order. But really, if I can't walk across a parking lot without hurting myself, what kind of threat am I to someone else?
Ally's reaction was what it took. The waves of guilt evaporated. I sat back in my chair and relaxed. My tension headache faded. I ate dinner. Jennifer gave me that look she gets when she thinks I've gone too far with the Crazy, the look that says, "It's a good thing you live with people that take away the knives when you look loopy, so you don't decide to cut your own hair in animal shapes."
She's right, you know. It is a good thing.