For as long as I can remember I hated reading.
Maybe it was because T.V. was easier. You didn’t have to think.
You could sit and watch happy people be happy, and maybe you’d be happy for a little while. That’s what most little kids want. To be happy.
Happier than sitting down to eat a whole tomato just because he told you to. Still don’t like those things.
Happier than getting hit on your elbows with a fork for not putting them on the dinner table.
Those unhappy things that little kids try to forget as fast as they can.
That’s why T.V. was better than books.
When you need a quick escape hatch, who has time for a book.
That’s why I hated to read. It was too slow. Well at least, that’s why I thought I hated reading.
I didn’t find out the real reason until I met her. In of all places, the library.
She was sitting at the window facing me as I came around the stacks on the first floor.
Her blonde ponytail was pulled tight behind her head, as the sun shone through the window from the courtyard near the student union.
The soft orange rays gave a glow to her angelic face. Not to mention the fact that I had a crystal clear picture of her firm chest. I’m not saying that’s the first thing I went for with my eyes. But with the sun and all, it was hard to miss.
It all just kind of came together in one instantaneous look.
A look that shoves a gorgeous picture into the back of your brain where you have to decide quickly where you’re going to file it.
Angelic face file? Ample chest file? My heart raced as the confusion kicked in. I wanted to stay focused on her face because she seemed like a real sweet girl.
Beautiful, unpretentious, and nice to just about everybody in our English class.
I’d spotted her a few times but we’d never really met.
As I approached the table I decided I would skip the chest and keep an eye on her face. That and her copy of Catcher in the Rye.
It was on our reading list and I was already dreading it.
I moved toward the corner of the six-person table and asked, “Hows the book?” She looked up with an approving smile as I sat. “Pretty good I guess. I’m not that far along, but I should have it done in the next day or so.”
“What? Who reads that fast.”
“What can I say, I like books.”
“Oh. Was never much for reading. Too much T.V. as a kid I guess.”
“Probably just haven’t found the right books.”
“Maybe so. Doesn’t really matter what I like since we have a massive reading list from class.”
Laughing. “It’s only six books.”
‘That’s more than I’ve read in my whole life.”
“Really?” She looked at me as if I’d lost something. With a gentle mix of sympathy and verve she dove right in.
“You must really hate books.”
I paused and did the math in my head. She likes books. I like blonde hair. She likes books, I like breasts. I tried to file the image back in my brain.
If this conversation had a glimmer of hope for heading in the right direction I had to be honest.
“Yeah I do. I hate ‘em”
“I don’t believe you.” The conviction in her voice stung. “You hate something but it’s not books. I’m sure of it.”
What do you know? I thought. Part of me wanted to get up and leave, but as she put the book down and leaned in toward me, I felt I had to stay.
And it wasn’t just about her blond hair and breasts.
She knew something about me, yet we’d never met. And That’s when it hit me like a flood.
All the reasons I hated reading came from one seminal summer after sixth grade. Just like eating the tomato or getting hit with a fork, I’d learned that books were nothing more than punishment.
Right as school let out for summer break, he’d put me restrictions. Must’ve been grades, I can’t remember. I’d been put on restrictions so many times the why didn’t matter anymore.
But this time I wasn’t just tortured by being in my room while everyone else in the neighborhood was outside playing, there was additional punishment this time.
As part of the punishment I was taken to the library where I picked out two books. Being a T.V. kid I I picked them out because the covers looked cool—visuals over content I guess.
And thats where things fell apart. When I got home, I opened the books and by the end of the first chapters I was in hell. Both of them were boring and stupid. But that didn’t matter. I couldn’t take them back. And the only way to get off restrictions was to finish the books and write the reports.
As I read and wrote, my hatred began—but just as she’d said. It wasn’t a hatred for books, it was a hatred of him.
I pulled out my copy of Catcher in the Rye and set it on the table in front of us. And when I looked up at her, I could tell she knew she was right.
“So do you want the short version or the long version.”
“I’ve got plenty of time. Let’s have the long one.”
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by me…
“Girl With A Book” – Photographed by me with the note: “Happened to see this on a car in front of me and thought alright cool!”
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Sundays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.