I’m a reader. I read.
I’m a writer, too, but I was a reader first, and for a long, long time. It’s something I love, and though I enjoy movies and the occasional television show, I’m not sure how I would have gotten through the past forty-three years without books: they’ve pretty much been a staple in my life.
My son, Handsome, is not a reader. He doesn’t read.
Oh, he knows how, and he does it for school, but he has no interest in books, or reading for pleasure. He grew up with television, movies, and the internet. I recently (this week, in fact) listened to the audiobook of A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, and though it was so good it broke my heart a bit—okay, maybe more than a bit—what made it all worse was the realization that as good as Owen Meany was, there was little chance my son would ever experience it: not reading books, no chance for Owen Meany.
I was sad.
Then the other day I received a text from the boy as I was driving over there after work:
Hey, if ur not too busy, can you pck up a bookcase on ur way here?
I wasn’t surprised. Handsome’s room is somewhat small, while Handsome himself is already adult-sized (he’s my size, actually), and he’s also thirteen. Early teen boys are all larger than they look due to what I call their ungainly zone. If you increase their actual dimensions by about 50% in all directions, you’ve got it about right.
Forget snips and snails and puppy dog tails. With teens it’s puppy feet and monster hands and over-active hormone glands.
There was a table in Handsome’s room that he wanted out—it simply took up too much space. He’d mentioned getting a bookcase or two, so he’d still have a place to put his stuff—headphones, a spare computer mouse, the occasional milk cup—but it’d be on furniture designed to hug the wall, thus getting it the hell out of his way. Made sense to me, though I hadn’t gotten around to actually getting any. But now . . .
I’m two blocks from the house, I texted back (voice-to-text is awesome for those of us with fumble-thumbs). Why the big push?
I wnt someplce to put comic books.
What? Comic books involve words, and reading, and—
Comic books, said a voice in my mind. The reader’s gateway drug! The rest of the text conversation looked like this:
Okay, I’m at CVS. You want one or two?
CVS has bookcases!?
It’s where I got mine . . .
OK 1 OK
They didn’t have any at CVS. It’s a seasonal/back-to-school item. They sent me to Target.
You want black, or dark brown?
Fifteen minutes later I was letting a heavier-than-it-looked box thunk to the floor in his room. I yanked the table out of his room to make a little space while he opened the box and checked the directions for the tool list required to assemble his new furniture. I returned to his room sans table, and squatted over the open box, pulling out the hardware bag and some of the shelves. The boy looked up from the directions.
“I mentioned getting a bookcase like a month ago.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I know.”
“All it took to get one right away, like immediately, was mention putting books on it?”
“Yeah,” I said, pulling out one of the bookcase side-walls. “I know.”
“You know,” he said, after a thoughtful moment, “if I had a car I could drive myself to a bookstore . . .”
“Nice try,” I said. “Now hand me that screwdriver.”
We’re heading to a comic book shop today. Will he ever read Owen Meany? I don’t know. But at least I have a prayer.
Talk to you later!