Mr. Nichol's Library

April 19, 2012
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Once there was an old library--a very, very old library. In it was an old man who read extremely old books. He sat in a plump burgundy chair before the stone fire place and pored through the books all day and all night.

It was mid afternoon, and David, his assistant had just come back from chopping wood for the fire. He scraped off his muddy boots and hung his coat and sweaty cap on the shiny brass coat rack. "Blustery day out there," he said.

Sparks flew as he tumbled a couple thick logs on top of the ashen ones. Matthew Nichols lifted his eyes from the book to briefly peek over his bifocals. "Yes, very."

“Whose story are you reading today?"

"Rae’s." There was a smile in his truthful blue eyes, and the corners of his silver beard crinkled.

“You read that story every day."
The man nodded his faithful assistant over to his side. "Just grab a chair."

David cracked a grin. "Yes, Sir." This was his favorite time of the day. He loved listening to the wise man talk. He pulled up a stool next to the bearded man and looked into the pages which were yellowed with time and use. It had been read very often. This was no ordinary book. Today, however, Mr. Nichols did not set his book aside, and when the weathered hand touched the pages, the words visibly faded. Faded words became pictures, and those pictures were moments. And at this moment, David saw on the page a young girl of 19, rushing about her room, shoving textbooks into a lime green backpack, trying desperately not to be late for her next class.

“What is this?”

The man with the blue eyes laughed. "Just watch." He flipped forward twelve pages. On these new pages was Rae, once again.

“Okay class," she said, "our concert is tomorrow at WHEN?"

The bored high schoolers mumbled, "Seven O'clock."

“And when are you supposed to be here?"

“Six fifteen," they mumbled once more.

“Very good. Class dismissed! And—” Chairs began scuffling across the floor; clarinets, trumpets, and flutes jammed into their cases. The bell rang as the pack of wildebeests trampled through the door. She stood behind the conductor’s stand and surveyed the crooked chairs with anxious green-brown eyes. “…don’t be late.”
“But she was almost late, herself, just a second ago!” said a confused Dave.
“Keep in mind,” Matthew interjected, “that what you just saw hasn’t actually happened yet.” He flipped back to the previous page. “See, there she is, making it to class with a minute to spare. Give her a break.”
Dave’s stool squeaked as he squirmed. “Well, you’ve never shown me any future pages before, much less the present.”
Matthew closed the hardcover and arched a reproving brow. “Yes, well, I’m sure you’ve never seen a future page in your book.” A nerve had been struck.
The assistant stood up defensively. Gesturing towards the large shelves, he began, “You have me polish these shelves every day. How could you not expect me to find my name?”
The teacher sighed and stretched as he stood from his chair to join the young man by the beloved books. “Get the ladder. When you do, climb to the top shelf and get the bright red book. ‘Elizabeth’ is embossed in gold on the side.”
Not understanding where this was going, Dave grabbed the ladder, leaning it up against the mahogany he had polished just this morning. Up he climbed, and sure enough, there was “Elizabeth,” in gleaming letters along the binding. “I got it!” he shouted down. He hurried down the rungs, hopping down from the last five and landing solidly.
“What?” asked Dave, bewildered by the solemn expression that met his gaze.
Matthew stretched out a calloused hand. “I’ll take that.”
“Um, sure.” Dave dubiously followed him back to their seats by the fire.

Matthew turned past the hardcover and stroked the elegant inking sorrowfully, staring into space.


But his superior was somewhere else. A long silence ensued. Only the crackle of the flames remained as Dave awkwardly waited.

Finally, Mr. Nichols rejoined the present with yet another sigh, turning to face the youth to his right. “I wrote these books. All of them. I wrote Rae’s story, and I wrote yours. Rae has a good heart, but she has trouble getting life’s timing right—even though she’ll be a music teacher in a few years. She constantly worries. You want to skip to the ending, because you are impatient. And Elizabeth…” He scratched his whiskery chin and shook his head.

“What of her?” asked David softly.

“She took her own pens and crossed out all of my beautiful plans for her. She ripped out pages. Some of them she placed in other sections, others she burned. She never paid attention to any of my words.

“These are real people, son. That’s why your name is amongst these books. Before you were born, I thought of you, and I wrote your name down in ink. I wrote your story. It is for this reason that I kept your book up ‘til now.”

David shifted his weight in his seat. “But, Mr. Nichols, it’s my story. Can’t I do what I want with it?”

Mr. Nichols was silent for a moment, leaving the snapping fire to fill in the spaces. “I’m giving you a choice, David, as I have given everyone in my books a choice. Elizabeth had a choice, and she used the opportunity to disregard the Storyteller.” He helped up a finger. “Excuse me for one moment.”

The young man slumped as the older man strolled towards the shelf to the left of the large stone fire place. Somehow, he knew what was coming. Mr. Nichols removed a dark blue book, with silver print letters down the binding—“David.” His shoes scuffed back across the wooden floor and pressed the book in hands of his creation. “Take it.” He was disappointed. He had written such a wonderful story.

It was David’s life, his choice now, given to him by the man who wrote his name down before he was born. David reached for the magnificent work and looked into the man’s eyes. “Thank you kindly, Sir.” He began walking towards the door, and hesitated as he passed the fire. Looking back once more at Matthew, he laid the book on the hearth. He slipped into his coat, pressed his cap on his head, turned the brass knob, and shut the door behind him.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Ruthanda said...
Apr. 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm
The idea wasn't so much that he was leaving as it was that he was leaving his story in the care of Mr. Nichols. By leaving, he had a very specific choice whether to separate himself from its presence, or to bring it with him. It symbolizes his surrender.
Atl.Braves03 said...
Apr. 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm
I can definitely see the symbolism and deeper meaning in this than what first meets the eye. I really enjoyed reading it. It's an interesting idea. Just curious, what is significance of the assistant leaving at the end of the story? Is he gone for good?
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