The Cold Thesaurus
By Lou Blodgett
I don’t think you’ve ever been bored, or craving stimuli, for as long as I have. I’m a reference book that is never utilized, or referenced. I’ve sat on various shelves for decades, or dog’s centuries, with my spine curving inward from the glue shrinking and constricting and tightening.
I was purchased in a Barnes and Noble in 1964, inscribed, or personalized, and given to a young man at his high school graduation party. Or soiree, if you will. He opened the package, held the book, and had the inscription pointed out for him. He accepted me graciously, at first. He exhibited pleasure upon receiving…me. But later that night, when there were fewer people around, (a dearth of guests) I did hear him say,
“I’m majoring in economics, and I get a book about dinosaurs.”
I moved with him to his dorm room. One day he came home, and, from the way he behaved, I wondered if he was the same guy, but only for a while. Only for a moment. He seemed bored and curious. He picked up a textbook. He read it for a few seconds. Then he lifted his head, rolled his eyes, and flung it against the wall. Then he plucked me off the shelf, opened me, and began looking for slang words for body parts. After finding that too much of a challenge, he chucked me against the wall, too. I came out of it with a crushed spine corner, and a certainty that that guy shouldn’t be trusted with books.
A few days later, the person who cleans up after him straightened the room up, putting it back in order, and placed, or stacked me on the shelf where I hadn’t been previously.
I love a mystery.
And, I like to think that she loves me, too.
Everyday I’m grateful to the woman who cleaned up after that guy for the change she brought to my life. I found myself nestled next to a lovely second edition of “Death on the Nile”, in Times typeface.
She was a surprise from front to back. A lot about her seemed fantastic at first, but at second glance, one could see that she was simply singular. I wonder why she wanted to have anything to do with a simple reference book like me. I’m just Random House, and she’s Dodd and Mead, but that didn’t matter to us.
We weathered sun-bleaching and paper mites together, not caring, since we were with each other.
She said that she could be taken away. I didn’t understand at the time, and she tried to explain that it was something different than the fortunes or vagaries that we’d experienced so far.
Then a semester ended, and we were tossed about in a confused jumble. We were separated.
I miss, or long for, those days on that shelf. It was heaven. Valhalla. Paradise.
After we were separated, I sat there in another place, on another bookshelf, bitter and unused. Acerbic in my idleness, even. My existence became that of years of boredom punctuated by days of moving. I was there on the shelf in that man’s office when he was talking to his ghostwriter. During their excruciating and wrenching conversation, merciful through its brevity, I was surprised when he pointed at me.
“You oughta get yourself one of those…” he told the ghostwriter, who, in ten minutes already looked like an ad for Tylenol.
“…They’re not all about dinosaurs, you know.”
I heard more and more exchanges that pointed to the fact that the guy could really use me if he wanted to be more specific. Maybe he considers that a liability. His speech doesn’t have much variety, and he overuses a very short list of superlatives.
“I’m the best at this.”
If he wants go get really fancy, he might say something like,
“When you’re looking for the best, you don’t need to look further than me.”
Then there’s his ‘reference to everybody’ ploy-
“Everybody says that I’m the best.”
When he became the “Grand Fromage”, all of the books were scattered, or broadcast, about the country. I found myself in a roundish office on an “impress ‘em” bookshelf.
My time there was livelier. People’s eyes would fall on my spine now and again. But, once the books were set up, no one dared go near them. On the shelf below me was The Epidemic Threat Assessment and Response Guidelines.
The end-of-semester jumble was nothing to compare to the mayhem that occurred on one coldest day of the year. I was taken to a place that’s consistently warm, but just as disorderly. Officials do come by to help, which is nice of them, and, on one occasion, I heard that the FBI was going to make another sweep. The morning of the raid, a valet discovered papers tucked away in the February edition of “Tyrant Monthly” in the magazine stand next to the Barcolounger. There was much disconcertment and alarm. The valet called the “Head Honcho”, who I could hear clearly on the other end.
“Hide it so good that even I can’t find it,” he told the valet. “You have three minutes.”
The valet clutched the sheaf and looked about quickly here and there. He stepped to and fro with an expression like Lucy Ricardo with the chocolates. Then he got a bright idea.
He hid it in me.
Now that I’ve learned that not all people are like this guy who I’ve been with for the past sixty years, I’d like to get out in the world, and I may have a chance to do just that. If I’m found like this by the right people, they may understand that I would be of a lot more use to the Justice Department. And, as for my lost paramour…
If you love someone, set them free.
If they return, it was meant to be.
If they don’t, they may be in the fiction section at the Pelham Parkway Library.